Defeating a Global Enemy - Hunger; Food Aid Is a Key Ingredient of U.S. National Security

Article excerpt

Byline: Richard G. Lugar and Thomas A. Daschle, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Congress should put aside partisanship and turf protection as it considers bold changes to a decades-old and increasingly inefficient international food-aid program.

U.S. global food assistance provides vital humanitarian and emergency assistance to people facing famine, natural disasters or conflict. It is a central to U.S. leadership toward peace and security. This is why modernization now is so critical.

The Obama administration's 2014 budget proposed overhauling the Food for Peace program, building on a similar reform proposal from the George W. Bush administration to reduce high administrative costs and thereby reach more hungry people. The Obama proposal would allow greater flexibility in how food aid is procured, transported and delivered through the use of local and regional food procurement, cash assistance or our current system of moving U.S. commodities via U.S.-flagged ships. Such reforms would overcome inordinate costs and lengthy delays in the U.S. response to crises that the Government Accountability Office and numerous other studies have documented.

The existing program was created in an era in which dealing with U.S. farm surpluses was as much a motivating factor as feeding hungry people. It was the perfect way to support U.S. farmers and to demonstrate American humanitarianism. Agricultural surpluses are no longer the norm, though, and experts predict continuing global food-price volatility with the direst consequences for the poor and vulnerable.

Today, we are in a period of budget austerity, in which old ways of doing business must be re-examined. We must look for efficiencies to maximize results for every dollar spent. The proposed reforms do exactly that, allowing us to reach 2 million to 4 million more people who need help.

U.S. food aid is a key component of the U.S. national security strategy. Nations that struggle with severe poverty and hunger are at greater risk from terrorism and instability. …