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Archive for the ‘MFAN Statement’ Category

MFAN Statement: Super Committee Must Protect Foreign Assistance Programs and Reform Progress

Thursday, October 20th, 2011
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October 20, 2011 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

As the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction – the Super Committee – works toward delivering its final recommendations next month, we urge members to avoid making drastic and disproportionate cuts that would cripple U.S. foreign assistance programs and undercut reforms that are making these programs more effective and accountable than ever before.

To this end, we are concerned that several of the recommendations transmitted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee to the Super Committee could damage our nation’s ability to address urgent challenges, including turmoil in the Middle East, famine in Africa, and particularly the transitions from military to civilian control in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although we believe it is imperative to get the country’s fiscal house in order, we must not do so at the expense of national security. We urge Joint Committee Members to focus on a few key issues as they continue their work:

  • The United States Agency for International Development (USAID): The agency is being asked to bear a much bigger national security burden as a result of the issues outlined above, and we believe it is imperative that adequate funding for personnel and global operations be maintained. To ensure that every dollar of this funding is used pertinently and effectively, it is also critical to support aggressive internal reforms that are underway, including an overhaul of procurement practices and new efforts to bolster monitoring and accountability through the USAID budget and policy offices.
  • Foreign Assistance Funding Vehicles and Prioritization: The U.S. must be more selective about how and what to fund in terms of development, as the Obama Administration and leaders in Congress have said repeatedly. While taking steps like increasing resources for USAID’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) could help spur economic growth in developing countries, it would be counterproductive to fund this increase by siphoning resources away from the overall development assistance account, which supports health, education, and entrepreneurship programs that are the backbones of growth in the first place.
  • Multilateral Organizations: U.S. leadership in supporting multilateral organizations like those in the World Bank group has been behind some of the greatest advances in health and development the world has ever known. Particularly in a time when budgets are tight, our support for multilaterals and the leveraging it provides with our allies will help make our development investments go further.

Maintaining support for foreign assistance, including the unprecedented reform process underway across the U.S. government, will keep the U.S. strong abroad while ensuring U.S. taxpayer dollars are spent as effectively as possible.


MFAN Statement: Poe Bill Would Strengthen Foreign Assistance Transparency, Accountability

Thursday, October 13th, 2011
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October 12, 2011 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

MFAN applauds Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) for introducing the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 (H.R. 3159), which calls for more coherent and consistent monitoring and evaluation of U.S. foreign assistance programs. The proposed legislation has attracted a strong list of co-sponsors from both parties, signaling broad support for U.S. development programs that are critical levers of U.S. influence in an increasingly complex global environment. The legislation also affirms the consensus among Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle that reforming U.S. foreign assistance is imperative in today’s tight budget environment.

The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 calls for making information on U.S. foreign assistance more accessible to the public and our partners in development. The bill would do so by expanding the Obama Administration’s Foreign Assistance Dashboard initiative to include comprehensive reporting from each agency engaged in overseas development, while requiring that these agencies produce and make available measurable goals and clear strategies for foreign assistance programs.

These steps would allow American citizens to access information on where taxpayer-funded foreign assistance is going and how it is impacting economic growth, poverty alleviation and disease eradication. Increased transparency would also give Congress the ability to exercise more effective oversight of foreign assistance programs. Finally, more transparency will help our developing country partners access timely information that can inform their own efforts. This is critical, given that the Obama Administration and Republicans and Democrats in Congress have called for recipient countries to take more ownership of, and responsibility for, their own development.

Congressman Poe’s bill is an important first step toward making lasting, statutory reforms that will ensure U.S. foreign assistance programs are more transparent, accountable, and effective.  We look forward to working with Rep. Poe, House Committee on Foreign Affairs Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA), the bill’s additional co-sponsors, and other Members of Congress to enact this bill during the 112th Congress.



MFAN Statement: Gutting USAID’s Operating Budget Would Repeat Painful Mistakes of the Past

Monday, September 12th, 2011
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September 12, 2011 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

In the midst of a misguided and disproportionate effort to slash the international affairs budget, the House of Representatives has proposed to cut nearly 27% ($365million) from USAID’s operating budget for fiscal year 2012. Such a drastic cut would cripple the agency’s ongoing and aggressive internal reform effort, while undermining bipartisan efforts to increase the effectiveness and accountability of U.S. foreign assistance.

