November 10, 2017

House SFOPS Appropriations Committee Holds Hearing on Soft Power

Committee: House Appropriations SFOPS Subcommittee
Title: Accountable Soft Power in the National Interest
Date: November 1, 2017

The Honorable Mark Green
U.S. Agency for International Development

Key Quotes:

SFOPS Subcommittee Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY):

  • “The now famous quote from General Mattis…sparked a real debate about the importance of soft power. The intensity of these discussions was elevated with the submission of the President’s fiscal year 2018 budget request, which included a 33% cut to State and USAID operations and assistance. The committee rejected many of those cuts but we still had to make tough choices with a reduced allocation.”
  • “If a country’s people are healthier and more educated; if their economy is on the move, and if they have accountable government institutions based on democratic principles, that country will be more stable and the US will be more secure. So we know these investments are important. That’s why dozens of generals and admirals have said foreign aid is critical to US national security.”

Administrator Green:

  • “I’ve been struck by the level of humanitarian need, I guess I wasn’t prepared for that. We have 66 million displaced people in the world today, and I bring that up in this context because when I visited camps in South Sudan, I was struck by how many of them were children. And in places like Darfur, they are born and being raised in those camps… If we fail to meet [these challenges], you wonder where those children are going to be 10 years from now. This causes me to stay up at night.”

Q/A Highlights:

Rep. Rogers:

  • “PEPFAR does more than save lives from the scourge of AIDS – 5 years after the program was launched, Pew Research polls showed that America’s favorability was higher in Africa than anywhere else in the world. In many countries like Nigeria and Kenya it was over 80%. That means that in places where there could have been vulnerability to extremism and radicalism, there was hope, and gratitude for America’s support…these examples can be found across the board, in clean water programs, investments in conservation, agriculture development, education and many more. If a country’s people are healthier and more educated; if their economy is on the move, and if they have accountable government institutions based on democratic principles, that country will be more stable and the US will be more secure. So we know these investments are important. That’s why dozens of generals and admirals have said foreign aid is critical to US national security.”
  • “We’ll be closely watching proposals to reorganize the state department and USAID, and look forward to a briefing and report on changes when the administration reaches a consensus. If we work together I believe we can accomplish some great things. But I urge upon you this is a two way conversation.”
  • “We also have our limits. We cannot do all things for all people particularly when the needs are so great. Other donors need to step up and do their part. That’s why we’re pleased the president has focused on this issue of getting others to pay their fair share. We’re seeing progress on the defense side, with NATO, and Ambassador Haley is working to renegotiate our rates at the UN. Today I’d like to hear what’s been accomplished so far with development and humanitarian aid and what we can expect to see in the months ahead.”

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY):

  • “USAID is an essential component of our national security. And I am confident that you believe as do I that international development is critical to maintaining US global leadership and protecting our national security. I was happy to hear you say last month that ‘America is and will remain the world’s leading humanitarian donor.’ But I do remain confused on how you intend to do more with less. Especially when the ‘less’ you speak of is the president’s proposed fiscal year 2018 budget. As you are aware, it included the complete elimination of food aid, family planning programs, development assistance and climate change initiatives. While USAID should always look for more efficient ways to spend taxpayer dollars, you must believe that these cuts would make US citizens less safe, betray American values, and fail to advance US international interests.”
  • “I’m hopeful that the Senate and the House will work together to pass a FY18 State and Foreign Operations appropriations bill to maintain US global leadership on humanitarian and development assistance and that you and Secretary Tillerson will effectively utilize the funds we appropriate as intended to advance our international objectives.”
  • “I’m increasingly concerned by rumors regarding the reorganization process occurring at the State Department and USAID which is now being reviewed by the office of management and budget. I want to make it very clear: there is always room for improvement, but arbitrary funding cuts should not drive a reorganization to 1) reduce staffing positions, 2) cut valuable programs, and 3) walk away from international agreements and treaties. You should instead take a hard look at what you do best, what you don’t, what to improve in the latter areas – yet despite repeated requests for more information, my staff and I have thus far not seen with the exception of the President’s 30% cut to the budget, any concrete proposals beyond ‘streamlining our policies, maximizing our foreign assistance.’”
  • “As Chairman Rogers and I outlined in a letter to OMB Director Mulvaney earlier this fall, congressional agreement is necessary for long term sustainable reform for State and USAID to be successful. I hope you will shed some light today on proposals provided to OMB from USAID and how these recommendations would help rather than hinder our foreign policy goals. Desperate conditions in the world’s weak, failing and failed states drive hopeless individuals away from their homes and into violent extremism and poverty. Through US international development efforts we’re able to combat terrorism, prevent global pandemics, provide economic opportunities, bolstering US national security and preventing our men and women in uniform from being put in harm’s way. But it is imperative that we do not forget that US foreign assistance is one of the best examples of American values and quite simply the right thing to do.”

Administrator Green:

  • “As former foreign policy and defense leaders have often said…in a world as complex are ours, with our national security under threat more than perhaps ever before we need to be able to deploy the entirety of our statecraft toolbox. This must include our most sophisticated development and humanitarian tools. At USAID we embrace this mission.”
  • “There are also concrete ways beyond our development role which contribute to national security. For example, USAID plays a key role in the inter-agency, international strategy to prevent and mitigate the threat of infectious disease outbreaks – epidemics and antimicrobial resistance under the global health security agenda.”
  • “While our nation is facing many challenges that you’ve laid out, you can be confident that the men and women of USAID are providing many of the programs and tools that will indeed make our country stronger, safer, and more prosperous in the years ahead. And we are doing so while embracing our role as good stewards of taxpayer resources – the resources generously provided through this subcommittee from the generosity of the American people.”

Rep. Chris Stewart (R-UT):

  • “You know I’m a former military guy, it’s where I spend most of my time in Congress… and I think you know as well as any general or admiral how dangerous the world is… the reality is, the U.S. has to lead. And a lot of people resent that, but it’s just the truth. If we don’t lead who in the world will? … My point is this Ambassador – we are told all the time that USAID and humanitarian efforts often preclude the necessity for military operations, and I think that’s true… We can’t feed the whole world. And if that’s the criteria for precluding conflict, we’re going to fail… but we can fix some of them. So my question to you is this: for the American people, will you talk about the areas that you’re working now that either have, or that you hope will, preclude the need or necessity for military intervention or expanded military intervention. Help the American people understand why you’re work is so important for our national security.”