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Groups Welcome the Release of Administration Proposal for International Food Aid Reform

February 26th, 2013
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Below is a joint statement, which was released earlier today on the rumored changes to the U.S. approach to food aid in President Obama’s FY14 budget request. The statement welcomes reports that these changes may include useful reforms and is endorsed by 12 organizations, including MFAN.

food aid groups

Washington, DC, February 26, 2013 - The above groups welcome reports that the Administration may propose helpful reforms to the U.S. food assistance program in its FY2014 budget submission to Congress. We urge the Obama Administration to include a bold reform proposal that builds upon the United States’ historic leadership as the world’s most generous donor of food aid.

When 870 million people around the world go hungry every day, making every food aid dollar count is not only a responsible use of taxpayer money, it is a moral imperative. For that reason, it is critical that any reforms seek efficiencies rather than cuts, and do not alter the basic programmatic focus of the U.S. food aid program. These programs help to feed 55 million people in need around the world, supporting both emergency responses and addressing chronic hunger.

Our organizations strongly support effective foreign assistance to address humanitarian crises and development challenges. We know from our work on the ground that this aid saves lives.  That is why we have advocated for common sense reforms to our outdated food aid system that would allow the United States to continue providing life-saving assistance for millions of people around the world, even in this period of a constrained federal budget.

Making every dollar count for hungry people means adding flexibility to our overseas food assistance so that proven methods such as local and regional purchase (LRP) are part of the food aid toolbox. The recent release of an independent evaluation report of the USDA LRP Pilot Program, established under a provision of the 2008 farm bill, confirms that this approach is a triple win: providing considerable cost savings, faster humanitarian response, and support for the local farmers and agricultural markets that are the key to providing long-term global food security.

Making every dollar count for hungry people also means reducing the inefficient and potentially market distorting practice of selling U.S. commodities to fund non-food components of programs designed to support agriculture, nutrition and food security. It would be far more efficient to fund these activities directly, instead of through circuitous and inefficient route of monetizing food aid.

In a June 2011 report, the Government Accountability Office found that the use of monetization resulted in at least a 30 percent loss of resources to non-emergency food aid projects conducted from 2008-2010.

In the current budgetary climate, policymakers cannot afford to ignore any credible proposal to maximize the use of taxpayer dollars while maintaining and even increasing program reach and impact. Our organizations stand ready to work with the Administration and Congress to reform our international food aid system so that we can continue to respond to the scourge of global hunger today and build toward a hunger-free future tomorrow.


Tweet Stream: Panel Explores Future of U.S. Development Efforts

February 20th, 2013
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Yesterday, the Brookings Institution hosted a panel discussion on the U.S. global development reform agenda, with participants noting opportunities and challenges for future reform efforts. The event, “The United States and Global Development: An Approach in Transition,” was moderated by MFAN co-chair and Brookings senior fellow George Ingram. Panelists included: Sheila Herrling, vice president in the Department of Policy and Evaluation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation; Steven Radelet, distinguished professor in the practice of development at Georgetown University; Susan Reichle, assistant to the administrator at the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning at the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Connie Veillette, consultant and MFAN principal.

Watch a video or listen to audio of the event here.

In case you missed the event, take a look at MFAN’s live tweet stream (@ModernizeAid) in reverse chronological order:

  • Reichle @USAID hopes that we strengthen a constituency for US development over the next four years #USDevReform
  • Connie Veillette’s 1 wish is a well-written foreign assistance authorization bill #USDevReform
  • Reichle @USAID asks how do we connect youth around the world and help them to focus to achieve big results together #USDevReform
  • Radelet: challenge is to move from model where traditional development funders are the risk-sharers. #USDevReform
  • Connie Veillette makes call for coalition to support more effective & efficient food aid, and not give in to special interests #USDevReform
  • Conversation switches gears briefly to address food aid reform #USDevReform
  • Herrling says President’s state of the union speech was huge moment for development #USDevReform
  • Reichle @USAID says the agency will move 11 missions into new engagement strategy in FY14 budget #USDevReform
  • Veillette: unless experts make decisions about what should/should not be cut, the non-experts will make those decisions #USDevReform
  • Connie Veillette: admin has not made great strides in being more selective with development programs #USDevReform
  • Radelet: (2/2) and have these agencies, USAID & MCC, be seen as stronger, more effective in the eyes of taxpayers & the Hill #USDevReform
  • Radelet: (1/2) model for change is to focus on a set of key reforms…#USDevReform
  • Reichle @USAID says reform efforts are really taking hold in the field and they are institutionalizing core competencies #USDevReform
  • @GMIngramIV asks for a preview of the upcoming USAID Forward progress report — coming mid-March! #USDevReform
  • Herrling: we see a real focus on monitoring and evaluation and being transparent about this, even when it comes with risks. #USDevReform
  • Sheila Herrling @MCCtweets talks about partnership for growth initiative and figuring out “how” to implement reform #USDevReform
  • Veillette: need more clarification about how development is distinct from diplomacy and defense, esp for Congress #USDevReform
  • Connie Veillette: I don’t think reforms are spreading beyond USAID to other agencies #USDevReform
  • Radelet @georgetownsfs says to stop calling for USAID admin to have seat on natl security council; have strong representation #USDevReform
  • Radelet: final issue is transparency and openness #USDevReform
  • Radelet: second issue is procurement reform. If done right, this could fundamentally help our partners in developing countries #USDevReform
  • Steve Radelet: most important thing is to ensure strong implementation of reform agenda already in place #USDevReform
  • Reichle @USAID: we elevated development by focusing on results, take Feed the Future for ex #USDevReform
  • Susan Reichle @USAID says we need to strengthen core capacities incl budget and policy shops #USDevReform
  • First question: what further can be achieved to elevate development in the US? #USDevReform