With such cuts, the development pillar of U.S. foreign policy—which supports the health, poverty alleviation, and economic growth programs that help strengthen our defense and diplomatic efforts—would be weakened at a time when we need all the tools of U.S. foreign policy to address complex global challenges. Although we acknowledge the fiscal reality America faces, we know that these disproportionate cuts will have unacceptable consequences because we’ve already seen it happen before.

USAID’s operating budget provides funds for basic needs such as the salaries and training of U.S. development professionals, and the costs of operating USAID overseas missions. The operating budget also funds USAID Forward, a comprehensive internal reform initiative that aims to reshape the agency as a more efficient organization for the 21st Century.

In addition, such a steep cut in funding to USAID’s operating budget would mean that:

  • USAID’s ability to more effectively oversee program implementation and monitor accountability and results would be weakened, just as it is being rebuilt;
  • USAID Forward’s aggressive efforts to cut waste and streamline bureaucracy, reform procurement, bolster accountability, and drive innovation would be undermined;
  • USAID could lose as much as 18 percent of overseas staff at the same moment the agency is being called upon to oversee more large-scale projects in more fragile states, including many handed off by the U.S. military in Iraq and Afghanistan, and;
  • The Development Leadership Initiative, a program started by President George W. Bush to infuse USAID with bright young talent to serve America abroad, would be halted and most likely reversed with reductions of those already hired.

The House’s proposed cuts to the overall budget would represent the deepest cuts in two decades: cuts that will hinder the U.S.’s ability to engage in activities and programs that serve the American people.  With respect to the operating budget, these cuts would represent a return to the failed policies of the post-Cold War 1990s, when USAID closed missions, fired staff, and ceded its budget and policy capacity. As a result, when USAID was asked to play a key role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq, the agency lacked the expertise it once had to train new leaders, respond to complex humanitarian emergencies, rebuild long-neglected education and health systems, and revitalize agricultural infrastructure, among other vital tasks. Instead, the military was forced to take on nation building tasks that our men and women in uniform were not trained to execute. We over-burdened our armed forces by under-resourcing our civilian agencies, an avoidable mistake that we risk making yet again.

We urge Congress not to repeat the mistakes of the past by slashing USAID’s operating budget. A strong, capable development agency is critical to the success of U.S. foreign and national security policy.


MFAN Statement: Berman Lays Strong Legislative Foundation for Future of U.S. Foreign Assistance

Thursday, September 8th, 2011
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September 9, 2011 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe:

We commend House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) for introducing a discussion draft of the Global Partnerships Act of 2011. The draft legislation lays the foundations for a serious dialogue between the Congress, the Executive Branch, and civil society to reach consensus on legislation to replace America’s outdated and ineffective jumble of foreign assistance statutes.  The reforms proposed by Rep. Berman build on the work the last two Presidents – and Republicans and Democrats currently serving on HCFA – have done to make our efforts to alleviate poverty, improve health, and drive economic growth in poor countries more effective and accountable.

Development assistance programs are a key pillar of U.S. foreign policy in a complex world, working along with defense and diplomacy efforts to give the U.S. another all-important tool for responding to fast-moving events like the Arab Spring. This draft bill presents Members of Congress with a rare opportunity to work together to strengthen these programs and build a stronger foundation for U.S. foreign assistance. MFAN’s reform agenda is based on the following six policy pillars, and below each we have listed what we believe are the priority areas for action in the Global Partnerships Act of 2011.

Enact Modern Legislation

  • Articulates clear goals for U.S. foreign assistance. The draft legislation articulates seven distinct goals for advancing U.S. security, humanitarian, and economic interests, including addressing global poverty and human suffering and promoting sustainable economic growth through trade and investment. The original Foreign Assistance Act spelled out four clear priorities; 50 years later, that number has mushroomed to more than 140 goals, mandates, and overlapping directives—far too many to deliver foreign assistance in a focused and strategic way.
  • Requires the President to issue a comprehensive U.S. strategy for global development every four years. The first-ever global development policy launched by President Obama last September called for such a strategy, and in this time of tight budgets and scarce resources, we need a coherent strategy across the U.S. government to guide our investments.

