Howard Berman Emphasizes Need for Robust Foreign Aid Budget

Slashing funding for U.S. foreign aid will adversely affect U.S. national security and have a disastrous effect on the country’s economy, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Ca.) said in criticism of a Republican reform proposal to defund the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The proposal introduced by the Republican Study Committee, a group of more than 165 conservative House Republicans, seeks to defund USAID and the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, limit hiring at U.S. federal agencies and extend the pay freeze of federal employees, among other measures to reduce the national deficit.

>> Conservative House Republicans To USAID: Drop Dead

Berman said the proposal “sends a very damaging message that the Congress will not stand up to protect those programs that are absolutely essential to jobs and the economy. It also rejects a key principle that military leaders and Presidents of both parties have clearly recognized: Foreign assistance and diplomacy are essential to United States national security.”

In remarks he submitted for congressional records, the ranking Democratic representative on the House Foreign Affairs Committee noted that U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Michael Mullen and former U.S. President George W. Bush have all voiced support for a robust U.S. international civilian engagement.

“The message from our military leadership, this Congress, and even former President Bush is clear: US civilian agencies must be fully resourced to prosecute the fight against terror effectively,” he said, explaining that cutting the country’s budget for international affairs harms the country’s security and puts the lives of Americans at risk.

Berman urged his fellow lawmakers to consider the “practical implications” of such cuts to the country’s foreign affairs budget before voting on the RSC proposal.

U.S. investments and military efforts in Iran and Afghanistan will be “in vain” if diplomatic spending and development aid to these countries are cut, Berman explained. He quotes Gates, who has said that “without development we will not be able to be successful in either Iraq or Afghanistan.”

Berman further noted that foreign aid programs protects the U.S. in areas outside active combat and conflict such as health and the environment. Strong international relationships also saves U.S. jobs, helps promote U.S. exports and create new markets.

The congressman said he recognizes the need for reforms to make the U.S. foreign aid system more effective and efficient.

“That is why I am continuing my efforts to develop legislation to modernize our foreign assistance policies and programs,” he said.

Berman introduced last year a reform proposal that seeks sweeping changes to how the U.S. manages and delivers foreign aid.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.