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Washington Post Reports On Administrator Shah’s Goals For USAID

The Washington Post examines plans for reforming USAID, noting some of Administrator Rajiv Shah’s comments during a recent speech at the Center for Global Development. “‘This agency is no longer satisfied with writing big checks to big contractors and calling it development.’ Those challenging words, spoken last week by [Shah], were just one part of his speech forging a new direction for an agency that has been in the backwater of U.S. foreign and national security policies for years. With little more than a year on the job, the 37-year-old medical doctor and research scientist, who once handled the $1.5 billion vaccine fund for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, criticized development programs designed to be ‘extended in perpetuity while goals remain just out of reach,'” the newspaper writes.

According to Shah, “reform of USAID contracting will mean accelerated ‘funding to local [non-governmental organizations] and local entrepreneurs, change agents who have the cultural knowledge and in-country expertise to ensure assistance leads to real local institutions and lasting, durable growth.'” In his view, “if we’re not building real incentives into the system to transition to make our projects more sustainable, to work through host-country systems and ministries or local institutions, you know, we’re not going to have viable, long-term sustainability strategies.” Sustaining development requires involvement from local public and private sectors, according to Shah, who cited USAID’s work in Haiti as an example.

“Oversight is another key area for Shah. … Shah said his changes will require more personnel, but he also plans to eliminate costly senior positions in Paris, Geneva, Rome and Tokyo, as well as cut assistance programs in seven countries over the next four years,” the Washington Post writes.

But his “plans may be for nought,” the paper points out, highlighting Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen’s (R-Fla.) statements about cutting foreign aid and a recent Republican Study Committee (RSC) proposal that would reduce the U.S. foreign aid budget. “That all could put Shah’s reforms somewhat in question,” the newspaper reports (Pincus, 1/24).

Berman Speaks In Support Of Foreign Aid On House Floor

On the House floor Monday, Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the House Foreign Affairs Committee ranking member, spoke out against a budget resolution and supported “calls from the Obama administration to keep State and foreign aid funding out of the hands of GOP budget slashers in Congress,” Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” reports.

“The budget resolution, which is being brought by Republican leadership in advance of Tuesday’s State of the Union speech, would mandate that all ‘non-security’ accounts be cut to fiscal 2008 levels when the current stopgap funding measure expires on March 4,” the blog writes. “The GOP defines ‘non-security’ to mean all spending besides funds devoted to defense, homeland security, military construction, and veterans. The administration and some in Congress want to add diplomacy and development to that list,” according to “The Cable.”

Berman said the budget resolution “sends a very damaging message that the Congress will not stand up to protect those programs that are absolutely essential to jobs and the economy.” He continued, “It also rejects a key principle that military leaders and presidents of both parties have clearly recognized: Foreign assistance and diplomacy are essential to United States national security” (Rogin, 1/25). 

Meanwhile CQ reports on conservative Republican’s persistence “to cut $100 billion or more from fiscal 2011 spending.” The focus on lowering the budget suggests “GOP leaders will have to trim spending more than originally planned,” according to the publication. 

“The conservative Republican Study Committee on Monday sent a letter to Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, insisting on $100 billion in cuts. The letter drew the signatures of 89 Republican House members, including both freshmen and veterans,” CQ writes. The letter said, “despite the added challenge of being four months into the current fiscal year, we still must keep our $100 billion pledge to the American people. These $100 billion in cuts to non-defense discretionary spending not only ensure that we keep our word … they represent a credible down payment on the fiscally responsible measures that will be needed to get the nation’s finances back on track.”

The article quotes House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) on the possibility of reducing discretionary spending to below FY 2008 levels (Krawzak, 1/24).

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