Vice Ranking Member Meng Statement at United States Agency for International Development Fiscal Year 2024 Budget Request Hearing

2023-04-18 09:52

Congresswoman Grace Meng (D-NY), Vice Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee delivered the following remarks at the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee's hearing on the fiscal year 2024 budget request for the United States Agency for International Development:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and let me add my welcome to USAID Administrator Samantha Power. Your agency is America’s lead international development agency, supporting people around the world to build safe, prosperous, equitable, and inclusive societies. The talented, knowledgeable, and passionate professionals at USAID work on the front lines every day to help save lives and advance human rights and dignity. We are all watching the unfolding events and increasing violence in Sudan, a place where USAID has been engaged for a long time and call on all parties to protect civilians and return to dialogue.

I want to add my special thanks for the tireless work you do, constantly traveling the world to some of the most challenging places, serving as the face of the American people. You bear witness, on behalf of all of us, to the women, children, and families that are experiencing devastating tragedy, loss of loved ones and livelihoods, and, frequently, hope itself. This morning we will discuss the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2024 budget request for USAID. 

I hope you will share with us the impact of this budget in addressing the basic needs of the world’s most vulnerable people as well as the work being done to build resilience for the next disaster or conflict. This mission is as much part of our national security as any armament or missile. Creating a peaceful and stable world deserves our robust investment.

I have long argued that our foreign assistance is critical to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, especially in terms of eradicating poverty, protecting the planet, and promoting peace and prosperity. Achieving these goals by 2030 has been made even more difficult due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its many secondary effects, the conflict in Ukraine, rising food prices, as well as ongoing climate shocks and disasters.  

To address these needs, the United States requires an international development agency that is nimble, accountable, and properly staffed. This Subcommittee has strived in recent years to ensure that you have the resources to meet the Agency’s human resources and diversity goals, and I hope you can give us an update on your progress in these areas and what resources are still required. 

The FY24 budget request includes notable increases for humanitarian, global health, climate, and accountable governance programs. It also makes a bold commitment to gender equity and equality. I look forward to hearing from you about how USAID works to lift up women and youth through both its programs and policies. This includes addressing access to family planning and reproductive health care. According to the World Economic Forum, more than 60 percent of Africa’s population is under the age of 25. How we include these youth in the future of their countries, as well as the international community, will be critical to future stability. I appreciate the hard work USAID has undergone to update its youth and gender strategies in recent months. Ensuring that our programs respond to the needs of these groups is critical.

I would also appreciate hearing about USAID’s efforts to prevent the next pandemic. Congress has provided increased resources to address global health security in recent years.  I hope you can share some of the lessons we have learned on pandemic preparedness even as COVID-19 falls off the front page. As we are painfully aware, the United States will only be as prepared as the weakest global link. In particular, I am concerned about the continuing commercial trade-in, and markets for, live wildlife and the risk posed to human health of the potential for zoonotic spillover from such wildlife. 

And finally, I hope you will update the Subcommittee on the Agency’s work to prioritize locally-led development. I agree that to be enduring, our development efforts must be defined and led by local actors. I hope you will update us on the progress made thus far and what roadblocks you are encountering.

This is why I am so concerned about discussed cuts to the SFOPS bill back to the fiscal year 2022 level. Such cuts would threaten much of the progress made to build capacity to deal with new infectious diseases, prevent the procurement of malaria nets for 4 million people, and will leave 13 million fewer children vaccinated. New staff brought on to deal with oversight of health, governance, and humanitarian programs would be endangered. Such a proposal comes at a time when many countries are looking for partners to improve their economies, build infrastructure and social services, and improve access to electricity. If the United States is not able to respond vigorously, countries will have no option but to turn to others for that kind of investment creating new economic and security challenges for the United States. 

Administrator Power, I hope you can better explain how these decisions would impact the work of the United States overseas. Thank you for being here today and for your tireless work to improve lives and human dignity around the world. And thank you Mr. Chairman. I yield back.

118th Congress