Empty Wallets at Home, Crises Abroad
Representative Howard Berman on Reevaluating the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961
Co-sponsored by the Brookings Institution
About This Event
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As the United States labors under the longest economic crisis of recent times, foreign aid has once again come under Listen to Audio

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fire. The American people and their representatives in Congress have questioned whether generous aid programs are paying off, citing cases like Pakistan, a recipient of billions in US taxpayer funds and the home of the late Osama bin Laden, as a prime example. But there are also humanitarian demands on the US checkbook, such as the current drought in the Horn of Africa. Under tight budget constraints, it is vital that foreign aid achieves its goals. But is the half-century-old Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 doing the job?

Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) is proposing draft legislation which works to streamline, direct, and accurately measure the success of US foreign assistance. Join AEI as we welcome the ranking member of the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs to roll out his vision for new legislation on the fiftieth anniversary of the Foreign Assistance Act.

A draft of the legislation will be released for public comment following the event.
10:15 AM

10:30 AM

REPRESENTATIVE HOWARD BERMAN (D-CA), Ranking Member, US House Committee on Foreign Affairs

NOAM UNGER, Brookings Institution

11:30 AM
Event Summary

WASHINGTON, SEPTEMBER 8, 2011—In today's belt-tightening environment, not only is it in our national interest to address issues of global poverty and instability overseas, but the American people have a moral obligation to do so, stressed Representative Howard Berman (D-CA) today as he rolled out a new plan for reforming US foreign assistance. However, he argued, our current laws no longer fit US priorities. Rep. Berman introduced a draft form of the Global Partnership Act of 2011, a piece of legislation that seeks to replace the antiquated Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 and streamline the aid process as the United States continues to devote resources to development priorities, democratic reform, and arms transfers around the globe. As its title suggests, the new legislation strives to increase accountability to the populace receiving assistance and increase their investment in US programs. By creating a pooled interagency account and clearly delineating executive versus legislative jurisdiction in the United States, the draft act seeks to streamline the current distribution system and increase cross-agency cooperation. The Global Partnership Act also seeks to increase the government's ability to respond to unforeseen crises and opportunities, such as the famine in the Horn of Africa and the democratic movements in the Middle East. In the current budget climate, it is more important than ever to make sure that US foreign assistance achieves its goals, Berman stated, and this new piece of legislation seeks to make sure that the United States continues to do just that.

—Alex Rued

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Speaker Biographies

Congressman Howard L. Berman has served the state of California for over three decades.  He began a distinguished career by serving as the youngest Assembly Majority leader for the California state legislature, and has represented California in the House of Representatives since 1982.  After serving as Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs from 2008 to 2010, he is currently the Ranking Member of that Committee and a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee.  Congressman Berman is highly respected by his colleagues on both sides of the aisle for his ability to build bipartisan coalitions, secure compromise, and usher through Congress significant pieces of legislation.

Paul Wolfowitz
spent more than three decades in public service and higher education. Most recently, he served as president of the World Bank and deputy secretary of defense. As ambassador to Indonesia, Mr. Wolfowitz became known for his advocacy of reform and political openness and for his interest in development issues, which dates back to his doctoral dissertation on water desalination in the Middle East. At AEI, Mr. Wolfowitz works on development issues.

Noam Unger
is a fellow with the Development Assistance and Governance Initiative and policy director for the Foreign Assistance Reform Project at the Brookings Institution. He is a founding member and principal of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, and has served as a member of the Transatlantic Taskforce on Development, jointly convened by the German Marshall Fund and the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Before coming to Brookings, he spent four years in public service at the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, where he worked on humanitarian affairs, reconstruction, conflict transformation and interagency coordination.

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Co-sponsored by the Brookings Institution
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