July 14, 2021

Chairman Menendez Opening Remarks at Committee Hearing on USAID Budget Request

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the following opening remarks at this morning’s full Committee hearing to review the FY 2022 budget request for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Testifying before the Committee was USAID Administrator Samantha Power.

“As we know, foreign assistance, development aid, and humanitarian relief are not charity programs. USAID programs around the world are concrete manifestations of American values and the partnership of the American people,” said Chairman Menendez, welcoming the Biden administration’s prioritization of U.S. foreign development and humanitarian relief programs reflected in this year’s requested budget. “The budget’s request for programs that support democracy promotion, improve food security, build resilience capacities, address the climate crisis, and promote equitable and inclusive economic growth will be critical to realigning US foreign policies with that of our allies and addressing the needs of vulnerable and fragile countries.”

 

Find a copy of Chairman Menendez’s remarks as delivered below.

“Administrator Power, thank you for coming before the committee to testify on the Administration’s proposed budget for USAID. We look forward to your testimony and gaining a better understanding of your vision for operationalizing this budget request.

Let me start by saying for the first time in a few years, I am pleased to see the budget restores the principles of Defense, Diplomacy, and Development – ‘The Three Ds’ – as equal elements critically important to the success of U.S. foreign policy.

As we know, foreign assistance, development aid, and humanitarian relief are not charity programs. USAID programs around the world are concrete manifestations of American values and the partnership of the American people.

AID personnel in the field work in tandem with local partners and communities; building sustainable programs to promote health programs, private sector development, governance reforms, and desperately needed relief. This work lifts people out of poverty and improves lives, and also helps build societies’ resiliency to predatory economic practices masquerading as development.

The Biden budget request’s increase for Development Assistance, the Economic Support Fund, Assistance Eastern Europe and Central Asia Program, and others demonstrates a renewed seriousness and interest in international cooperation.

The budget’s request for programs that support democracy promotion, improve food security, build resilience capacities, address the climate crisis, and promote equitable and inclusive economic growth will be critical to realigning US foreign policies with that of our allies and addressing the needs of vulnerable and fragile countries.

Under President Biden’s leadership, the United States is gradually gaining control of COVID-19, however, the disease is surging around the world. Deadly third waves in Latin America, Africa and Asia have cost thousands of lives, overwhelmed fragile health systems, and disrupted livelihoods.

We know all too well that other countries’ ability to combat these kinds of deadly and contagious viruses directly impacts the health and safety of all Americans. USAID is playing a critical role in the U.S. overseas response in combatting new and emerging variants that threaten our fragile progress and the livelihoods of Americans. I look forward to discussing USAID’s plans for supporting global vaccine distribution, advancing the Global Health Security Agenda, and strengthening pandemic preparedness.   

Finally, there are regional challenges that have never been greater and I look forward to understanding how you are positioning USAID to address ongoing crises.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, we are witnessing severe challenges to democratic governance and the pandemic is exacerbating the region’s social and economic inequalities, driving people to new levels of desperation for fundamental rights and freedoms. In recent weeks, we have seen the assassination of Haitian President Moïse, the unprecedented mobilization of thousands of Cubans demanding their freedom, the consolidation of the region’s third dictatorship in Nicaragua, and a contested election in Peru. And, the Administration is rightly prioritizing efforts to address the drivers of migration from El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras starting with strengthening democratic institutions and good governance, growing economic opportunity, and improving public safety. These crises pose risks to the stability of the hemisphere.

Afghanistan’s rapid deterioration poses a serious national security risk. Many of our Afghan partners who championed democracy and human rights are unable to apply for the Special Immigrant Visa program or other existing channels to protect Afghan allies. 

I urge you to accelerate your plans to address the potentially life-threatening situation these individuals face with the current U.S. withdrawal from the country. How we withdraw, and what political arrangement is left in our wake, matters deeply not just for U.S. interests, but also for the lives of these brave Afghan partners.

Africa is facing numerous security and development challenges. The protracted conflict in Ethiopia, a fragile transition in Sudan, coups in Mali and Chad that are diminishing efforts to counter extremism in the Sahel, and Nigeria, the so called ‘anchor state’ in west Africa is beset by terrorism, conflict and democratic backsliding.

In the Middle East, we have to find ways to elevate USAID’s role in helping promote good governance and private sector development in places where we have been more focused on military engagement.

I know how deeply inspired you are to ensure that USAID is leading the efforts to both prepare for the challenges ahead and to heal the wounds and suffering of those affected in this complex world. 

We have full confidence in your abilities and look forward to hearing your vision for executing and communicating USAID’s strategic vision for this year and beyond.

You are running an immensely valuable institution and I want to know what you are doing to empower and inspire the best from the people at USAID.

Again, with our appreciation for your work and for appearing before the committee, I turn to the distinguished Ranking Member, Senator Risch.”

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