Foreign Assistance Reform: Opportunities and Obstacles
Tony Hall introduced our final discussion of the day. Andrew Natsios, former administrator for USAID and Diana Ohlbaum, senior staff, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives lead a conversation about why this is an opportune time for foreign aid reform. Diana provided some background about foreign aid reform and how we got to this point.
The basic legislation that oversees all our foreign aid (including development and military aid) was initially passed in 1961. It has changed with amendments, but these changes do not reflect an overall goal and priority for this funding. The authorizing committees set the directives and priorities for the funding. The appropriations committee is supposed to fund those directive, but the process has almost completely broken down. In theory, there should be a foreign aid reform every 2 or three years, but the last foreign aid authorizing bill was passed in 1985.
Why is this so complicated and difficult? Diana posed two theories:
- In Congress, foreign aid is perceived as being deeply unpopular with the American public. There is a sense that elected officials don't want to vote for it twice a year.
- Abortion is still a major obstacle to passing foreign assistance reform.
Unfortunately, many people on the Hill are cautious of attempts to try foreign aid reform again. The last time foreign aid reform was attempted in 1993 the process basically broke down. Despite these challenges, Congressman Howard Berman believes foreign aid is too important to ignore. Diana closed by encouraging Bread for the World to continue their advocacy and work for the complete rewriting of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.
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