Letter to House Committee on Armed Services on FY2017 NDAA

Download a formatted version of the Senate letter and the House letter.

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April 26, 2016

The Honorable Mac Thornberry
Chairman
Committee on Armed Services
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Adam Smith
Ranking Member
Committee on Armed Services
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Thornberry and Ranking Member Smith:

On behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), we are writing to express our strong support for greater transparency and accountability of Department of Defense (DOD) security cooperation budgets and programs as you consider the FY 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Knowing the scope of DOD support for foreign defense and security establishments and objectively evaluating the outcomes achieved is vital for Congress and civilians in partner countries to conduct effective oversight.

Evaluations, which differ from audits and investigations, are an important tool for improving program performance, informing decision-making, and ensuring effective use of taxpayer dollars. Except for the Pentagon, departments and agencies providing significant bilateral aid to foreign countries – namely, the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) – have established evaluation policies. The State Department’s evaluation policy specifically covers its security assistance programs.

It is our understanding that the Pentagon is working on an evaluation policy for its security cooperation programs. We urge you to include report language supporting this effort and ensuring that it is completed by the end of this year. We also request that you retain a provision in the FY 2016 NDAA that authorized funds for the evaluation of the Pentagon’s humanitarian assistance programs, and expand it to enable evaluations of all security assistance.

In addition, we are concerned about the opacity of security cooperation funding. Five years into the U.S. Government’s commitment to make information about its aid spending easier to access, use, and understand, the Pentagon continues to lag behind other departments and agencies. Publish What You Fund’s recent 2016 Aid Transparency Index, an independent measure of transparency among the world’s leading aid organizations, found improvements in DOD reporting, showing that gains can be achieved. However, the Pentagon still ranks last behind other scored U.S. agencies.

In light of DOD’s inadequate aid transparency, we strongly support congressional efforts to require the DOD to regularly report spending on training, equipment, or other security assistance. We urge you to require the Department to report its foreign assistance data in a comprehensive and timely manner to ForeignAssistance.gov, the central location for U.S. foreign aid data; to publish a plan for full compliance with the International Aid Transparency Initiative, a format for making aid spending transparent, comparable, and useable; and to comply with the country-level transparency requirements of section 1211 of the FY15 NDAA.

Thank you for your consideration of these priorities, and we look forward to working with you.

Sincerely,

George Ingram
MFAN Co-Chair
Brookings Institution

Carolyn Miles
MFAN Co-Chair
Save the Children

Connie Veillette
MFAN Co-Chair
The Lugar Center

CC: Members of the House Armed Services Committee

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