Proposed Cuts to Foreign Assistance Will Reverse Decade-Long Bipartisan Reform Effort

March 16, 2017 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Carolyn Miles, and Connie Veillette.

The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) is gravely concerned over the proposed 31% cut from FY17 levels to the International Affairs Budget, and urges Congress to reject such a draconian approach to programs that are central to U.S. interests.  These deep and disproportionate cuts would threaten our national security, diminish America’s standing in the world, and reverse progress that has been made in building more accountable and effective development institutions.

For decades, the United States has used a three-pronged approach to ensure our nation’s safety: a strong military backed by a tactful diplomatic corps to address short-term strategic goals and development experts who tackle longer-term challenges to human development. For example, an Ebola outbreak was prevented from reaching American shores because the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) led a swift and coordinated interagency response from the U.S. Government to contain and stop the disease in the affected West African countries.

This administration’s budget proposal would perilously return funding for diplomacy and development to a level similar to that of Fiscal Year 2007.  But the fact is that we live in a much different world today – with a record-high 65 million people displaced from their homes, four looming famines, and numerous complex political crises.  The budget should reflect this reality and give State and USAID the tools to address these issues through their own unique and complementary missions.

“This proposed budget loses sight of the immense need in the world today,” said Carolyn Miles, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Save the Children.  “And foreign assistance is a proven way to save and improve lives with a very small part of the federal budget.”

Furthermore, there is long-standing bipartisan agreement on Capitol Hill that American leadership requires effective foreign assistance.  From the creation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2004, to the recent enactment of the bipartisan Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act, Congress continues to support results-driven aid.

“The cuts proposed by this administration are fundamentally reckless,” said George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution. “Congress should reject this budget because it would cripple our country’s ability to engage with our allies and confront global threats.”

Attempting to reform the State Department and USAID by slashing their budgets will not improve the effectiveness of these institutions, but rather hamper the progress that has already been made toward more effective overseas aid.  MFAN has been a vocal advocate for aid reforms that would improve the effectiveness of U.S. taxpayer dollars.  It has consistently called for a strong and independent USAID with development professionals at its helm.  And in recent years, the restoration of USAID’s policy, budget, and technical capacity has allowed the agency to reestablish itself as an accountable and agile agency.  As a result, USAID now brings field and technical expertise to long-term development challenges, as well as a valued voice to the interagency policy table.

“The administration’s budget proposal for foreign affairs would severely undercut years of reform and rebuilding of our development architecture,” said Connie Veillette MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center.  “Development is a discipline; and a strong, independent, and technically adept USAID is critical to our national security.”

MFAN believes reform should be based on sound policies guided by proven aid effectiveness principles of accountability and ownership on the part of the partner country.  Congress should oppose such a dramatic and unprecedented cut to foreign assistance and instead provide the necessary resources to ensure our security, reaffirm U.S. global leadership, and maintain the positive bipartisan trajectory toward sensible, policy-based reform.

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