WASHINGTON – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing Thursday on the nomination of former Ambassador and Congressman Mark Green of Wisconsin to serve as the next Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.), the Committee’s ranking member, offered the following remarks as prepared for delivery:
“Ambassador Green, I welcome you to the Committee and thank you for your willingness to continue your excellent career in public service as the next Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development. I also want to express my great appreciation to your family for their willingness to make significant sacrifices to share their loved one with the American people.
“Mr. Chairman, I’ve heard from many groups and leaders in the development community that Ambassador Green is eminently qualified to be the next USAID Administrator.
“His experience as a Member of Congress, as Ambassador to Tanzania, his work in the NGO community, and his leadership at the Millennium Challenge Corporation all make him an exceptional candidate for this job.
“In our meeting last week, I was impressed by Ambassador Green’s commitment to USAID’s mission, and his commitment to the importance of development as an equal pillar with defense and diplomacy in advancing U.S. foreign policy objectives. I was impressed by his work at IRI on democracy and governance issues, and by his leadership and advocacy on smart foreign assistance reform, food security, and global health issues like malaria.
“Ambassador Green, your nomination comes at a critical time. You will be charged with leading USAID within the context of a broader U.S. foreign policy that raises grave concerns — for myself, for many of my colleagues, and for a myriad of outside groups who have made their concerns known to me.
“Namely, I see a foreign policy that is isolating the U.S. from our traditional partners; withdrawing support from developing communities we made commitments to help; and taking a short-sighted and overly narrow view of where, and in what, it is strategically important to invest our resources.
“The direct challenges facing USAID include:
- Proposed indiscriminate, across-the-board budget cuts, including proposals to completely eliminate critical lifesaving and life-changing programs;
- a proposal to withdraw USAID missions from 37 countries;
- an intent, articulated in the FY18 Budget, to refocus most development assistance to “support only those countries and programs that are most critical to U.S. national security and strategic objectives”;
- an arbitrary OMB directive to reduce personnel; and
- a looming reorganization of the Agency.
“On Tuesday, this committee questioned Secretary Tillerson on the budget and the State/USAID reorganization process. His responses did not inspire my confidence. Given your strong background and deep knowledge of development issues, I can only hope that, if confirmed, you will assert yourself in the reorganization and budgetary processes to advocate on behalf of the dedicated development professionals at USAID, and for the millions of people — most of them women and children — that benefit from USAID’s lifesaving and life-changing programs. So my goal for today’s hearing is to better understand your vision for USAID, and how you plan to build on recent reforms at the Agency to help it continue to lift people out of poverty, support democracy, spur innovation, and save lives. USAID– its employees and its partners— are the face of American values in developing countries.
“I believe that successful execution of our development activities is best served by keeping USAID independent from the State Department.
“This ensures USAID remains focused on addressing needs in the developing world, with a mission that is separate from that of the Department, but equally as important.
“Initiatives like Feed the Future, Power Africa, our water and sanitation programs, our girls education and basic education programs, our critical work to support democracy and good governance and to strengthen local institutions, our maternal and child survival, nutrition, and Malaria programs — these are all programs that help foster stable, healthy and prosperous societies.
“And, as President Obama and former USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said, when it comes to development assistance, our job is to ‘put ourselves out of business.’ To me that means working with local partners to build local capacity to eventually run these critical programs that foster healthy, safe, prosperous, well-governed, and resilient communities.
“As another former USAID Administrator, Gayle Smith, says: these kinds of investments take ‘strategic patience.’ That means we can’t put ourselves out of business overnight. We can’t just walk away from our investments, especially now when many of them are beginning to pay increased dividends with life changing results.
“It also means partnering with local governments, other donors, and the private sector to better leverage the American taxpayers’ investments in these programs. But to do that—in order to spur sustainable, transformative results — USAID must continue its leadership role of organizing and catalyzing our development investments.
“Just over a month ago this committee heard from U.S. companies Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and MasterCard that by spurring innovation, leveraging partnerships, supporting good governance practices and stability, and helping to foster healthier and better educated communities, the U.S. government’s humanitarian and development investments are absolutely critical to creating environments where U.S. businesses can prosper.
“I know that you understand this. In our meeting, you mentioned that you explained to President Trump and Secretary Tillerson that America’s investments in international development are a critical means of force projection for the United States. You said you discussed with the President and Secretary how improving the stability and sustainability of developing countries through our development assistance investments in fact advances the ‘America First’ doctrine.
“Unfortunately, the proposed FY18 budget does not seem to recognize the value of these investments toward advancing American national and economic security interests.
“Congress has demonstrated time and again strong bipartisan support for America’s investments in smart, transformative and impactful foreign assistance by passing landmark legislation like the bill that authorized PEPFAR, the Global Food Security Act, the Electrify Africa Act, the Foreign Assistance Transparency and Accountability Act, and the Water for the World Act. By funding emergency humanitarian responses to crises such as Ebola and the current four famines, Republicans and Democrats alike have also shown that we understand the national security benefits of our development and humanitarian response efforts.
“If your nomination is successful, I urge you to work closely with Congress on foreign assistance reform, and on any major restructuring of USAID.
“I look forward to hearing more about your vision for USAID and, if confirmed, how you plan to leverage our foreign assistance investments to ensure they remain catalytic and consequential.”