May 24, 2017 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram and Connie Veillette.
The Trump Administration has released its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal that would slash funding for the State Department and The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) by one-third – 32 percent – compared to 2017. MFAN applauds the Members of Congress who have already rejected the deep and disproportionate cuts requested in this budget. Such steep reductions would dismantle two of the three pillars of American foreign policy and undermine accountability efforts that ensure U.S. foreign assistance is impactful.
It appears that unprecedented budget cuts will dictate the reorganization efforts at the State Department and USAID, instead of a principled approach to maximizing effectiveness. The Administration must involve Congress and the development community in any reorganization, and base any efficiency review on a Global Development Strategy and MFAN’s Guiding Principles for Effective U.S. Assistance.
One short-sighted proposal is the President’s request to consolidate Development Assistance funds into the Economic Support Fund, and subsequently cut these programs nearly in half (44 percent). This proposal not only eliminates assistance to 37 countries, it also confuses lines of authority and accountability for U.S. diplomacy and development programs—and would almost certainly result in the prioritization of short-term political efforts over important long-term investments in economic growth and development.
Over the last two decades, USAID, our nation’s lead development agency, has adopted many of the aid effectiveness best practices around transparency, evaluation, and country ownership that MFAN has long championed. However, instead of doubling down on what works, the Trump Administration is proposing a 40 percent cut to USAID’s Policy, Planning, and Learning Bureau, which reverses this momentum and threatens existing accountability measures. In addition, the USAID’s Operating Expenses are cut by 13 percent and USAID’s Capital Investment Fund by 21 percent. USAID cannot effectively function without the proper staffing and personnel resources as well as IT systems that are funded through these accounts.
These proposed cuts ignore not only a legacy of strong bipartisan support for effective foreign assistance, but also the hundreds of military, faith, and business leaders urging investment in U.S. development and diplomacy as necessary to ensuring our national security, promoting our values, and advancing our economic interests.
“This budget is irresponsible and does not reflect the longstanding bipartisan consensus on foreign assistance,” said George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution. “We look forward to working with Congress to continue increasing aid effectiveness based on sound principles, not arbitrary budget cuts.”
“To ignore the cascading effects of numerous global crises and to pull back from reforms that have transformed USAID into a modern and accountable agency is bad for both U.S. taxpayers and global stability,” said Connie Veillette, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Lugar Center. “These cuts are dangerous and will undermine our national security and global respect for U.S. leadership.”
As we saw with the FY17 Omnibus, Congress must continue to champion development and diplomacy as distinct and equal pillars of American foreign policy along with defense.