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Gerald C.
Democrat VA 11

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  • Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015

    by Representative Gerald E. Connolly

    Posted on 2015-12-08

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    CONNOLLY. Madam Speaker, I thank my dear friend from New York, the distinguished ranking member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, for his great leadership and for always being supportive of all of our work.

    I also want to thank my dear friend from Texas, Ted Poe. He has been a wonderful partner and initiator of reform and of thoughtful legislation on our committee. It has been my privilege to cosponsor a lot of legislation with Mr. Poe to try to make things better.

    Today, I rise in support of another such example, the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2015.

    Madam Speaker, this bill is a project I have worked on with Judge Poe for a number of years now. In the 112th Congress, a previous iteration of the bill passed this body by a unanimous vote. We hope for a similar outcome in this Congress and for quick Senate consideration and passage.

    The bill directs the President to establish monitoring and evaluation guidelines for the 22 Federal agencies that are charged with implementing some piece of development and economic assistance.

    The guidelines will require M&E plans as part of the project development process, and agencies will be encouraged to incorporate the findings of evaluations and impact studies into subsequent foreign assistance programs. This feedback loop will include measurable goals, performance metrics, and a clearinghouse for lessons learned on U.S.- led aid projects, something long overdue after 60-plus years of foreign aid. Additionally, the legislation requires that the documents and reports created under this M&E regime be made available to the public on foreignassistance.gov.

    This administration has developed an encouraging record on foreign aid transparency. The Foreign Assistance Dashboard, which was created in 2010, is a great example of demonstrating a promising inclination toward disclosure that we hope to enshrine in this law. This measure will strengthen and codify those transparency best practices to ensure that they exist as agency policy under future administrations that might not be as accommodating of the aid community's demand for this information.

    Aid programs that are held accountable for their performance and results can be made more effective, and their impact on communities and countries abroad can be more easily demonstrated. Perhaps, with more information, we can dispel the commonly held belief that 26 percent of our budget goes to foreign aid, when, as my friend Judge Poe pointed out, it is actually less than 1 percent.

    The U.S. foreign assistance operation does not lack passion. The men and women who put themselves in harm's way overseas and who take their families to remote areas of the world, often dangerous, in the interest of helping vulnerable populations, are certainly not seeking fame, glory, or fortune. They do it because they can envision a path to prosperity in even the most poverty-stricken areas of the world, and they see the promise of democracy in the face of the most repressive and authoritarian regimes.

    While our passion is well-defined, our mission and metrics are not.

    Regarding our mission, I was a staffer on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the last time Congress actually passed a foreign aid authorization bill in 1986. The original Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, which Judge Poe cited, listed five principal goals for foreign aid. Today, we have more than 260. Some are competing and some are redundant.

    What is our core mission today? Until January 2014, USAID's mission statement read as follows: ``USAID accelerates human progress in developing countries by reducing poverty, advancing democracy, building market economies, promoting security, responding to crises, and improving quality of life. Working with governments, institutions, and civil society, we assist individuals to build their own futures by mobilizing the full range of America's public and private resources through our expert presence overseas.'' That is not a clear mission statement. I am hopeful this bill will help us focus on the foreign assistance operations.

    While I think we have some distance to travel in streamlining the legislative construct for foreign assistance and clearly articulating our mission, we have an opportunity today to make immense progress toward establishing badly needed metrics for aid programs with the passage of this bill. It is time to apply a data-driven approach to constructing an assistance operation that has the support of both this Congress and of a well-informed public.

    I urge my colleagues to support this bill.

    Again, I particularly thank my friend, Judge Poe, for his leadership, for his initiative, and for his vision with respect to this subject. I know it is going to actually make U.S. foreign assistance investments in the future a lot more effective and a lot more accountable.

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