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Archive for the ‘MFAN Statement’ Category

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.

 

MFAN Statement: Severe Cuts in House Bill Would Harm Poor People, Set Back U.S. Leadership, Roll Back Reforms

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011
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July 27, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:

The severe cuts to U.S. foreign assistance proposed yesterday by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations (SFOPS) would fall hardest on the world’s poorest people, millions of whom are alive and thriving today because of U.S. leadership on international development over the last decade. Although we acknowledge that the U.S. must confront the budget challenges it faces, in part by making reasonable cuts across the board, we adamantly believe that the less than 1% of the federal budget that is spent on development-focused foreign assistance is a critical investment in our global leadership and an important indicator of our values as a nation.

The U.S. government, under the leadership of President George W. Bush and with bipartisan support in Congress,  drove unprecedented gains in global health and development starting in 2001. Just a decade later, we are on the cusp of turning those gains into sustainable, long-term progress. At the same time, the challenges we face on other fronts are bigger and more complex. Yet the SFOPS bill would lead to a wholesale retreat from the commitments we have made and the partnerships we have forged. It would also roll back the huge progress that has been achieved in making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable, impeding ongoing efforts to ensure that taxpayer dollars are getting into the hands of people who need our help.

We are particularly concerned about a few key pieces of the SFOPS bill:

  • The bill focuses too heavily on development as a security concern. Although we believe development is an important piece of our national security, looking at development solely through a security lens leaves an untold number of countries and people out of the picture whose lives have benefited from U.S. assistance over the past decade. This can cause us to miss opportunities to foster stability in emerging crisis areas before they require expensive and dangerous intervention by the U.S. military, and hinder our ability to open markets to U.S. products and businesses. .
  • The bill would cut the budgets of the State Department and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) so severely that neither would be able to invest in staffing, reforms, and innovation needed to deal with the increasingly complex global challenges we face.
  • In particular, the bill also proposes huge cuts to USAID’s Operating Expense account. This would be an incredibly harmful action, because USAID’s operating budget is what is being used to drive reforms that are allowing the agency to do more with every taxpayer dollar it receives for development, including by providing adequate oversight of its programs and measuring their effectiveness. Operating expenses are also used by the agency to prepare its next generation of leaders, and the cuts would force an end to programs like the Development Leadership Initiative, begun under President Bush, which trains some of our best and brightest young people to spearhead engagement with developing countries, the fastest growing markets in the world. Combined with the proposal last week by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs to shutter USAID’s budget office, these cuts would make it nearly impossible to reach the goal of rebuilding USAID into the leading development organization in the world.

Should this bill be passed in its current form, the good will that the U.S. has built in the developing world, and the leverage we have gained to open up opportunities for our own economy, would be lost. Given how competitive and complex the world has become, it could take decades of huge investments to rebuild our programs and our influence. During the 1980s and 1990s, we witnessed the profound effects of depleting our development workforce overseas in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and the Horn of Africa. We urge Members of Congress to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and consider the huge negative impacts that these budget cuts would have on our leadership, our global influence, and the poor people who we have tried to help build better lives.

 

MFAN Statement: Berman Amendment on Goals of U.S. Foreign Assistance Receives Bipartisan Committee Support

Friday, July 22nd, 2011
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July 22, 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:

During yesterday’s mark-up of the FY2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously passed an amendment authored by Ranking Member Howard Berman that articulates clear goals for U.S. foreign assistance. By fostering bipartisan support for the amendment’s passage, Ranking Member Berman, Congress’ most vocal champion of foreign assistance reform, and Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have created important momentum towards a larger goal: rewriting the Cold War-era Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. This is imperative in a world of complex and evolved challenges and tight budgets.

The original Foreign Assistance Act spelled out four clear priorities; 50 years later, that number has ballooned to more than 140 goals, mandates, and overlapping directives.  The lack of clarity and focus hinders our ability to deliver foreign assistance in a focused and strategic way, at a time when we must.

The goals drafted by Ranking Member Berman and adopted by the Committee include addressing global poverty and human suffering and promoting sustainable economic growth through trade and investment.  These echo some of the core pieces of President Obama’s Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, which Ranking Member Berman helped shape with his work on foreign assistance reform in the last Congress. The clear building blocks for rewriting the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 are in place, and we urge Members to work together on a bipartisan basis to create modern legislation that will ensure that U.S. foreign assistance is being used more effectively and strategically to confront the global challenges of the 21st century.