Ex-USAID Chiefs: Agency Funding Cuts a 'Dangerous Proposition'

On the occasion of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s golden jubilee, four of the agency’s former administrators appealed to U.S. lawmakers not to slash USAID funding.

J. Brian Atwood, Henrietta Holsman Fore, M. Peter McPherson and Andrew Natsios made the call in an op-ed for the Politico on Nov. 3, exactly 50 years after then-U.S. President John F. Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law.

The four highlighted the achievements of USAID over its 50-year history, despite having less than 1 percent of the total federal budget. These include saving lives worldwide through support for immunization programs, oral rehydration therapy, and HIV and AIDS treatment, helping halve the world’s chronically undernourished, promoting democracy, and contributing to the economic growth of many countries, including South Korea, now among the ranks of bilateral donors.

Despite those successes, they noted that the agency is at risk of disproportionate cuts as compared with other national security spending areas, which could damage USAID’s ability to respond to crises and manage day-to-day operations. The move, they said, is “a dangerous proposition with serious implications for our national and economic security.” 

“As former administrators, from both parties, we call on Congress to resist the shortsighted urge to decimate USAID accounts,” they added. “The stakes are too high for us to pull back from the global challenges the United States is facing around the world today.”

They concluded: “When USAID is at work, the best of America is on display — and our security and economy are the better for it.”

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    Eliza Villarino

    Eliza Villarino currently manages one of today’s leading publications on humanitarian aid, global health and international development, the weekly GDB. At Devex, she has helped grow a global newsroom, with talented journalists from major development hubs such as Washington, D.C, London and Brussels. She regularly writes about innovations in global development.