U.S. Agency for International Development, Remarks by Administrator Samantha Power, Office of Press Relations, July 14, 2021
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you Chairman Menendez, Ranking Member Risch, and esteemed members of the Committee. Thank you also to your staff who are such great partners to USAID.
Last month, I traveled to Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador to hear directly from the people impacted by the cycles of poverty, violence, climate shocks, and corruption and I travelled to assess and expand the impact U.S. assistance was having on their lives. What I saw there was a local reflection of global trends. People that continue to lose loved ones and suffer through lockdowns due to a still-raging COVID-19 pandemic that has already left 4 million people dead around the world. Families that have been traumatized by more frequent and intense hurricanes and rare weather events, many in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. And, as you indicated, everyday-citizens who are angered by poor governance, autocratic behavior, and corruption that limits opportunity, investment, prosperity, and personal freedom.
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These various challenges are combining in volatile ways, culminating in frustration that drives people to the streets, as we’ve seen just this week in Cuba; rage that spills over into deadly conflict, as we have seen in Burma and the Tigray region of Ethiopia; and despair that causes people to flee their communities, as we’ve seen in in Central America, and across the world with a level of mass displacement not seen since World War II. These are not positive developments, it is safe to say, but as an American, I am very glad that USAID is uniquely positioned to confront them, and I am immensely grateful to you for sustaining support for the Agency’s vital programming. Your continued bipartisan support for USAID saves and improves millions of lives each day, while enhancing U.S. national and economic security.
As we emerge from a once-in-a-century pandemic and as we confront the inroads that China has made in different parts of the world by increasingly using its financial power as leverage to advance its interests, the FY 22 budget request of $27.7 billion for foreign assistance funding fully or partially implemented by USAID will help us address urgent priorities, and allow the United States to lead the world in providing development and humanitarian assistance to promote security and improved economic conditions. It will also allow the United States to lead on the global stage, and to leverage our activities to inspire our allies and our private sector partners to contribute more.
But in order for us to get the most out of our programs, we know we must also make ourselves a more capable and nimble Agency at a time of heightened need. And to do this, we need to increase local partnerships and address staff shortfalls. Lasting solutions to development challenges require local organizations that have the insights to develop tailored solutions and the credibility to implement them. Yet in FY 2020, USAID obligated approximately 5.6 percent to local partners around the world. To engage authentically with local partners and to move toward a more locally-led development approach is staff, time, and resource intensive — but it is also vital to our long-term success to sustainable development. I look forward to engaging with you in the near future about how we can pursue flexible solutions that allow us to increase our level of local partnership while still carefully, vigilantly protecting taxpayer dollars.
This budget that we are proposing will also help us build institutional capacity commensurate with USAID’s role as a national security agency. Over the last two decades, the funding levels and complexity of our programs has expanded at a rate that significantly outpaces our staffing. For instance, each USAID contracting officer, for instance, has managed over $65 million annually over the past four years, more than four times the workload of their colleagues at the Department of Defense who manage an average of about $15 million. Moving forward, we are seeking not a return to the previous status quo, but to work with members of Congress to increase our number of direct hires, while maintaining a strong focus on creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive Agency. With your support, USAID will move aggressively to tackle the world’s toughest challenges in order to build a more stable and prosperous future for us all.
I look forward to our continued partnership and am here today and to answering your questions.Chamber Senate