On Monday, September 19th the Kojo Nnamdi Show will feature MFAN Co-Chair Jim Kolbe, former Chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Paul O’Brien, Vice President of Policy and Campaigns at Oxfam America to discuss the future of foreign aid and the trajectory of reform, continuing a conversation that began two years ago.
Of all the cuts to emerge from last month’s House Foreign Affairs Committee draft authorization bill and the fiscal 2012 State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee bill markup, the cut from USAID’s operating expenses budget may turn out to be one of the most painful for U.S. foreign policy.
In the midst of a misguided and disproportionate effort to slash the international affairs budget, the House of Representatives has proposed to cut nearly 27% ($365million) from USAID’s operating budget for fiscal year 2012. Such a drastic cut would cripple the agency’s ongoing and aggressive internal reform effort, while undermining bipartisan efforts to increase the effectiveness and accountability of U.S. foreign assistance.
We commend House Committee on Foreign Affairs (HCFA) Ranking Member Howard Berman (D-CA) for introducing a discussion draft of the Global Partnerships Act of 2011. The draft legislation lays the foundations for a serious dialogue between the Congress, the Executive Branch, and civil society to reach consensus on legislation to replace America’s outdated and ineffective jumble of foreign assistance statutes. The reforms proposed by Rep. Berman build on the work the last two Presidents – and Republicans and Democrats currently serving on HCFA – have done to make our efforts to alleviate poverty, improve health, and drive economic growth in poor countries more effective and accountable.
Over the weekend, The Washington Post ran an op-ed by Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in which she elaborates on the partnership between Liberia and the U.S. that has helped set her country on a path to recovery, and even growth, following a decades-long civil war. She writes: “Thanks to our partnership with the American people, we are rebuilding roads, clinics, and schools, and expanding access to electricity, water, and sanitation. It is critical that this aid continues in next year’s budget.”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) has introduced the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2012-13, which calls for robust resources for U.S. diplomacy and development programs that are critical components of U.S. foreign policy in a challenging world. MFAN applauds Chairman Kerry for authoring a bill that demonstrates a strong commitment to the civilian tools of U.S. global leadership and pushes forward the vital reforms to U.S. foreign assistance.
The DAC is to be commended for writing an informative report that offers constructive and concrete recommendations for advancing foreign assistance reform. The question is whether the Obama administration and the Congress will take the recommendations to heart and work together to finish the job.
In a letter obtained by The Washington Post, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned that she will urge a veto if a House Foreign Affairs committee bill that outlines severe restrictions and cuts to foreign assistance programs reaches the White House.
The severe cuts to U.S. foreign assistance proposed yesterday by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations (SFOPS) would fall hardest on the world’s poorest people, millions of whom are alive and thriving today because of U.S. leadership on international development over the last decade.
During yesterday’s mark-up of the FY2012 Foreign Relations Authorization Act, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs unanimously passed an amendment authored by Ranking Member Howard Berman that articulates clear goals for U.S. foreign assistance. By fostering bipartisan support for the amendment’s passage, Ranking Member Berman, Congress’ most vocal champion of foreign assistance reform, and Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen have created important momentum towards a larger goal: rewriting the Cold War-era Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. This is imperative in a world of complex and evolved challenges and tight budgets.