Connolly Leads Letter to Secretary Tillerson Raising Concerns About State Department's New Mission

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Washington, December 21, 2017 | comments

Today, Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) led 15 members of Congress in sending a letter to Secretary Tillerson concerning his recent comments regarding a new mission statement for the State Department. The letter was signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel, and Representatives Bera, Bass, Boyle, Castro, Cicilline, Deutch, Frankel, Keating, Kelly, Lieu, Meeks, Sires, Titus and Torres.

“We write to express our profound concern regarding the State Department’s new mission statement that undermines the independence of the U.S. Agency for International Development from the Department of State,” wrote the members.

During a town hall on December 12, 2017, Secretary Tillerson announced the new mission statement for State and USAID, saying:

“The U.S. Department of State advances the interests of the American people, their safety and economic prosperity, by leading America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance. Under the auspices of the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development supports America’s foreign policy by leading the U.S. government’s international development and humanitarian efforts through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, and help people progress beyond assistance.”

However, the following day, the Secretary told House Foreign Affairs Committee members that there was no intention to merge State and USAID. Again, on September 26, 2017, in response to questioning by Congressman Connolly, Deputy Secretary Sullivan said, “There is no intention to merge USAID into the State Department.”

“At a time of unprecedented global challenges to security and stability, we need to invest fully in all the tools of U.S. national security, including development, diplomacy, and defense,” the members wrote. “We should be elevating the work of USAID and the role of the USAID Administrator at the national security table.”

“This mission statement does the opposite,” the members added. “Coupled with a decimated budget for development and a 100 percent vacancy rate for Deputy and Assistant Administrator positions at USAID, these actions endanger U.S. national security. We urge you to invest fully in USAID’s financial and human resources, and reaffirm its role as an independent agency critical to U.S. national security.”

The full letter follows and is available here.

 

 


The Honorable Rex W. Tillerson
Secretary, U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20520

Dear Secretary Tillerson:

We write to express our profound concern regarding the State Department’s new mission statement that undermines the independence of the U.S. Agency for International Development from the Department of State.

At a recent town hall on December 12, you shared a new mission statement for State and USAID: “The U.S. Department of State advances the interests of the American people, their safety and economic prosperity, by leading America’s foreign policy through diplomacy, advocacy, and assistance. Under the auspices of the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development supports America’s foreign policy by leading the U.S. government’s international development and humanitarian efforts through partnerships and investments that save lives, reduce poverty, and help people progress beyond assistance.”

At a December 13, 2017 meeting with Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, you reassured Members that there was no intention to merge State and USAID. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan expressed the same sentiment on September 26, 2017 during his testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on the State Department’s redesign efforts. At that hearing, Mr. Connolly asked: “Do you believe that USAID should be folded into the Department of State, or is that still an open question?” In response, Deputy Secretary Sullivan said: “No, it is not an open question…there is no intention to merge USAID into the State Department.” Furthermore, he said that “the role of USAID should be enhanced, made more effective and more efficient.”

Despite these assurances, State and USAID’s new mission statement reflects movement in the wrong direction, toward a disempowered USAID and one that does not recognize USAID’s traditional role in promoting justice and democracy. At a time of unprecedented global challenges to security and stability, we need to invest fully in all the tools of U.S. national security, including development, diplomacy, and defense. We should be elevating the work of USAID and the role of the USAID Administrator at the national security table. When just, democratic institutions around the world are threatened by the actions of countries like China and Russia, the United States should support our partners in countering this nefarious influence. This mission statement does the opposite. Coupled with a decimated budget for development and a 100 percent vacancy rate for Deputy and Assistant Administrator positions at USAID, these actions endanger U.S. national security.

We urge you to invest fully in USAID’s financial and human resources, and reaffirm its role as an independent agency critical to U.S. national security.

 

                                                                        Best Regards,

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