President Trump’s FY19 Budget Repeats Reckless Cuts to Foreign Aid Effectiveness

February 13, 2018 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Tessie San Martin, and Connie Veillette.

The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) is gravely concerned over the President’s proposed 30 percent cut from FY17 levels to the International Affairs Budget, which is out of step with global needs and 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.

The President’s budget is particularly weak on funding foreign aid effectiveness, seeking to:

  • Cut by nearly 20 percent USAID’s Operating Expenses, which fund the agency’s essential policy, evaluation, and transparency functions and personnel. USAID cannot function accountably without the proper staffing and resources provided by this account.
  • Merge and cut by 43 percent the Economic Support Fund and Development Assistance accounts. In addition to crippling core development funding, this proposal would further confuse rather than clarify lines of authority and accountability for U.S. diplomacy and development programs and would risk the prioritization of short-term political efforts over important long-term investments in economic growth and development.
  • Redesign the State Department and USAID while slashing their budgets and workforce. These cuts will not improve the effectiveness of these institutions, but rather hamper the decade-long progress that has already been made toward strengthening overseas aid.

Though this budget fails to fund core development effectiveness activities, MFAN will pursue policy opportunities in the Administration’s request, such as: establishing a budget and policy relationship between the State Department and USAID that respects and reflects their unique missions; undertaking responsible strategic country transitions from aid; catalyzing growth by reforming U.S. development finance; and better mobilizing partner country resources for development. These are fundamental effectiveness reforms to be decided in partnership with Congress and the development community; led by a strong and accountable USAID; and aligned with MFAN’s widely endorsed Guiding Principles for Effective U.S. Assistance.

MFAN will once again work with Congress to oppose the drastic cuts 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, evidence-based reform.

“The International Affairs budget must effectively address growing needs and humanitarian crises,” said MFAN Co-Chair and Plan USA President and CEO, Tessie San Martin. “If we’re facing draconian 30 to 40 percent cuts year after year, it’s going to be very difficult to advance an agenda of innovation and aid effectiveness.”

“U.S. foreign assistance has proven its value time and time again,” said MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow of The Lugar Center, Connie Veillette.  “Sufficient funding for effective development programs, clear and appropriate authority to USAID to carry out its development mission, and proper staffing at our aid agencies are critical ingredients to well-functioning foreign assistance.”

“A new Development Finance Institution would harness cutting-edge tools for partnering more effectively with the private sector,” said George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution. “However, it’s critical to have a strong foreign assistance budget to maximize its benefits.”

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