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Remarks to the Foreign Affairs Council

Randall L. Tobias, U.S. Director of Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
Harry S Truman Building
Washington, DC
February 6, 2007

Thank you, Henrietta, and thank you all for welcoming me here this morning.

I had hoped to be here for the entirety of your gathering, but like Under Secretary Fore, I actually just came out of a meeting with Secretary Rice regarding her FY08 budget testimony, which is set to begin tomorrow.

As Under Secretary Fore indicated, I have been serving as the first-ever Director of United States Foreign Assistance and concurrently as the head of USAID. During the time I’ve been in this role, I have been focused on bringing coherence and strategic focus to the way we approach foreign assistance at State and USAID, and beyond. This reform effort is both necessary and timely.

We are seeing unprecedented attention being given to foreign assistance right now. TV and movie stars are joining forces with academics, NGOs and the government to raise awareness about poverty issues. Corporate philanthropy dedicated to poverty alleviation is at an all-time high.

And foreign assistance clearly is a mainstream commitment of the United States Government, not only for all of the traditional reasons which still apply, but also because it has been elevated to a national priority as a core part of our national security strategy.

Commensurate with this priority, this Administration has made an enormous commitment, from the highest levels, to development and transformation. In fact, the total official development assistance (ODA) provided by the United States has risen from about $10 billion dollars at the beginning of this Administration to $28.5 billion – a near tripling of ODA since President Bush took office. Our security assistance, as well, has seen significant increases over this time period.

But these vastly increased resources have also come with new responsibilities: to focus on performance, results, accountability, and ultimately, to define the success of our foreign assistance program on having countries understand that U.S. foreign assistance is not a permanent revenue line on their countries financial statement, but rather an investment on the part of the American people to move them along a trajectory to eventually graduate from traditional development assistance and become a full partner in international peace and prosperity.

The civilian and diplomatic corps have been asked to take on tremendous responsibility for achieving success, and we need ever greater resources to achieve it. And so—in order to make the most strategic, effective, and efficient use of resources—we have developed a new strategic framework to focus all foreign assistance policy, planning and oversight on the Secretary’s overarching transformational diplomacy goal.

The goal is “to help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system.”

In advancing that goal, a significant amount of my time has been spent putting together the first-ever integrated U.S. foreign assistance budget request.

I know you have just heard some details about the State Operations side of the department’s budget, so I will take just a minute to give you a brief overview of the Foreign Operations budget request for fiscal year 2008.

The request for the combined State and USAID FY2008 foreign assistance budget is $20.3 billion, and that represents a 12% increase over FY2006 enacted levels. That is in fact, the largest increase in any agency, anywhere in the federal government. This reflects the critical role that our security and development assistance play in our national security strategy.

There is no doubt that foreign assistance makes the United States safer. In fact, just last week Representative Lowey, the Chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, put it quite clearly in a quote she gave to the New York Times stating:

“There’s a growing recognition among the public and policy makers that foreign assistance is critical to stability around the world.”

Our men and women of the State Department and USAID, in addition to many contractors and NGO staff, are literally putting their lives on the line every day to implement programs in some of the most difficult places in the world.

In our foreign operations budget you will find:

- a 20% increase in resources for low and lower-middle income countries over FY2006 levels because we are trying to focus our resources on those countries farthest away from graduating from foreign assistance;

- a 54% increase in assistance to Africa over FY2006—which equates to a quadrupling of assistance to Africa under this Administration;

- a 4% increase for the Near East—as a vital investment in winning the Global War on Terror and empowering the people of this critical region;

- a 6% increase in South & Central Asia, highly concentrated in states like Afghanistan and Pakistan, which are of critical importance to our national security and also among the poorest in the region;

- and, if Congress funds this request, aid to the Western Hemisphere will have nearly doubled since the start of the Administration, from $862 million to $1.66 billion, including the work of partners like the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Those are some of the highlights and I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.

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