BREAKTHROUGHS BLOG

July 17, 2013

What’s Ahead on the Hill: New bill would improve transparency of US foreign aid programs

Policy and Advocacy Officer
GHTC

Last week, a bipartisan group of legislators in both the House and Senate introduced the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2013. Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) introduced the companion bills. Rep. Poe is co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance.

According to the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, the legislation puts in place guidelines on foreign aid that would apply to all relevant US federal agencies, along with metrics to measure progress. It would also require the president to maintain and expand the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, an online resource that allows users to examine, research, and track US government foreign assistance investments. Under the bill, the Dashboard would be broadened to include all US agencies that administer foreign aid programs. Currently, only five are represented: the State Department, the US Agency for International Development, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the US Department of the Treasury, and the Department of Defense.

Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) introduced companion bills that would reform several aspects of US foreign aid programs.
Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ben Cardin (D-MD) and Reps. Ted Poe (R-TX) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) introduced companion bills that would reform several aspects of US foreign aid programs.

A previous version of the bill came very close to becoming law during the last congress—the bill passed the House unanimously, but was held up at the last moment in the Senate. Supporters are hopeful that this new legislation won’t face the hurdles of previous versions, and already there are signs the bill could pass this year. Leaders from the global health and international development community have expressed broad support for the bill and have called on Congress to move it through the legislative process quickly.

The reforms in the bill are welcome improvements in how the US government reports on its progress, as well as its challenges, with its foreign aid programs. As is the case with most global health research and development programs, hard data on how programs are funded, successes, and educational failures can be difficult to synthesize. Publicly available data that shows the effectiveness of the broad array of US foreign aid activities could boost support from US taxpayers and communities in target countries—ideally leading to a more adaptive, stronger foreign assistance platform.

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