Bipartisan Leaders Highlight the Importance of U.S. Foreign Assistance

As the debate over foreign assistance has heated up in past weeks, bipartisan leaders have spoken out on its  importance to our security, our economic prosperity, our global leadership, and the success of our foreign policy.  See below for some of the best pieces from around the media and the web.

Bipartisan Leaders-Reform

The Freedom Alliance (New York Times – David Brooks, February 11): The foreign aid people, the scientific research people, the education people, the antipoverty people and many others have to form a humane alliance. They have to go on offense. They have to embrace plans to slow the growth of Medicare, to reform Social Security and to reform the tax code to foster growth and produce more revenue.

Opening Shot Fired in Foreign Aid Battle (Financial Times, February 10): Hillary Clinton, US secretary of state, met Paul Ryan, the new chairman of the House of Representatives budget committee, on Thursday to set out her objections to the House Republicans’ deficit-cutting plans. At root are differing concepts of national security – the new Republican House majority argues that diplomacy and foreign aid should not be classified as national security spending and, as a result, should not be exempted from a general push to bring down government expenditure. The White House dis-agrees. It has enlisted the support of Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, who recently said it was “absolutely mandatory” that the state department had a “robust enough budget . . .  to meet the needs of our times”.

MFAN-related: The facts on foreign aid (Politico-Rev. David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe, February 9): Most important, a guiding vision has taken hold across the spectrum of public and private players on development. Many developing countries have been able to achieve rapid economic growth and progress against poverty, mainly through their own efforts. For assistance to be effective, it needs to be responsive to local initiative and priorities. Though a sliver of our overall budget, U.S. foreign assistance delivers a real return-on-investment. The Obama administration and Congress need to support these programs and work together to make them more effective and accountable. And the American public deserves an honest debate about the importance of our foreign assistance.

Against cutting foreign assistance (Politico-Rep. Nita Lowey, February 9): Tough compromises are likely to require hard work between Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill, between Congress and the White House and between the administration and foreign officials. In the face of daunting challenges, we must all resist the temptation to take the easy route of partisan division and heated rhetoric that could result in haphazard decisions with dangerous, unintended consequences.

Help others; help ourselves by increasing world food capacity (AgriPulse-Tom Daschle, January 23): The final “D”, development, has only recently begun to get the attention that it richly deserves. There is a direct connection between the economic circumstances in any country and that country’s success in advancing the goals of the first three “D’s.” Indeed, agricultural development is perhaps the most critical first step towards economic development of a country. When we talk about development, therefore, we are talking about empowering local citizens to improve their own standard of living. Investing in agricultural development abroad should focus on the importance of helping countries with limited resources to support themselves, such that our efforts result in sustainable outputs for years to come.

Interview with Senator Lindsey Graham (Real Clear Politics, February8): GRAHAM: This is what I would say to Senator Paul and Senator Leahy, who is the chairman, let’s watch what we say and do when it comes to making statements about funding for Egypt. The army is the most stable institution in Egypt. They’re respected by the people, and most of our aid for the last 30 years has gone to the army.  I would say to all of my colleagues, let’s slow down, take a deep breath, the foreign operation budget is less than 1 percent of total federal spending. But to Rand Paul, my friend from Kentucky, you’re right, we can reform that budget, we can some money, but getting out of the foreign operations assistance to our friends business only buys trouble. It’s a penny wise and a pound foolish in my view.

Foreign aid on the chopping block (The Hill-John Feehrey, February 8): Foreign aid is not a popular thing in the United States, but if done right, it can be a good investment. I am not convinced that the Obama administration has the right priorities, and putting this spending under the microscope seems to me the right thing to do. Republicans are going to do their best to slash this spending, and in some cases, I might be for cutting it. But cutting foreign aid is not going to balance the budget. It is only going to lessen our influence in the rest of the world.

MFAN-related: Egypt, Deficit Bring Calls to End Foreign Aid – But Should We? (AOL News, February 5): “If that 1 percent was gone, the only face America would be putting to the world is one of helmets and boots on the ground,” said Sam Worthington, who heads InterAction, a coalition of U.S.-based relief groups that includes CARE and the International Rescue Committee. “It would deeply impact our image in the world and our ability to relate to other peoples.” Yet before the abuses of the 1950s and ’60s, there was the Marshall Plan that helped rebuild Europe after World War II. As John Norris, who heads the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress, notes, it was fiercely opposed by Paul’s ideological forbears, who also saw it as a waste of tax dollars.”It’s always been a popular measure with Congress in that it plays to the bleachers,” Norris said. Noam Unger, policy director of the Foreign Assistance Reform project at the Brookings Institution, agrees that the foreign aid program should be improved: “When we use foreign aid for rapid response to political crises, we often get it wrong.”But he said foreign aid “provides the best impact when it is used as a strategic long-term investment in sound governance and the economic well-being of people around the world and when it leverages action by other aid donors and the private sector.”

MFAN-related: Unlikely Alliance Supporting Foreign Aid Fights Together – For Now (The Huffington Post-Dan Froomkin, February 3): Wednesday’s dinner was hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, whose list of top funders is heavy with defense contractors as well as international relief groups. “We’ve agreed that we will push hard together for the highest number we can get,” said Sam Worthington, the president of Interaction, an alliance of U.S.-based nonprofits working around the world. “We have found that we can probably do better on the overall number by working together. The coalition most emphatically does not take a position on the apportionment of the money within the foreign aid budget, choosing instead to see all the programs as contributing to American “smart power,” coalition chairman George Ingram said.

More effective foreign assistance can pay real dividends (The Daily Caller, January 28): As a new Congress gets into gear, both Republicans and Democrats have a solemn duty to do the people’s work and to make sure their taxpayer dollars are being spent wisely. U.S. foreign assistance is already under the microscope, as it should be, but we believe policymakers should focus on making it better instead of slashing budgets. Foreign assistance accounts for less than 1% of our federal budget, and our investments in it can pay real dividends for the cost.

Lindsey Graham to the rescue for State and USAID (FP Blog-Josh Rogin, February 1): “If you don’t want to use military force any more than you have to, count me in,” Graham said in an exclusive interview Tuesday with The Cable. “State Department, USAID, all of these programs, in their own way, help win this struggle against radical Islam. The unsung heroes of this war are the State Department officials, the [Department of Justice] officials, and the agricultural people who are going out there.” “To those members who do not see the value of the civilian partnership in the war on terror, I think they are making a very dangerous decision,” Graham said.

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