WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee (SFOPS), convened a hearing to review the FY2022 budget request for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Chairman Coons emphasized the importance of USAID to national security and global leadership – particularly in improving the stability of the Northern Triangle region of Central America and reinforcing U.S. competitiveness with China.
In his opening remarks, Sen. Coons said: “We do know that the SFOPS top line is $6.8 billion above the Fiscal [Year] 2021 enacted level, and that represents a significant and, frankly, welcome realignment from similar hearings of the last few years where there were proposals for arbitrary and deep cuts that would have taken a cleaver to this budget. I am grateful for those who have worked together to prevent those deep cuts and the lasting impact they would have had. Today, because of President Biden’s clear understanding of the importance of USAID to our national security and our global leadership, we can discuss how we can work together to reaffirm the agency’s role as the world’s premier development agency. Over its 60-year history, USAID has had an extraordinary global impact, saving countless lives and helping lift millions out of poverty. We could spend our entire time today reviewing USAID’s accomplishments.”
Video of Sen. Coons’ opening remarks is available here beginning at 23:41. Sen. Coons’ questioning of Administrator Power begins at 1:13:10.
During the hearing, Sen. Coons asked Administrator Power about addressing the roots of migration in Central America: “I'm pleased there's a $350 million increase for Central America between State and USAID, and your efforts to stand up a USAID Task Force reflect a renewed focus on stemming the root causes of migration to our southern border from the Northern Triangle countries, and I'm eager to work with you and with Vice President Harris to prevent men, women, children, whole families from being forced to flee their homes and make this long journey north, and I'm encouraged that combating corruption and impunity is a key pillar of your strategy. But we've got government partners in these three countries, who in different ways and for different reasons, but who lack of seriousness about upholding and respecting judicial independence, who are not – I think – serious about fighting corruption, and I'd be interested in whether you agree that empowering civil society is a critical approach to combating corruption, so that civil society can be more effective advocates for government transparency and accountability.” [1:16:32]
Power responded, “I absolutely agree. I think that in our strategy, which I can detail either now or at a later time in the year hearing, accountability and governance really are the first among equals. Yes, we have programs to enhance security, personal security. Yes, we have job growth programs. Yes, we are working on Disaster Resilience so that the hurricanes and other extreme weather events take less of a toll on communities. Yes, we have programs in combating gender-based violence. All of these are incredibly important, but we need leadership and partners who are willing, as well, to clean up corruption, to strengthen and not weaken democratic institutions. And – last point – just one indicator of how serious I am about your point, which is also my point, is that just last week we actually had to channel money away from the Attorney General, the Civilian National Police in El Salvador – money that we had intended to have in programs with those institutions, and we channeled it to civil society because of the Salvadoran President's recent moves against the Attorney General and the Supreme Court, so we need rule of law as the foundation for the success of all our other programs.”
Sen. Coons later emphasized the importance of international coordination on COVID-19 vaccine deployment: “as we begin to contain the COVID-19 pandemic here in the United States and ensure we have the necessary supply of vaccines for our country, it is clear the pandemic continues to rage around the world. The variant that emerged in India that's far more transmissive than the base variant has just made it to my home state and is circling the world. We face an uncertain future as more and more variants will develop that could be both more transmissive and more lethal. There was an initial commitment. $4 billion has been provided to Gavi to support the work of COVAX in providing about 20% of all the vaccines needed by more than 115 countries, and half of that has been obligated. There are some critical barriers to ramping up supply in the developing world. I'd just be interested if you'd speak to: how well is the COVAX process working so hard getting vaccines to countries that need them? When do you expect we will need additional funding? And how can we work together to ensure more robust supply is available for the developing world?” [1:19:33]
Sen. Coons also reinforced the role of USAID in countering China and the rise of authoritarianism:“[For] the competition with China and our work countering authoritarianism around the world, USAID has many tools and many ways in which it can play a constructive role in these urgent matters, and I hope we can work together to support the development of new tools and strategies to promote democracy to fight corruption, to advance human rights – which I know are close to your heart.” [1:13:10]