Testimony of USAID Administrator Mark Green before the House Foreign Affairs Committee

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Thank you, Chairman Royce, Ranking Member Engel, members of the committee. I appreciate this opportunity to discuss USAID's Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request. It is wonderful to be back in this room, as a couple of you have already noted. I served on this committee during my time in the House. Of course, back then it was called the "House International Relations Committee," and we were, shall we say, more of a rag-tag bunch than the distinguished ladies and gentlemen that I see here before me. But even so, today feels like I'm coming home.

I'd like to begin my remarks by expressing my gratitude to Secretary Tillerson for his leadership over the past year, and for his service to the nation. I also welcome the nomination of Director Pompeo. While he and I have not had an opportunity to speak since his nomination, I very much look forward to our future in-depth discussions on how development and diplomacy can go hand-in-hand in advancing America's interests around the world. In the meantime, at USAID, we have urgent work to do. From the unprecedented humanitarian challenges in places like Syria and Somalia, to exciting development opportunities through expanded private sector engagement, and the extension of programs like Feed the Future, the work of our Agency has never been more important.

I've just returned from New York where I briefed the United Nations Security Council on the humanitarian crisis that is growing in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. That country is facing escalating violence, particularly against women and girls that could soon spill over into surrounding nations if not adequately addressed. I urged the Government of the DRC to hold credible and inclusive elections by the end of the year. I demanded that it protect humanitarian workers and end the crackdown on freedom of speech and assembly.

Just to its north, South Sudan is facing extreme levels of food insecurity, and near famines continue to rage in Nigeria, Yemen, Syria, Somalia, and Ethiopia. In Yemen, 17.8 million people -- the largest number in the world -- are facing severe food insecurity. Since October 2016, the U.S. has provided nearly $768 million in humanitarian assistance to help the Yemeni people. We have urged all parties to continue to allow all humanitarian and commercial goods, including fuel, to enter Yemen through Hudaydah and all other points of access. We have pushed hard for protections for civilians and aid workers, who put themselves at great personal risk to assist people in need.

During my first trip as Administrator, I traveled to Ethiopia, Sudan, and South Sudan, where I saw how USAID is leading the world's response to these complex humanitarian crises. That trip helped shape our plans to strengthen, integrate, and streamline our humanitarian assistance, and to ensure that we leave behind a capacity to mitigate and respond. This is reflected in the budget request before you, and it's guided my conversations with fellow donors, as we have encouraged them all to do more in helping to mobilize resources as well. During my visit, I saw just how much these tragedies are rooted in poor governance and frankly, authoritarianism and corruption which so often go hand-in-hand.

Last month, we announced USAID's new mission statement. It includes an explicit commitment to strengthening democratic governance abroad, a priority that, I know from our conversations, that all of you share. This commitment has informed USAID's work from our creation and under my leadership. It will continue to do so. In South Sudan, I demanded the government stop obstructing humanitarian access, and further ensure the safety of all humanitarian staff so that assistance can reach those who need it most when they need it most. I urged them to truly live up to the democratic ideals that they espouse.

Members of the Committee, I've had a chance to discuss with many of you the rising negative influence of Russia and China in so many regions and the disturbing trend towards repressive values. In response, our Fiscal Year '19 Request includes targeted investments in Europe and Eurasia that will support strong democratic institutions and vibrant civil society, while countering the Kremlin's influence in the region.

In Venezuela, we will support those who are working for a free and prosperous future. We've requested robust funding for our democracy and governance programs in Venezuela that support civil society, the democratically elected legislature, and the free flow of information there. And in Fiscal Year 2019, we've requested funds to explore and implement more effective approaches to promoting ethnic and religious tolerance in Burma, including in Rakhine and Kachin states.

I'm deeply concerned, as I know you are, about the lack of humanitarian access in northern Rakhine and deep inter-ethnic tensions, along with reports of horrific human rights abuses, and an overall lack of real process in dealing with the Rohingya crisis. I'll soon be traveling to Burma and Bangladesh to see this situation firsthand.

In total, the Fiscal Year '19 request for USAID, fully and partially-managed accounts, is approximately $16.8 billion. It represents 1.3 billion more than requested last year, including one billion for humanitarian assistance. Now, we acknowledge that this budget request will not provide enough resources to meet every humanitarian need or for us to seize every international development opportunity. In truth, no budget in recent memory would be large enough to do so.

This budget request aims to balance fiscal needs here at home with our leadership role on the world stage. We are committed to taking every prudent step to extend the reach and effectiveness of taxpayer resources, both of the strategic allocation of those resources and the re-design process. This includes strengthening domestic resource mobilization programs so the partners can more effectively finance their own development future. It includes taking steps to ensure that our program and procedures are more private enterprise friendly, so we can better leverage our resources, bring new ideas and partners to our work, and increase opportunities for American business. It includes procurement reform, which we hope will make us more flexible and responsive to our implementing partners so they can extend and improve the reach of USAID-supported initiatives.

It means strengthening our ties with other agencies. For example, we are right now in the process of drafting a new global MoU with MASHAV to guide our development cooperation with the Government of Israel. We are also striving to more closely align our resources with our strategic needs and are focused on measurement and evaluation to support that alignment. Earlier this month, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan wrote to us that USAID "should initiate its own hiring procedures to accommodate the Agency's staffing needs." In line with that guidance, the hiring freeze has been officially lifted. Moving forward, we will use our hiring and reassignment review board to seek to align workforce planning with the priorities and the plans that are outlined in this budget request.

Finally, I would like to say a word about reported incidents of sexual abuse and misconduct by aid workers that we've all read about. I've been deeply troubled by the allegations. USAID works across the globe to protect vulnerable populations and to advance human dignity. This is a serious endeavor and it's one that comes with great responsibility. Sexual exploitation is contrary to the very core of our mission. It is abhorrent.

On March 9th, I met with representatives from InterAction, the Professional Services Council, and United Nations agencies to make clear to our partners that USAID will not tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind. I also formed a new Action Alliance for Preventing Sexual Misconduct, which is being chaired by General Counsel David Moore. It will undertake a thorough review of our existing policies and procedures to identify and close any potential gaps, while strengthening accountability and compliance in consultation with our external partners. I assure you this is an issue I am tracking personally. Sexual abuse is a cancer that I have resolved to root out and eliminate in the development sector.

In closing, I believe that we are shaping an Agency that is capable of leveraging our influence, authority, and available resources to literally transform the way that humanitarian and development assistance are provided. Alongside the rest of the world, it will help us better meet the daunting challenges that we see today. With your support and guidance, we will ensure that USAID remains the world's premiere international development agency and continues the important work we do each day to protect America's future security and prosperity. Thank you for allowing me to speak with you, and I welcome your questions, Mr. Chairman.

Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request
Committee on Foreign Affairs