The Senate Should Restore Funding for Critical Development Programs

The Senate Should Restore Funding for Critical Development Programs

Last week, the House of Representatives cut the international affairs budget by 20% of the FY 2010 levels. While these are tough times, these cuts are disappointing given investments made in international affairs account for only 1 percent of the overall US Government budget.  More plainly, these cuts affect the poorest and most vulnerable people around the globe.

A recent poll conducted by Networks showed that most Americans support foreign assistance levels up to 10% of the budget.

Furthermore, such small cuts in spending will not solve the deficit problem. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has argued that investments made in development and diplomacy can help deter future needs for resources for defense and that America’s national security depends on the civilian diplomats and aid workers who also risk their lives every day to support our overseas interests.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said in relation to the State Department’s  Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development  Review (QDDR) that “investing in international affairs is smart power” and investing in global health reduces the incidence of disease and strengthens local health systems.

As Congressman Howard L. Berman, Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs committee said today at a hearing, "The US provides foreign assistance because it serves our interests. Helping countries become more democratic, more stable, more capable of defending themselves and better at pulling themselves out of poverty is just as important to us as national security.” And most importantly, investing in the health and well-being of others is in keeping with American values of  promoting dignity and prosperity.

Another, little-noticed cut by the House eliminates all funding for the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). USIP has been at the forefront in illuminating and providing guidance on matters of profound significance to the global health field. It brought together military and humanitarian agencies to establish guidelines that can enable aid groups to meet the aid needs of suffering populations while allowing the military to do its job. It has also assessed the role of health in moving from an unstable to a legitimate state. And the organization has identified the key role the health sector can plan in addressing the epidemic of war-related violence against women.

Cuts to global health programs not only affect national security but affect human security. These cuts will seriously impact lifesaving programs that began during the George W. Bush Administration, including stopping the spread of HIV & AIDS; improving the lives of women and children and their families; protecting kids from malaria; and curbing the spread of other infectious diseases such as TB.

MSH urges the Senate leadership to restore funding for these critical programs to at least the 2010 budget levels.

We are encouraged by President Obama’s 2012 proposed budget and applaud his support for lifesaving global health programs. Global health money has supported MSH’s USAID-funded health programs in over 60 countries, such as Afghanistan and Haiti where, despite being fragile states, there has been marked improvement in health outcomes for women and children. MSH strives for efficiency and effectiveness. As our guiding philosophy, The Tao of Leadership, says, we work with our local partners beginning with what they know , building from what they have and working with them so that our work is done and they can say they did the work themselves.

We encourage Congress to work with the President to support US global leadership and key interventions that improve and save lives throughout the world.