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Posts Tagged ‘senate foreign relations committee’

MFAN Statement: Rubio-Cardin Foreign Aid Transparency Bill Moves Forward in the Senate

Thursday, November 14th, 2013
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November 14, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette

MFAN applauds the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for unanimously approving the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 (S. 1271) introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD). This bipartisan legislation would strengthen U.S. development programs in an era of constrained budget resources by directing U.S. agencies involved in foreign assistance to focus on more coherent, consistent, and transparent monitoring and evaluation to ensure that we get the most out of every dollar we spend on foreign assistance.

While the Obama Administration has emphasized its commitment to greater transparency and efficiency, as is evidenced in efforts by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State to implement new evaluation policies, as well as by the U.S. committing to participate in the International Aid Transparency Initiative (IATI), there is still more work to be done. In the recently released 2013 Aid Transparency Index (ATI) by Publish What You Fund, the Millennium Challenge Corporation was ranked as the most transparent donor among the 67 global donors assessed; however, other U.S. agencies did not fare as well. Most notably, the Department of State and PEPFAR were ranked 40th and 50th respectively, falling into the ATI’s “Poor” and “Very Poor” categories.

The legislation would improve accountability, transparency, and overall effectiveness first by requiring the President to establish uniform interagency guidelines—with measurable goals, performance metrics, and monitoring and evaluation plans—across all U.S. foreign assistance programs.  The bill would require that comprehensive, timely, and comparable data on all U.S. foreign assistance be made publicly available on the Foreign Assistance Dashboard. This would reinforce the good intentions of the Obama Administration, but also drive broader compliance from agencies and departments, as only six to date have posted information to the Dashboard since its launch in 2010. In addition, it would hold the Administration to account on its own existing policies, requiring that the uniform guidance be inclusive of security sector assistance as defined by the Security Sector Assistance (SSA) Presidential Policy Directive (PPD-23).

An earlier version of the legislation was introduced in the 112th Congress where it received an encouraging response. The bill was unanimously passed by the House with a vote of 390-0, and was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but did not receive floor consideration before the session came to a close.

MFAN is strongly supportive of the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013 (S. 1271) as an important step forward to codifying reforms that will ensure U.S. foreign assistance programs are more transparent, accountable, and effective and we commend Sens. Rubio and Cardin for their leadership on this issue. However, we feel the legislation must be rigorously applied to all foreign assistance programs, including those defined as security sector assistance by PPD-23. MFAN would also like to see the legislation track more closely with the commitment made by the U.S. to IATI, which would include publishing data on a quarterly basis, rather than a semi-annual basis as the bill currently prescribes.

Devex Profiles SFRC’s Steve Feldstein

Tuesday, December 14th, 2010
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Steve FeldsteinContinuing coverage of the 40 Under 40 Development Leaders in DC list, Devex featured Senate Foreign Relations Committee staffer Steve Feldstein. The profile acknowledges Feldstein’s contribution to the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009 (S.1524)—the reform bill aimed at strengthening USAID—that was sponsored by Chairman Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Lugar (R-IN), as well as his recent work on Haiti reconstruction.  Check out the full article here.

CQ Article Reports on the Future of Foreign Aid Reform

Tuesday, November 16th, 2010
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In an article out today, CQ reporter Emily Cadei writes about the fading opportunity for an overhaul of US foreign assistance given the Republican takeover of the House in Congress. Cadei notes that legislative efforts – particularly House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman’s Foreign Assistance Act rewrite – will face the most resistance from Republicans looking to use the fragmented system as a means to cut foreign aid funding altogether. Two MFAN members, Sarah Jane Staats of the Center for Global Development, and Greg Adams of Oxfam America were quoted in the piece. See key excerpts after the jump:

At the request of the Obama administration, Berman held off trying to move a bill while the White House and State Department conducted their own development policy reviews. The former was concluded in September, while State’s review still awaits release. Berman’s plan was to introduce a bill next year.

“Berman was very patient,” said Sarah Jane Staats, director of policy outreach at the Center for Global Development, which largely supported the chairman’s legislation. “Now we see maybe too patient.”

However, supporters of a foreign aid overhaul in the development community remain hopeful that with the completion of the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review in the coming weeks, the administration will step up its engagement with Capitol Hill.

