MFAN Letter to Secretary of State Tillerson

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February 23, 2017

The Honorable Rex Tillerson
Secretary, U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Tillerson:

On behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), we are writing to congratulate you on your recent confirmation to serve as the 69th U.S. Secretary of State.  As a nonpartisan reform coalition composed of international development and foreign policy practitioners and policy advocates and experts, MFAN looks forward to working with you and the Trump Administration to further strengthen U.S. foreign assistance for better development outcomes.

As you take the helm of the State Department, the world is facing an unprecedented number of ongoing conflicts and humanitarian crises with a direct impact on U.S. national security and economic interests.  MFAN believes strong and effective aid is critical to addressing these global challenges and to promoting American security, prosperity, and values.

Over the past several years, MFAN has worked with Congress and the administration to make U.S. foreign assistance more data-driven and accountable for results. We welcomed the State Department’s 2015 release of an updated agency-wide evaluation policy that includes assessment of security assistance and full publication of findings.  PEPFAR 3.0, launched in 2013, shifted PEPFAR toward more a transparent, accountable, and data-driven strategy to achieve sustained epidemic control – a major advance.  The bipartisan Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, signed into law in 2016, institutionalizes important gains in transparency, monitoring, and evaluation across foreign aid agencies.  At the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which you noted is “an important part of the projection of America’s values around the world,” internal reforms like USAID Forward are modernizing the agency and deepening its impact.

Another important pillar of effective aid is country ownership, which supports the role that people and governments in partner countries play in determining development priorities, implementing development programs, and contributing their own resources for development. During your testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in January, you rightly noted that, “One of the most successful programs I’ve seen is the Millennium Challenge Corporation because it has ownership on the part of the country” and that you hoped many of our country partners could move “on a pathway where they can begin to take responsibility and develop the infrastructure and the educational systems to meet the needs of their people.” USAID, in particular, has taken important steps to embrace the MCC model and increase development impact through greater alignment with country priorities, systems, and resources—but much more can be done.

With your commitment to transparency and results for development you will be well-positioned to build upon these improvements. In particular, we hope you will prioritize the following:

  • Ensure that USAID has the budget and policy authority needed to remain the United States’ lead development agency and become a stronger, complementary partner to the diplomatic and defense communities.
  • Invest in the ability of the State Department and USAID to engage in strategic planning, measurement of results, and partnerships. Funding for both USAID’s Operating Expenses and Capital Investment Fund is essential for aid effectiveness and for the Agency’s efforts to drive innovation and retain talent, oversee program implementation, improve transparency, and evaluate results.
  • Work with Congress to develop a shared vision and strategy for U.S. global development that is built on a foundation of sound strategic planning, accountability for results, and evidence-based systems that enable the spending of resources according to needs.

We respectfully request a meeting with you to further discuss U.S. aid effectiveness and how MFAN might support your work on these important issues in the coming months.  MFAN’s Executive Director, Didier Trinh, (; 202-794-9684) is available to receive your response and answer any questions you or your staff may have.

Thank you for your willingness to serve our nation and represent the tireless efforts of American diplomats and development professionals all around the world.


George Ingram
MFAN Co-Chair
Brookings Institution

Carolyn Miles
MFAN Co-Chair
Save the Children

Connie Veillette
MFAN Co-Chair
The Lugar Center

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