Congress Once Again Champions Strong Development and Diplomacy in Final FY19 Spending Bill

February 19, 2019 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs George Ingram, Lester Munson, and Tessie San Martin.

The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network is pleased that Congress has overcome gridlock to pass the State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) FY19 appropriations that rejects the Trump administration’s proposed massive cuts and includes multiple aid effectiveness provisions.

The $54.2 billion FY19 SFOPS measure is slightly above (+.03%) FY18 enacted levels and $11.9 billion (+28.1%) above the President’s severe request. MFAN was pleased to see promising aid effectiveness provisions in previous House and Senate versions of the bill and their reports. Many of these provisions are included in the final Omnibus, including:

Agency Reorganization – The final bill provides strong congressional oversight of any reorganization of the foreign affairs agencies. The bill also requires detailed justification and information regarding reorganization plans. In line with that oversight, last fall USAID submitted nine Congressional Notifications (CNs) outlining its proposed reorganization. Those plans aligned well with MFAN’s reform principles and benefitted from extensive career staff and development community consultation. MFAN applauds Congress for clearing the first CN and encourages lawmakers to take action on the remaining CNs.

Staffing – Sufficient staff is critical for American diplomacy and development operations to function effectively.  The SFOPS bill provides $25 million more for increased overseas staffing at USAID. In addition, the measure directs that overall staff levels at the State Department and USAID return to the onboard levels of December 31, 2017, mitigating some of the impact of a 16 month hiring freeze.

USAID Operating Expenses and Capital Investment Fund – These two accounts are essential for aid effectiveness and support USAID’s efforts to drive innovation, retain Foreign Service, Civil Service, and Foreign Service National talent, oversee program implementation, improve transparency, and evaluate results. In particular, the Capital Investment Fund supports transparency and the establishment of USAID’s Development Information Solution, a comprehensive system to manage and report on the agency’s global portfolio.

The final budget provides $1.37 million – $10 million more than MFAN’s recommendation – for USAID Operating Expenses.  MFAN also supports the level provided for the USAID Capital Investment Fund, pushing amounts $25 million above the FY18 enacted level.

Monitoring and Evaluation – Monitoring and evaluation is a powerful tool for aid effectiveness, allowing for mid-course corrections and informing future programming decisions, which can increase the impact of our foreign assistance dollars. The SFOPS bill provides funds for foreign aid program evaluations, and directs the Department of State and USAID to conduct regular oversight in order to maximize cost-effectiveness and utility.

Domestic Resource Mobilization – The bill’s accompanying House and Senate reports direct the USAID Administrator to develop a strategy on Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM), a powerful tool for country self-reliance which enables countries to fund their own development. This language builds on prior MFAN-supported language on DRM.

MFAN thanks Congress once again for its unwavering dedication to American leadership and development effectiveness. However, budget delays and uncertainty harm development effectiveness. U.S. assistance programs are most effective when they are carefully planned, budgeted for, and funded. MFAN urges Congress and the administration act on appropriations for these critical American programs without delays in the FY20 funding cycle and beyond.

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