February 14, 2011 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram:
President Obama’s FY13 budget request for international affairs manages to hits three critically important notes against a challenging geopolitical and economic backdrop:
- Funding: It maintains and in some places provides new funding for development and diplomacy programs that are taking on increased importance in post-conflict areas and other hotspots (e.g. the post-Arab Spring Middle East, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan), while also providing the resources necessary to protect the last decade’s unprecedented gains against poverty and disease in developing countries.
- Reform: It focuses on the importance of making U.S. foreign assistance more effective and accountable by: Calling for continued support of reform-oriented Presidential initiatives (i.e. Feed the Future, Global Health Initiative); Highlighting programs like the Partnership for Growth, a unique and potentially powerful new effort to drive broad-based economic growth through better coordination of U.S. agencies in recipient countries; and, Ensuring the continuation of reform and innovation initiatives underway that will strengthen the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), including USAID FORWARD, with its focus on procurement reform, and Development Innovation Ventures (DIV), which provides incubation support for promising new approaches to development around the world. These reforms are maintained, in part, by providing funding for the agency’s critical operating expense (OE) account. The Administration also rightly calls for the establishment of a “Working Capital Fund,” which would be used to cover the costs of implementing cross-agency reforms.
- Prioritization: It reflects a strategic shifting of resources away from places (e.g. Europe, Asia) where assistance is no longer as critical, while also making very difficult choices to reduce money in accounts where increasing efficiencies and burden sharing with partners and recipient countries can bolster the impact of every dollar spent. We look forward to hearing more about how the Administration will maintain the effectiveness of these programs even with declining resources.
While no budget is perfect, we believe the President’s FY13 international affairs request is balanced and constructive. Most importantly, it seems to us to be a reaffirmation of the Administration’s focus on reforming U.S. foreign assistance. We remain committed to working with both the Administration and Congress to see that these reforms have lasting impact.