MFAN Statement: Food Aid Reform Necessary; Administration Urged to Release Proposal

February 19th, 2013
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February 19, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network is intrigued by reports that the Obama Administration may propose changes to the U.S. approach to providing overseas food assistance, including reforms that could make this assistance more cost effective and allow us to reach more people around the world in need of help.  While we don’t yet have details of these proposed changes, we believe strongly that improving the effectiveness and efficiency of U.S. food aid is long overdue and could provide millions more people with life-saving assistance—all without increasing the budget for these programs.

The current approach to delivering food aid is outdated and in need of reform.  In an era of decreasing budgets, policymakers simply can’t afford not to consider any credible proposal to maximize the impact of taxpayer dollars.  We urge the Administration to make its proposal public and include it in the Fiscal Year 2014 budget request, and we urge Congress to give it careful and complete consideration.

EVENT – The United States and Global Development: An Approach in Transition

February 13th, 2013
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The United State and Global Development: An Approach in Transition 

Tuesday, February 19, 2013, 2:00 — 3:30 pm

The Brookings Institution, Saul/Zilkha Rooms, 1775 Massachusetts Ave, NW, Washington, DC

As President Barack Obama begins his second term, the U.S. global development community is taking stock of the reform efforts that began in 2010 to elevate development—joining defense and diplomacy—as a core pillar of U.S. national security and foreign policy, while advancing proposals for what the administration should focus on going forward. In January 2013, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), a reform-minded coalition that is focused on advancing the effectiveness and impact of U.S. global development efforts, submitted its recommendations to President Obama.

On February 19, the Development Assistance and Governance Initiative at Brookings and MFAN will co-host a discussion on the current status and future of the U.S. global development reform agenda. Panelists will include: Sheila Herrling, vice president in the Department of Policy and Evaluation at the Millennium Challenge Corporation; Steven Radelet, distinguished professor in the practice of development at Georgetown University; Susan Reichle, assistant to the administrator at the Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning at the U.S. Agency for International Development; and Connie Veillette, former director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program at the Center for Global Development. Brookings Senior Fellow George Ingram will moderate the discussion.

After the program, the panelists will take audience questions.


George Ingram, Senior Fellow

The Brookings Institution



Sheila Herrling, Vice President

Department of Policy and Evaluation, Millennium Challenge Corporation


Steven Radelet, Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Development

School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University


Susan Reichle, Assistant to the Administrator

Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning, U.S. Agency for International Development


Connie Veillette, Consultant 


To RSVP for this event, please call the Office of Communications at 202.797.6105 or click here.



USAID Administrator Should be Given Seat on NSC

February 5th, 2013
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Last week, Foreign Policy’s “Best Defense” blog had a guest post from Major Jaron Wharton, U.S. Army. In the piece, Maj. Wharton makes a compelling case for the USAID Administrator to be granted a seat on the National Security Council given the increased role development plays in our national security. MFAN has long held the position that the USAID Administrator should hold a seat on the National Security Council, especially with the emphasis on smart power seen during the Obama Administration. Read the full piece here and see key excerpts below:

“Because we are living in times that require a fully integrated national security approach, the USAID administrator should become the president’s principal advisor for development and assistance (akin to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff role and associated linkage to the secretary of defense, but concomitant to the secretary of state) and a permanent member on the National Security Council. This elevated position will provide the president with unfettered development advice, while codifying the position that development is on par with defense and diplomacy. Maintaining USAID’s intimate relationship with State recognizes the inherent ties of development assistance to foreign policy.”

[ ... ]

“USAID should take internal steps to reinforce its relevance and further professionalize its engagement in the national security apparatus. However, as in Goldwater-Nichols, where the ramifications for the professionalization of the Joint Staff were extreme, USAID is already fully-capable of the increased level of responsibility. There is no longer a dichotomy within USAID between those focused on altruistic development and assistance and those who understand the necessity, practicality, and Hill-emphasized need for more targeted work to support national security objectives.

Indeed, the development portfolio is now facing critical challenges and is at significantly increased risk given growing fiscal constraints. Despite being elevated by the Global Development Policy to be on par with defense and diplomacy, elements of any effort by the agency to demonstrate true relevancy in national security must include improved and sustained engagement in the NSS. This inherently makes the case USAID’s activities are considered in the national interest. Elevation of the administrator as a permanent member on the NSC provides an additional forcing function on the broader USG to recognize this point. At a minimum, the USAID administrator should be elevated and maintain his presence at the principals’ committee level beyond an “informal member as appropriate.”