U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Mark Green’s Opening Remarks to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on the FY 2019 Budget Request for the U.S. Agency for International Development

For Immediate Release

Wednesday, June 20, 2018
Office of Press Relations
Telephone: +1.202.712.4320 | Email: press@usaid.gov

Capitol Hill
Washington, DC
June 20, 2018

ADMINISTRATOR GREEN: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for your kind words. Thank you also to Ranking Member Menendez and members of the committee for this opportunity to summarize my written testimony. I’d also like to explicitly thank all of you for the tremendous support that you’ve shown to USAID and the level of communication and consultation that we’ve had.

My own view is that this has been a very constructive relationship, and we’ve done our best to try to bring your thoughts and counsel to the work that we do. And in particular, although I do not take positions on pending legislation, I am delighted at the passage of the Global Food Security Act, and I especially appreciate the leadership of Senator Isakson and yourself in making that happen. That adds great certainty to our work, and we’re appreciative.

Members of the committee, the Fiscal Year 2019 request for USAID is approximately $16.8 billion. We acknowledge that this request will not provide enough resources to meet every humanitarian need or seize every development opportunity. Indeed, no budget request ever has. Instead, it’s an effort to balance fiscal needs at home with our leadership role on the world stage.

Turning to our ongoing Redesign, I greatly appreciate the thoughts and input that you and your staff have provided. To date, our team has had 53 separate Hill engagements and 145 external stakeholder engagements as we try to shape what the USAID of tomorrow will look like. I remain committed to working closely with you to ensure that your ideas are reflected in this work.

In terms of our overall programming, as you know, the world is confronting humanitarian crises in nearly every corner of the globe, and unfortunately, most of them are man-made. Near-famines continue to threaten Nigeria, Yemen, Syria*, and Somalia; again, they’re all man-made. Ebola has reared its ugly head in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, killing at least 28 people to date. USAID and other agencies have been mobilizing to contain the outbreak, and the news is promising on that front.

As you may know, I recently returned from a trip to Bangladesh and Burma, a trip that has special relevance on today’s World Refugee Day. As the world knows, Burma’s Rohingya community has been the victim of an ethnic cleansing campaign. But, Mr. Chairman, I must say that that term doesn’t fully capture what I’ve seen or the continuing suffering of the Rohingya in Burma and Bangladesh. The world owes Bangladesh a huge debt of gratitude for its willingness to temporarily host hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled there. But the monsoons have begun in those host areas; while we are taking whatever steps we can to assist, sadly, the first casualties have already been reported. We will continue to do our part to help meet their immediate humanitarian needs, including in preparation for the cyclone season, which we know will be coming. We’re also forging longer-term plans with the State Department and others to try to deal with some of the deeper problems that I have seen. Of course, Burma is not the only place where religious minorities face deep hardship.

Last October, Vice President Pence announced a new policy to expand assistance to religious and ethnic minority communities in the Middle East that have been devastated by ISIS and other terrorist organizations. This policy is in line with America’s long tradition of standing with persecuted and vulnerable ethnic and religious minorities.

Northern Iraq was once home to large communities of Christians, Yazidis, and other minorities. Many of them have fled their homes or fled their country altogether in the face of violence and threats of violence. We are committed to helping create the conditions for those communities to return safely to their ancestral lands. Under the President's leadership, we've already channeled tens of millions of dollars to the region; however, we know the need is far greater, and we must do more to meet the urgent needs of these endangered communities. On the Vice President's request, I will soon return to Iraq to meet with leaders of some of these suffering communities. I will then report back with a plan of action to accelerate aid to those in greatest need. This is a top priority for the Administration, and I know it's a top priority for many members of this committee.

The crises that we face, like persecution and threat of famine, are not limited to far off corners of the land. A deep crisis is unfolding at this moment just hundreds of miles from our own borders. Our Fiscal Year ‘19 budget request includes funding for democracy and governance programs in Venezuela that support civil society, human rights organizations, and the free flow of information. Our focus on Venezuela is more than warranted. The situation there is worsening by the week, and its effects are impacting the entire region. At the Summit of the Americas in Peru, I heard stories suggesting that the effects of the flight of Venezuelans are now being felt as far north as the Caribbean. Last month, we announced an additional $18.5 million in bilateral funding to Columbia to provide Venezuelans temporarily residing there with urgently needed services, like school feeding programs, mobile health services, and other logistical support, and we know the needs are continuing to grow.

In the midst of all this, USAID is working hard to apply the lessons we have learned from our past experiences. As many of you are aware, we have encountered challenges with the Global Health Supply Chain contract, which was awarded just before I joined USAID. Since my earliest days at the Agency, we have monitored performance of the contract to ensure that our implementing partners meet the standards and requirements that are set forth in that award. I know my team has briefed your staff on the project, and we pledge to keep you informed.

I'm also committed to raising standards of accountability and apply lessons learned across the board, even hard ones. To that end, we have made a concerted effort to address all the audits from GAO and the Office of the Inspector General. Just six months ago, we had almost 100 backlogged recommendations. I then set an ambitious goal of closing all of them within six months, and I'm proud to say that we achieved that goal before the end of May. We are fully committed to staying on track with these audits going forward, and we've put in place a number of procedures to help accomplish that goal. We're creating a stronger audit function within our Office of the CFO to ensure that everyone involved has the support they need. We're also instituting Agency-wide training and performance metrics for our leaders.

Finally, I would like to say a brief word on recent published reports of sexual abuse and misconduct by international aid workers. Needless to say, like you, I am deeply troubled by these allegations. Such sexual exploitation and misconduct violates everything that we stand for as an Agency. I have met with partner organizations, and I have made it absolutely clear that USAID will not tolerate sexual harassment or misconduct of any kind.

We have distributed to your offices, and released publicly in the last 24 hours, a summary of the aggressive actions that we have taken so far, but please know that this is an issue I'm personally tracking and will stay on top of. Again, I've made clear to our partners and fellow donors that we will do whatever it takes to uphold our values in the workplace and through our programs.

Thank you, again, and Mr. Chairman. I welcome this opportunity and welcome your questions.

*Footnote: Near-famines continue to threaten Nigeria, Yemen, South Sudan, and Somalia. 

Last updated: June 20, 2018

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