January 29, 2009

Senators Introduce Bill to Improve Global Development Efforts, U.S. Image Abroad

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Patty Murray (D-WA) and Chris Dodd (D-CT) introduced legislation today to significantly improve the nation’s ability to implement global development assistance programs. Their Increasing America’s Global Development Capacity Act authorizes the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to triple the number of Foreign Service Officers in an effort to begin rebuilding its capacity to implement long-term development assistance strategies and programs.

“Foreign development assistance is as critical to America’s standing in the world as diplomacy and defense. It not only provides aid to those most in need but is a symbol of American values,” Durbin said. “It is time for us to demonstrate that negative images of America do not reflect our real values.”

In recent decades, USAID has experienced dramatic reductions in real budget dollars and professional staff. During the 1960s, USAID had a staff of over 5,000 Foreign Service Officers to tackle development needs around the world. Today it has just over 1,000.

“As the son and grandson of Foreign Service Officers, I’ve seen firsthand the enormous good that dedicated Americans can do for our nation and for the millions of people around the world who aspire to live by America’s ideals,” said Whitehouse. “This bill strengthens and sustains our commitment to international development both by increasing the number of FSOs USAID sends into the field, and by ensuring that they are properly trained and equipped for their important work.”

“America’s actions as a global neighbor and the security of our own country go hand in hand,” Senator Murray said. “As we work to get our economy back on track, we can’t neglect the world community and the role development plays in our national security. This bill is a step towards strengthening America’s moral leadership abroad and enacting President Obama’s policy that helping hands, not bearing arms, should be the first step in our defense.”

“Particularly in this time of economic hardship both at home and abroad we must streamline, reform and empower USAID to ensure that America’s development agency is prepared to meet the foreign policy challenges of the 21st century,” said Dodd. “Helping nations face daunting challenges such as public health crises, crushing poverty and political instability not only allows these countries to become more developed, but also strengthens our own security. I look forward to working with the Obama Administration to achieve these important goals.”

Today’s global challenges, including child and maternal mortality; HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria; access to clean water, and political instability remain significant in many corners of the world. The Senators believe that helping other nations overcome these challenges is not only the right thing to do, but it is in our national interest. Such assistance helps improve the well-being of many living in poverty around the world and provides a tangible positive example of America’s role in the world.

Specifically, the Increasing America’s Global Development Capacity Act will do the following:

Authorize USAID to hire an additional 700 Foreign Service Officers in the first year, in an effort to begin rebuilding its capacity to implement long-term development assistance strategies and programs.

It would also establish a goal of hiring an additional 1, 300 Foreign Service Officers by 2012, with flexibility in case other high priority programs must be funded.


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