Maximize Efficiencies

  • Ensures USG development policy coordination by mandating an interagency committee to oversee and coordinate all U.S. budgets, policies, strategies, and programs affecting developing countries.
  • Creates a Global Development Council to allow for meaningful engagement with private development stakeholders.

Prioritize Accountability

  • Establishes rigorous procedures for evaluating both the effectiveness and impact of development policies and programs, including a focus on gender equality.
  • Requires an online, publicly accessible database of information on U.S. foreign assistance, that would broaden and deepen the recently created Foreign Assistance Dashboard.

Increase Local Ownership

  • Seeks greater flexibilities, including a reduction in earmarks to better respond to local situations.
  • Establishes 3-5 year country strategies to guide how assistance is allocated.

Clarify Diplomacy and Development

  • Strengthens development authority and coordination in the field by making USAID Mission Directors the primary development advisors to the U.S. Chiefs of Mission.

Empower a 21st-Century Development Agency

  • Builds on key reforms at USAID, including improved capacity in the areas of policy and planning, budgeting, science, procurement, and personnel.
  • Elevates attention to development in interagency policy making by including the Administrator of USAID in relevant meetings of the National Security Council.

As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 this week, we urge the Administration and Members of Congress to use Representative Berman’s bill, and the work done by other members of HCFA, as a platform for building bipartisan consensus on foreign assistance reform. Modernizing the statutory basis for our foreign assistance programs will strengthen the ability of the United States to more effectively address global challenges.

MFAN Statement: Senate Bill Would Strengthen U.S. Development Leadership and Catalyze Reform

Friday, July 29th, 2011
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July 29, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) has introduced the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2012-13, which calls for robust resources for U.S. diplomacy and development programs that are critical components of U.S. foreign policy in a challenging world. MFAN applauds Chairman Kerry for authoring a bill that demonstrates a strong commitment to the civilian tools of U.S. global leadership and pushes forward the vital reforms to U.S. foreign assistance.

The legislation stands in stark contrast to two bills released in the last week by Republicans on the House Foreign Affairs Committee and State Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee. Both called for deep cuts to U.S. diplomacy and development programs, including debilitating reductions of nearly 27% for the United Stated Agency for International Development (USAID). Although we acknowledge the difficult fiscal situation in the U.S., we believe that these cuts are detrimental to U.S national security as we face increasingly complex challenges abroad. Turning our backs on poor and struggling people in nascent democracies in the Middle East and fast-growing markets in Africa would decrease our leverage and our credibility, make it harder to drive export growth and opportunity for U.S. businesses, and send the wrong signal about our values as a nation.

The Kerry bill recognizes the importance of our diplomacy and development efforts, and calls for continued progress on reforms that are making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable than ever before:

  • The legislation’s statement of global development policy reflects many principles of effective development that are highlighted in MFAN’s From Policy to Practice reform agenda.  These principles include increasing efficiencies by eliminating wasteful regulations, prioritizing accountability and transparency, incorporating local priorities into development planning, and maintaining the distinctiveness between development and diplomacy. The House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously passed a complementary amendment, authored by Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA), that attempts to set out clear goals for U.S. foreign assistance efforts.
  • The legislation supports a strong, empowered USAID that can effectively address 21st century challenges and priorities, in stark contrast to the House bills, which would effectively end the agency’s internal reform efforts by eliminating its budget office, a key tool for increasing accountability in foreign assistance, and cutting more than a third from its operating expenses budget.
  • The legislation calls for similar support for the Millennium Challenge Corporation, a landmark program started under President George W. Bush to push economic growth and capacity building in countries that are showing exemplary progress on democracy and free market reforms.
  • The legislation directs the President to develop a rigorous system to evaluate the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. foreign assistance programs across all agencies, a step the House Foreign Affairs Committee also took by unanimously passing a transparency and accountability amendment authored by Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX).

We urge Members of Congress to support an approach that ensures continued U.S. global leadership on development, advances foreign assistance reform, and honors the commitments we have made to millions of people who are trying to build stable lives and healthier communities in the world’s most vulnerable places.