Trump Administration Again Slashes Resources for Effective Development and Diplomacy

March 12, 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.

MFAN is alarmed for the third consecutive year by the Trump administration’s massive proposed cuts to the U.S. foreign affairs budget. Yesterday, the President released his budget request to Congress, proposing a 24% cut from current enacted levels of funding. MFAN supports wise and strategic spending decisions, but unreasonable, drastic cuts harm the effectiveness and efficiency of our nation’s interests abroad.

Among other damaging funding reductions, the President’s proposed budget seeks to cut USAID Operating Expenses, an account critical for staffing and operations of our lead development agency. USAID, under the leadership of Administrator Mark Green, has proposed an agency reorganization plan that aligns its work with the goal of helping countries achieve self-reliance. To effectively reorganize and achieve this goal, the agency will need adequate staffing and operating resources. MFAN recommends that Congress allocate $1.46 billion for Operating Expenses in the FY20 budget.

The President is also seeking to cut the USAID Capital Investment Fund, which is critical to strengthening the IT systems necessary to enhance the quality and comprehensiveness of aid data and the accountability of U.S. foreign assistance. While the White House is recommending a level of $198 million, MFAN requests that Congress consider no less than the current enacted amount of $225 million.

While alarmed by the reckless cuts, MFAN is glad to see a number of aid effectiveness provisions in the administration’s request, including:

  • The President’s request directs funds for the monitoring and evaluation of various programs. M&E is a powerful tool for aid effectiveness which can increase the impact of our foreign assistance dollars.
  • The request includes several mentions of funds directed toward Domestic Resource Mobilization (DRM), an effective method for country self-reliance which enables countries to fund their own development. The President’s request includes sustaining $30 million for Department of Treasury technical assistance, including improving DRM efforts.
  • In accordance with the BUILD Act, the administration is requesting funding for the new Development Finance Corporation (DFC). MFAN looks forward to ensuring that the new DFC lives up to its potential for development impact as one part of a well-resourced U.S. development toolkit.

These provisions will only be effective as part of an adequately funded U.S. foreign affairs program. MFAN yet again disapproves of the drastic and unreasonable cuts to the resourcing of our development and diplomacy efforts. MFAN will work with Congress to oppose these cuts, provide the necessary resources to ensure our security, and reaffirm U.S. global leadership, while furthering effectiveness and evidence-based reform.

“Foreign aid reform is all about return on investment. We want our taxpayer dollars to efficiently and effectively advance American interests and help those in need,” said Lester Munson, MFAN Co-Chair and Principal at BGR Group. “Bluntly slashing the foreign affairs budget by 24% is not the way to effectively use taxpayer money abroad, in fact, we would likely see less efficiency and reduced impact.”

“Tools like monitoring and evaluation can go a long way in ensuring that U.S. foreign assistance is an increasingly strong investment,” said Tessie San Martin, MFAN Co-Chair and President and CEO of Plan International USA. “However, if these tools are not part of an adequately funded State Department and USAID, we will not be able to continue improving the transparency and accountability of our foreign aid programs.”

“The Trump administration still has not learned what the Congress consistently champions: that our nation’s efforts abroad are an investment in American security, prosperity, and moral values. We’re looking forward to working with the Congress on a reasonable foreign affairs budget that reflects these principles,” said George Ingram, MFAN Co-Chair and Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution.

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