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USAID Administrator Responds To Conservative Republicans’ Call For Reducing Agency’s Budget

In an interview with Foreign Policy’s blog “The Cable,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said a Republican Study Committee (RSC) proposal to trim the U.S. foreign aid budget, in addition to other non-defense programs, could weaken U.S. national security. “‘That first and foremost puts our national security in real jeopardy because we are working hand and glove with our military to keep us safe,’ said Shah, referring to USAID missions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen, the Horn of Africa, and Central America, and responding directly to congressional calls for cuts in foreign aid and development,” the blog reports.

“And as people start to engage in a discussion of what [the RSC plan] would mean for protecting our border, for preventing terrorist safe havens and keeping our country safe from extremists’ ideology … and what that would mean for literally taking children that we feed and keep alive through medicines or food and leaving them to starve. I think those are the types of things people will back away from,” he said.

“In the military they call us a high-value, low-density partner because we are of high value to the national security mission but there aren’t enough of us and we don’t have enough capability,” Shah said, noting previous comments by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen and International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Commander Gen. David Petraeus.

Apart from national security, Shah talked about the economic opportunities that could arise from U.S. aid. “If we are going to be competitive as a country and create jobs at home, we cannot ignore the billions of people who are currently very low income but will in fact form a major new middle-class market in the next two decades,” he said. Shah said of USAID’s own reform plan: “We have a critical need to make the smart investments in our own operations … which over time will save hundreds of millions of dollars, as opposed to trying to save a little bit now by cutting our capacity to do oversight and monitoring” (Rogin, 1/21).  

CQ Examines Potential For USAID Funding Cuts

Though “lawmakers across the political spectrum” have praised the proposed reforms to USAID, some “say the grim fiscal situation means that the agency is still likely to face significant cuts,” CQ reports in a story examining Republicans’ views on USAID funding.

RSC Chairman Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), “said in a news conference that the proposed cuts ‘were derived by talking to members of the RSC, asking them: Where do you think government has been wasteful, redundant?’ But according to one aide to an RSC member, not all of the rank and file was consulted.”

“Jordan denied that the effort to eliminate USAID’s budget was a repudiation of the argument that development is a necessary element for promoting national security, and he said the committee would also be scrutinizing the defense budget separately,” CQ writes. “Rep. Kay Granger of Texas, chairwoman of the State-Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee and herself an RSC member, was noncommittal about the RSC proposal.” Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, (R-Fla.), who is also on the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee, said U.S. foreign aid funding “is in the U.S. national security interest.” He also said lawmakers would have to “‘make some tough choices’ about specific programs, but he predicted that it will be on a case-by-case basis rather than mass cuts to one budget.”

Former Rep. Jim Kolbe, (R-Ariz.), who is now a principal at the development coalition Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, is also quoted in the article (Cadei, 1/21).

Republican House Foreign Affairs Committee Members Announced

On Friday, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) released the names of the GOP committee members, “which includes libertarian Ron Paul (R-Tex.), budget hawk Mike Pence (R-Ind.), Joe … Wilson (R-S.C.) and 8 members of the 111th Congress’s  freshman class,” Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” reports (Rogin, 1/21).

“The Foreign Affairs Committee is ready to hit the ground running with this great slate of new and returning Members. I know that the unique strengths, backgrounds, interests, and expertise of our Members will make this Committee robust and effective,” Ros-Lehtinen said in a press release that includes all the Republican members of the committee (1/21).

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