MFAN Statement: Sharp Differences in House and Senate Spending Highlight Threat to Critical Foreign Assistance Reform Efforts

July 26, 2013 (WASHINGTON) – This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe:

We are greatly concerned that a decade’s worth of measurable progress on foreign assistance – marked by millions of lives saved, landmark systemic reforms, and bold programmatic innovation – is at risk in the current FY2014 appropriations processes underway in Congress. While the Senate Appropriations Committee proposal for funding international affairs protects the core of programs considered vital to our national security and foreign policy, the House Appropriations Committee has adopted a proposal that would drastically reduce funding for these same programs and reorder priorities in a way that would severely undercut U.S. global leadership on development. This is unwise at a time when our diplomatic and development programs are key levers of influence amidst turmoil in the Middle East and elsewhere around the globe.

Specifically, the FY2014 spending bills released by the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are nearly $10 billion apart on funding for U.S. global health and development programs.  The spending plan for State and Foreign Operations (SFOPS) approved Wednesday by the House Appropriations Committee includes huge and strategically damaging cuts. Multilateral assistance, which is a cornerstone of our cooperative engagement with allies to build self-sufficiency and ownership in developing countries, would be cut 61 percent. Our international disaster assistance, which is the lynchpin of the global response to unforeseen humanitarian crises, would drop 40 percent. Our development assistance, which funds programs that are successfully helping the world’s most vulnerable people overcome debilitating poverty and deadly diseases, would be slashed 26 percent.

In addition to the gutting of overall foreign assistance programs, the House budget contains substantial, ill-advised cuts to the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Operating Expenses budget of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The MCC, a bipartisan effort launched under President George W. Bush, has embodied many of the reform principles we are now seeing take hold across government as part of President Obama’s first-ever U.S. Global Development Policy, including a clear focus on broad-based economic growth achieved through country-led plans, evaluation of results, transparency, and policy reforms in partner governments. Meanwhile, Operating Expenses at USAID are supporting an agency-wide reform effort that has restored much-needed accountability, expertise, and capacity after years of steady decline.

Taken together and if passed, these cuts would represent a nearly full repudiation of the idea that the U.S. must lead the world on development. In contrast, the Senate’s FY2014 proposal for State and Foreign Operations maintains essential funding for USAID’s Operating Expenses and the MCC, as well as funding for international organizations—such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization—where the U.S. exercises a key leadership role.

Encouragingly, both Chambers have addressed initiatives to encourage more local procurement and we look forward to working with Congress to ensure that USAID and other agencies are given the flexibility they need to work through local partners in order to maximize development effectiveness and build sustainable local capacity.

As the appropriations process moves forward, we urge Congress to follow the Senate’s lead to maintain these smart investments in our nation’s security, prosperity, and leadership around the world.


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