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Legislation To Overhaul U.S. Foreign Aid Introduced

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and ranking member, Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.), on Tuesday “introduced a bill to overhaul the U.S. system for providing global development aid,” the Boston Globe reports  (Smith, 7/29). The legislation was also introduced by Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), according to a release from Menendez’s office (7/28).

The bill proposes “numerous changes in the way aid is allocated” and would strengthen USAID, “which has withered in recent years as aid programs were shifted to other departments, including the Pentagon,” according to the Boston Globe. “The bill would require increased coordination and transparency in U.S. aid programs, reestablish a bureau for strategic planning within USAID, and give more authority to USAID staffers in the field,” writes the newspaper (7/29).

According to the press release, the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act of 2009, S.1524, would also establish “an independent council in the executive branch – the Council on Research and Evaluation of Foreign Assistance (CORE) – to objectively evaluate the impact and results of all development and foreign aid programs undertaken by the U.S. Government” (7/28). 

The Boston Globe reports that “[m]any development groups have pushed the Obama administration to address the fragmented foreign-aid process.” Raymond Offenheiser, Oxfam America’s president, said that “[a]long with rebuilding USAID, the U.S. must shift its focus from development projects that meet short-term political and security goals back to long-term development goals that not only help more people escape poverty, but in the long run, create greater stability and good will for the U.S.” (7/29). 

In the press release, Kerry said, “We need cutting edge programs that will push the envelope on ending chronic poverty, combating global climate change, reducing hunger, supporting democracies, and offering alternatives to extremism.” Lugar said that although the U.S. “has increased development funding and elevated its priority,” USAID has been “allowed to atrophy. Many new programs are located outside USAID in roughly two dozen departments and agencies. We don’t really know whether these programs are complementary or working at cross-purposes.” Menendez said that foreign assistance has been “pulled in too many directions” over the years and that the “reform initiative is a way to help focus our programs in a smarter and more effective way.” Corker said, “This bill begins to reinvigorate USAID to improve the coordination, execution and efficiency of U.S. assistance so we can make each dollar go farther” (7/28).