Priorities and Budget Decision Making
August 20, 2009 – 10:30 a.m.
|Presenter:||Congressman Gerald Connolly, House of Representatives|
Ambassador James Michel, Counselor to USAID
Ann Vaughan, Office of Congresswoman Nita Lowey, House of Representatives
Patricia Sommers, U.S. Department of State, Office of the Director for Foreign Assistance
Jason Foley, USAID Office of the Chief Operating Officer
|Moderator: ||David Barth, Director, USAID Office of Education|
Congressman Gerald E. Connolly from Virginia’s 11th District was the primary speaker at Thursday’s plenary session. Congressman Connolly serves on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and he spoke about the need to address education issues with sustainable policies and effective change. In his support for USAID, Congressman Connolly stressed that the Agency needs proper funding and staffing in order to implement its programs and strategies, and pledged his support for building human capacity to support USAID development. In a question about the future of the USAID/DOS relationship, Congressman Connolly gave his opinion that USAID should be a separate agency that will maintain close connections to State. The agency should not be subsumed in a bureaucracy; there is a lot of funding given to agencies that are not developmental experts. USAID has the technical expertise and ensures that investments are sustained.
Additional speakers during the plenary session included Ann Vaughan from Congresswoman Nita Lowey’s office, who conveyed the Representative’s message in support of basic education initiatives and communities of learning in schools. She also stressed the importance of USAID reports and evaluations which help Representative Lowey push for more USAID funding in Congress. Jason Foley from USAID’s Office of the Chief Operating Officer (COO) discussed the purpose of the office in shaping the corporate policy of USAID and integrating USAID with the U.S. State Department on issues of foreign policy and development.
Pat Sommers from the U.S. Department of State (F) outlined the budget appropriations process and the relationship between the U.S. State Department, USAID and Congress. One of the efforts of Secretary of State Condolleeza Rice was to bring together the resources of bureaus at USAID and DOS, to make sure that budgets are aligned and so that we know best how to appropriate money. In the case of basic education, the U.S. State Department and USAID have received more funding from Congress than requested, illustrating the importance of education initiatives in Congress and their commitment to education development. Ms. Sommers stressed that the two bureaus make their case stronger when they combine resources to justify their budgets.
Key take away points of this session were the continued support of U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of State for USAID programs, the budget appropriations process in relation to USAID, and the future of the relationship between the U.S. Department of State, USAID and Congress. It was recognized that USAID has been successful in getting more program funds from Congress. However, the U.S. budget deficit is high and this may not continue forever. Historically USAID has been the place to go for effective development; the agency should maintain its technical expertise to ensure that funding is sustained.