WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Donald Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have proposed a plan for a State Department and USAID merger, in order to “pursue greater efficiencies.” This merger, if put into effect, would permanently close 40 percent of USAID.
According to a source within USAID, administrator Wade Warren has told employees at a recent staff meeting that the White House is considering bringing USAID under the State Department’s control as part of an executive order. Trump’s budget proposal also suggests a merger, stating a “need for State and USAID to pursue greater efficiencies through reorganization and consolidation.”
USAID does incredibly important work for the U.S and the world. Currently, USAID operates in 100 countries across the globe, fighting hunger, disease and extreme poverty. Four USAID teams are currently fighting famines in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and Sudan. Recently, an independent study showed that U.S efforts have saved two million children from malaria.
USAID has contributed to the achievement of numerous long-term goals. Life expectancy increased by 33 percent in developing countries. Smallpox has been eradicated worldwide. The number of malnourished children decreased by 50 percent in the past 20 years. In the past 50 years, child mortality rates were cut in half. Permanent economic growth was also achieved, and 43 nations of the top 50 consumers of U.S. agricultural products were once recipients of U.S. foreign aid.
What is more, what is left of USAID could be compromised. The State Department is primarily concerned with the image of the U.S. abroad and keeping a good relationship with foreign governments. Actually helping people is secondary to this goal. USAID’s goal, on the other hand, is to transform societies for the better. A State Department and USAID merger could compromise this mission.
The State Department already tries to obstruct USAID from giving assistance. For example, the State Department’s East Africa office tried to stop USAID from distributing humanitarian assistance to South Sudan during the Sudanese civil war, because of fears it would damage the U.S. relationship with the Sudanese government. There are numerous other occasions of the State Department’s hindrance of foreign aid. A State Department and USAID merger could cause foreign aid to come slowly and become subject to political favors.
Recently, a 30 percent reduction in the foreign aid budget was also proposed. However, there has been bipartisan opposition to cutting the foreign aid budget. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, rejected foreign aid cuts and said “it would be a waste of time” to even look at the president’s proposals. In February, 121 retired generals and admirals sent an open letter to President Trump advising against foreign aid cuts.
A State Department and USAID merger could prevent further improvement. It would cost the lives of millions of people that are dependent on U.S. foreign aid. Former USAID administrator Andrew Natsios called it an “unmitigated disaster for the longer term.”
– Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax