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LETTERS : Making sense of a muddle

November 17, 2009

Re "Fixing foreign aid," Editorial, Nov. 12

Your editorial calling for a major overhaul of our foreign assistance system rightly points out that foreign aid is an important means of self-defense and that American foreign aid efforts are a muddle.

However, while you mentioned the bipartisan legislation I introduced this spring to initiate foreign aid reform, you neglected to note that this bill was only the first step in a far more comprehensive effort that the House Foreign Affairs Committee has undertaken over the last year.

We have held several hearings, convened stakeholder round-tables and released two well-received papers laying out concrete ideas to reform the foreign aid system.

Most important, we have begun drafting a complete rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. We hope our committee's work will inform, and be informed by, the review processes now separately underway within the Obama administration.

Rep. Howard L. Berman

(D-Valley Village)

Washington

The writer is chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

::

Your editorial shortchanged the role Congress is playing to make our efforts to fight global poverty, disease and lack of opportunity more effective.

The nomination of Dr. Rajiv Shah as U.S. Agency for International Development administrator was an important step, but Shah cannot deliver on President Obama's agenda if our leading development agency isn't revitalized from bottom to top.

Enter Congress. One bill you mentioned, championed by Sens. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) and Richard G. Lugar (R-Ind.), would do much more than "mandate reviews and reforms that are already underway." It would restore policy planning and program evaluation capabilities to USAID that were stripped during the Bush administration.

Without these capabilities, USAID has become a powerless agency that outsources more than it accomplishes. Kerry's and Lugar's bill would make USAID the innovative global force we need now that development is more important than ever to U.S. foreign policy success.

J. Brian Atwood

Minneapolis

The writer, who served as USAID administrator during the Clinton administration, is dean of the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota.

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