[Congressional Record Volume 158, Number 159 (Tuesday, December 11, 2012)]
[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1902-E1904]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]



                         HON. HOWARD L. BERMAN

                             of california

                    in the house of representatives

                       Tuesday, December 11, 2012

  Mr. BERMAN. Mr. Speaker, today I am pleased to introduce the Global 
Partnerships Act of 2012, a bill to establish a framework for 
effective, transparent, and accountable United States foreign 
   This legislation represents the culmination of nearly five years of 
effort, starting in March 2008 when I assumed the chairmanship of the 
Committee on Foreign Affairs. In reviewing the vast array of issues and 
problems that demanded the Committee's time and attention, I decided 
that reform of our antiquated foreign aid system should be high on the 
   At a time when our headlines are dominated by urgent crises and new 
openings abroad--whether it's the rebellion in Syria, the humanitarian 
catastrophe in Congo or the transition in Burma--some have questioned 
why I would choose to focus on foreign aid reform. The answer is really 
quite simple: because our foreign assistance laws have a significant 
impact on our ability to respond to all of those events.
   Regrettably, over the past few years we have witnessed an 
increasingly destructive and divisive assault on our foreign assistance 
program and on U.S. international engagement more broadly. It is easy 
to find fault with the current system, but rather than taking cheap 
shots and mindlessly slashing programs, I believe it is incumbent upon 
us to find a responsible way to fix them.
   It makes no sense that, under the current system, it is almost 
impossible to give small grants directly to local groups that are 
leading the way towards peaceful, democratic change. Our diplomats and 
development professionals shouldn't have to sit at their desks writing 
reports that duplicate information that is easily available on the 
Internet. There ought not to be situations where two agencies are doing 
the same thing in the same place and aren't even aware of it--or worse 
yet, undermining each other's efforts.

[[Page E1903]]

   I recognize that there have been many attempts over the years to 
correct the problems with U.S. foreign assistance, which include 
bureaucratic fragmentation, program incoherence, and obsolete, 
inconsistent and rigid laws. I regret that this process has taken much 
longer, and proven much more complicated, than I originally 
anticipated. The easy road would be to leave foreign aid reform to the 
Administration, and wash our hands of any responsibility to update and 
repair the laws under which these programs are carried out. But such 
inaction is neither wise nor consistent with our obligations as 
   The bill I submit today lays the foundation for real progress. It 
sets forth a comprehensive framework for advancing American interests 
by working in cooperation with other countries to make our world a 
better, safer place.
   The Global Partnerships Act of 2012 replaces both the Foreign 
Assistance Act of 1961, which covers economic and development 
assistance, and the Arms Export Control Act, which deals with arms 
sales and military aid. Together, these Acts, like this proposed 
rewrite, cover the full spectrum of foreign assistance programs, from 
development and democracy to peace and security. Each type of 
assistance has its own title in the bill, which describes the specific 
purposes, goals and objectives to be achieved.
   This bill is the result of a long and complex process involving 
repeated consultations with interested groups, relevant committees, 
international partners, and federal agencies. We held hearings and 
roundtable discussions, issued concept notes and discussion papers, 
solicited written feedback, visited programs in the field, and read the 
academic research. Last September, we posted a draft bill on the 
Committee website and received detailed comments from hundreds of 
organizations, both individually and as coalitions. This bill 
encapsulates not only the direct feedback we've received in those 
forums, but also many of the recommendations of the Presidential Policy 
Directive on Global Development and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and 
Development Review, or QDDR.
   The most fundamental change that this bill would make is to 
transform the donor-recipient relationship to one of equal partners 
working toward mutually agreed and mutually beneficial goals. Instead 
of dictating what needs to be done from Washington, we will listen to 
what our local partners and our own development professionals are 
saying, and we will hold both sides accountable for achieving results. 
Instead of doing things ``for'' another country, we will build their 
capacity for self-reliance. Sometimes our partners will be national 
governments; other times we will join up with non-governmental 
organizations, businesses or local communities. But our aid is unlikely 
to have a long-lasting impact unless the people most directly affected 
feel they have a stake in its success. That's what we call ``country 
ownership'', and that's why we're calling this the ``Global 
Partnerships Act''.
   Second, this proposal would convert assistance from an input-
oriented process, where the primary issue is how much we spend, into an 
outcome-oriented process, where the focus is on what we achieve. Two 
programs that were initiated by the Bush Administration--the HIV/AIDS 
effort known as PEPFAR, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation or 
MCC--have successfully pioneered this approach. Congress would be 
consulted from the outset, to build consensus over goals and priorities 
and establish agreement on what would constitute success.
   To make this transformation, this bill brings more facts and 
evidence into the foreign aid process. Whether the purpose of our aid 
is to promote economic growth, stabilize a fragile peace, or ensure 
that a long-time ally is able to defend itself, our funding decisions 
should be based on reliable information about impact and performance 
rather than on hunches and intuition. Without solid empirical data 
about what works, it is impossible to ensure that our money is being 
effectively spent and achieving the desired results. And without 
evidence that our programs are having a significant, positive impact, 
we will lose the support and confidence of the American people.
   There is a danger, of course, that the desire for tangible results 
could be misconstrued as a preference for short-term gains that can be 
quantitatively measured. This would be a grave mistake. Development is 
a long-term process, and no amount of goal-setting, indicator-
selection, or measurement will give us a quick win. Objectives like 
promoting democracy are notoriously difficult to measure, and 
impossible to impose from without. We must always remember that 
monitoring and evaluation are tools to an end, not substitutes for good 
   The bill also aims to make aid more strategic, in the sense of 
having a clear goal and a plan and timetable for pursuing it. We still 
need to preserve flexibility to respond quickly to changing situations 
on the ground. But for the most part, our aid suffers from a lack of 
clarity on what constitutes success and how we will know when we 
achieve it.
   We also need to provide much greater transparency about what we are 
doing--not only for the American public, who deserve to know how their 
taxpayer money is being spent, but also for the intended beneficiaries, 
who can tell us whether the aid is reaching them and meeting the agreed 
   Let me say a few words about what is not included in this 
legislation. The first thing is spending levels. The bill contains no 
authorizations of funds, no mandatory spending, no entitlements, no 
recommended levels of appropriations. It is designed to change the way 
we provide assistance, rather than to dictate how much or to whom. It 
would not supersede the regular authorization and appropriations 
   Second, for the most part we did not include country-specific or 
region-specific provisions, which would distract from the main purpose 
of creating a new structure for assistance. Except for a few key 
sections, most of which were part of the old Foreign Assistance Act and 
required continuation, we have tried to write a generic framework that 
can withstand the test of time.
   It is true that some of the reforms I have mentioned are already 
being implemented by the Administration. USAID has reinstituted a 
process for developing 5-year country strategies, with clearly defined 
goals and indicators. The Millennium Challenge Corporation has just 
released its first set of rigorous, independent impact evaluations, 
which provide important lessons for the broader development community. 
And under the policy guidance of the National Security Staff, the 
Department of State and USAID created the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, 
a website that enables users to examine, research, and track aid 
investments in a standard and easy-to-understand format.
   But each of these initiatives needs to be codified, accelerated and 
expanded. Without legislation, these improvements could be terminated 
or rolled back at any time. And none of them contain any requirement or 
standards for congressional consultation.
   Through legislation, we engage in a process of give-and-take, 
consensus and compromise that is absent when the Administration charts 
its own course. Proceeding without congressional buy-in only increases 
the chances that each initiative will be second-guessed, blocked or 
reversed. And it risks triggering the same vicious cycle that created 
this vast web of convoluted rules and tortuous procedures, leading to 
waste, inefficiency, and increasing paralysis.
   To overcome the fear and inertia that have made progress on reform 
so elusive, we must begin by building public awareness and clearing up 
misperceptions about foreign assistance. Many Americans think that 
foreign assistance accounts for 15 to 20 percent of the federal budget, 
when in truth it's just 1 percent, and less than half of that goes for 
humanitarian and development programs. People who don't understand what 
foreign assistance does or how it helps them, or who have no confidence 
that it works, are unlikely to support it, particularly in this 
economic environment. The failure to communicate the importance of 
foreign assistance only leads to calls for more cuts while ignoring the 
real solutions.
   In this period of belt-tightening and economic uncertainty, some 
seem to think that foreign assistance is a luxury we can no longer 
afford. However, with one out of five American jobs tied to 
international trade, and our fastest growing markets--accounting for 
roughly half of U.S. exports--located in developing countries, America 
can't afford a course of isolation and retreat. Our economic fate is 
interconnected with the rest of the world, and the collapse of 
developing economies will unavoidably mean our own decline.
   For all these reasons, it's time to overhaul not just the 
legislation, but also the terms of the debate on foreign assistance. We 
must recognize the historic achievements that have occurred with the 
help of our foreign aid programs--the eradication of smallpox from the 
face of the earth, the Asian miracle that began with the Green 
Revolution, the millions of lives that have been saved and the human 
rights that have been won. Of course, aid alone cannot solve all the 
world's problems, but it is one of the best, safest and least expensive 
tools at our disposal.
   Today, more than ever, our health, security, and prosperity depend 
on a world in which basic human needs are met, fundamental rights and 
freedoms are respected, conflicts are resolved peacefully, and the 
world's resources are used wisely. There is no escaping our obligations 
to help foster this environment. Not only are we morally bound to do 
so, but our economic and political interests demand that we address 
widespread poverty and chaos in the world.
   Our creditors and competitors understand this. China is aggressively 
investing in the very countries that steep budget cuts may force us to 
abandon. We will soon come to regret it if we fail to share our 
knowledge and

[[Page E1904]]

promote our values in the very places where they are in greatest 
   I have said it before but it bears repeating: aid is not a gift. The 
United States 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 for us as it is for them. Our task 
therefore, is to make sure that we provide this assistance in the most 
efficient and effective way.
   The Global Partnerships Act of 2012 is the first comprehensive 
proposal to adapt our laws to reflect the lessons we've learned over 
the past 50 years. Previous reform efforts in the early 1990s sought to 
revise and streamline our statutes and repeal Cold War barnacles, but 
they did not fundamentally alter the way that we plan, manage, and 
carry out assistance programs. I recognize that there is not enough 
time to consider and pass this legislation in what remains of the 112th 
Congress. However, I believe this legislation offers a valid and 
constructive starting point for the future, and that is why I am so 
pleased that my distinguished colleague and good friend from Virginia, 
Mr. Connolly, is joining me in introducing the bill today. He is well-
acquainted with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and acutely aware of 
the need for reform, and I am confident that he will take a leadership 
role in moving this process forward in the next Congress.