Staats said the shift in control of the House could force the White House to be more proactive. It “will require the White House to work much more closely and negotiate . . . if they want to move forward on development,” she said.

Gregory Adams, director of aid effectiveness for Oxfam America, said Congress can respond to the administration’s new proposals — outlined in the president’s policy directive on development and the forthcoming quadrennial review — in fiscal 2012 appropriations.

Poll: Top Vacancies at USAID

Monday, November 15th, 2010
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Below is a guest post from MFAN member Alex Denny, Research Assistant of the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Assistance Reform Project, taking a closer look at the remaining vacancies at USAID. To see exactly where things stand with Assistant Administrators, please see the Center for Global Development’s USAID Staff Tracker and be sure to lets us know which vacancy is your top priority based on the tracker below:

Which AA Vacancy Would You Fill Today?

Alex Denny

Almost two years into the administration, USAID still suffers from incomplete staffing in its influential upper ranks.  Of the ten Assistant Administrator positions, only three have been confirmed, and only one other AA has even been nominated. As a matter of coherent and effective leadership, President Obama’s policy intends for USAID to be “the U.S. Government’s lead development agency” and the world’s premier development agency, but these gaps in appointed and Senate-confirmed leadership have real, deleterious effects on the agency’s ability to fulfill that role and to act as a strong pillar of foreign policy.  Can you imagine the reactions if DoD was this understaffed?

The different gaps in USAID’s leadership have different consequences for the Agency’s clout in Washington and for offices in the field. Within our own conversations, we’ve heard reasons for why certain AA positions are more critical to fill than others; the health community, for example, has a valid point when it says that the missing AA for Global Health means that the Agency lacks the ability to coordinate strategy with the President’s new Global Health Initiative. But does that make it the most important AA position to fill? Or should the priority be on a particular regional bureau, on Legislative and Public Affairs or on something else?

While we look forward to all of the positions being filled, we’re curious to know what you think.  If you could pick just one of these vacant positions to be filled today, which would you pick and why?

USAID Staff Tracker 11_15

Foreign Aid Ranks Among the President’s Foreign Policy Headaches

Thursday, November 11th, 2010
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USAID in Pakistan-AFP MehriIn a recent post, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported on the top ten policy areas where President Obama will potentially face Republican opposition. Chief among them is foreign aid. Rogin speculates that the White House may turn to foreign policy as the Republican-controlled House pushes back on the President’s domestic agenda. Still, he notes that victories abroad are a sign of cooperation – and the Obama administration has a history of finding key support from Republicans in Congress (e.g. Afghanistan surge). Rogin’s list of foreign policy “headaches” includes: Afghanistan, the new START treaty, containing Iran, defense budget reform, civilian nuclear agreements, Syria, Cuba, free trade, and State Department nominations.  See below for some excerpts:

On Afghanistan: “On the civilian side, new prospective State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) is poised to use her control over civilian aid to press the case for taking a tougher line on Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as her predecessor Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) did in 2010.”

On foreign aid: “As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama promised to double the foreign aid budget within five years. Likewise, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised to elevate development alongside defense and diplomacy as a key pillar of U.S. national security policy. Both those promises face increased resistance in Congress next year, as lawmakers look to make budget cuts in programs that lack strong domestic constituencies. “One of the main issue voters are talking about is out-of-control spending, and foreign aid won’t be exempt from cuts,” one GOP aide told The Cable.”

“The congressional drive to pass a wholesale reform of foreign-aid distribution has also been dealt a blow due to the GOP takeover of the House. The most comprehensive bill on this front was written by outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) — but his bill failed to move out of committee, and it’s unlikely that his successor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), will take up the cause. Expect congressional Republicans to also resist large increases in the budget for the State Department, which is taking on increased roles all over the world, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan. The State Department’s budget for fiscal 2011 is still under consideration.”

On State Department nominations: “Senate Republicans have been holding up the nominations of scores of administration officials. The most visible holds are several U.S. ambassadorial nominees, such as Robert Ford to Syria, Frank Ricciardone to Turkey, Matthew Bryza to Azerbaijan, and Norm Eisen to the Czech Republic.”

“The nominations are held up by different senators for different reasons, some personal, some political. The increased GOP presence in the Senate won’t directly affect these nominations, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have to approve the nominations again if they are not acted on this year.”