04.12.11

Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy At A Hearing On The FY 2012 Budget Request For The USAID

As Prepared For Delivery

Good morning.  Today we will hear testimony from Dr. Raj Shah, Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, on the agency’s Fiscal Year 2012 budget request.  Mr. Shah, welcome and thank you for being here.

A little over 15 months ago, Administrator Shah took charge of an agency that had struggled for many years with serious management and programmatic weaknesses. 

As I said last April when Dr. Shah first testified here, too often this Subcommittee and others had encountered at USAID instances of arrogance and detachment from the impoverished reality of the people in countries where USAID operates. 

We also encountered poorly designed projects, mega contracts that were touted as success stories but which enriched the contractors more than they helped the intended beneficiaries, and taxpayer money wasted.

Changing the culture of any bureaucracy takes time.  We recognize that, and USAID is no exception.

I continue to believe strongly that USAID needs to become a more efficient, accessible, flexible, and less risk-averse agency that rewards creativity and focuses on building the capacity of people and governments in countries where the United States has important interests. 

I am pleased to say that while much still remains to be done, we have seen steady, significant progress under Administrator Shah, which I expect we will hear about today.

I also believe, as I have for as long as I have been either Chairman or Ranking Member of this subcommittee, and contrary to some of the things we are hearing from the House of Representatives, that USAID has an essential role to play in projecting U.S. global leadership and in helping to protect U.S. interests around the world. 

Anyone who doubts that has not seen what I have seen – from Vietnam to the West Bank to Afghanistan, and many other places.  There are countless examples where USAID has had a profound, positive impact in ways that directly advance U.S. interests.

Recently I was in Haiti, and while that country will face daunting challenges for years to come, no one can dispute that USAID is helping save lives, and helping the people of that country to recover. 

The question is not whether USAID’s mission is integral to our national security.  Everyone from President Reagan to General Petraeus has recognized that it is.  Rather, I want to know how you, Dr. Shah, are making the changes necessary to ensure that USAID carries out that mission in the most cost effective way.

It is April 12th, more than half of Fiscal Year 2011 has already passed, and we are only now finalizing the budget which includes cuts that will require USAID, like other agencies, to scale back operations and programs.   

The President has requested significant increases in funding for USAID in Fiscal Year 2012.  I believe much of what he requests is justified.  In fact I believe it is in our national security interest to do more to help build stable democracies and vibrant economies around the world. 

But recognizing that such increases are unlikely, Dr. Shah I hope you will give us your thoughts on how USAID will adjust to the fiscal constraints you are facing.

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