Fiscal Year 2008 Testimony on Foreign Assistance Budget

By Tobias, Randall L. | DISAM Journal, July 2007 | Go to article overview

Fiscal Year 2008 Testimony on Foreign Assistance Budget


Tobias, Randall L., DISAM Journal


[The following are excerpts of the testimony presented to the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Agencies of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Washington, D.C., March 28, 2007.]

Responsiveness to this Subcommittee

Before discussing the budget, I would like to note our efforts to address your concerns raised, and re-emphasized in fiscal year (FY) 2006 report language, and again in FY 2007 report language. This subcommittee directed that Congressional Budget Justification materials improve in both the timing of their delivery and the quality of information put forth. I am happy to say that this year, we delivered material to support the Congressional Budget Justification on February 14, 2007 nearly a month before the March deadline. Further, we included standardized budget tables per country to allow the public to meaningfully compare request levels per country. In addition, we have addressed the coordination concerns between United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State (DOS) programs raised in FY 2007 report language by bringing DoS and USAID staff and senior managers to the same table to discuss budget priorities for FY 2008.

We have done far more than make process changes, however. With the new budget package comes a carefully considered set of budget priorities that, combined, will help advance our national security strategy. I realize that not all of the changes that we are proposing will sit entirely comfortably with each member of this distinguished subcommittee. To the contrary, it is more likely that at least one of the changes we propose will raise concerns with you about our prioritization. Part of my drive, to lay out the budget transparently in a way that can be compared across countries, is so that we can have a discussion, using common understandings and terminology, about just where our foreign assistance dollars are going and what we are trying to accomplish by allocating them as we have.

We have taken big steps to increase transparency, accountability, and coherence of strategy in the allocation of our resources, including the creation of one office, under my direction, to oversee all USAID and DoS foreign assistance resources. I hope to make your oversight responsibility less burdensome by laying our principles and priorities clearly on the table, and providing tools by which we can consistently assess results.

Specifically, we applied six principles to the allocation of the FY 2008 budget, in response to concerns raised by Congress and the President himself about the lack of coordination and coherence in our planning, allocation and monitoring of foreign assistance funds. I would like to take a moment to elaborate on them now. The Principles The FY 2008 DoS and USAID foreign assistance request is $20.3 billion, a $2.2 billion or 12 percent increase over FY 2006 enacted levels, the last year for which we have completed allocations. Given current budget pressures and a shared commitment with Congress for deficit control, this increase reflects the importance this Administration places on foreign assistance, not just as a moral obligation to alleviate suffering, but as a foundation of our national security strategy.

As a result of foreign assistance reform, this year's request reflects a different approach to building the budget from previous years methods, and I would like to take a moment now to explain the six principles that governed our prioritization.

First, we integrated planning based on the totality of U.S. government resources and the commitment to a shared goal. Consistent with your request that we improve coherence and coordination of State and USAID foreign assistance, for the first time in our nation's history, all $20.3 billion of U.S. foreign assistance under the authority of the DoS and USAID, as well as resources provided by the Millennium Challenge Corporation, are being applied to the achievement of a single over arching goal transformational diplomacy. …

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