SFRC’s Global Health Security bill has important and constructive elements

The Co-Chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) congratulate Chairman Menendez and Ranking Member Risch of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) for their work on the bipartisan International Pandemic Preparedness and COVID-19 Response Act (S. 2297), which recently passed out of Committee.

This bill would enhance the U.S. global response to the COVID-19 pandemic and strengthen U.S. global health security programs in line with core aid effectiveness principles of accountability and transparency. Importantly, the bill authorizes additional funding for global health security, closing gaps exposed by COVID-19. While MFAN does not endorse the bill in its current form, we find the legislation contains many important and constructive elements.

MFAN also appreciates the consultation by the Committee staff on this bill and thank them for their willingness to meet with MFAN and other members of the foreign assistance community for advice and recommendations.  Their commitment to outreach, consultation and transparency throughout has made this a stronger bill.

Our key concern with the bill as currently drafted has been and remains the creation of a Special Representative at the State Department for US International Activities to Advance Global Health Security and Diplomacy Overseas.  While State’s function with respect to diplomatic engagement is critical, we are concerned that the department’s lack of expertise in program design – as well as its lack of focus on long-term development – will hamper its role as an effective coordinator of global health security programming.

The successful partnership between USAID and the State Department is vital for any major programmatic initiative in this area.  We have seen other programs lose effectiveness and accountability when State’s role expands into program areas in which USAID has the expertise.  We believe additional language to ensure State’s role is more tightly defined, while acknowledging USAID’s programmatic leadership, will make this bill even stronger. MFAN encourages the bill’s sponsors to further address this issue as S.2297 moves through the legislative process.

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