Recent Executive Order Runs Counter to America's Values and Interests

Photo By: U.S. Navy/Gina Wollman

Vivid stories and images of suffering and struggle from around the globe— Syria, North East Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen along with families caught in the global migration crisis—are fueling compassion and a will to act among Americans. In response to the administration’s proposed budget cuts to USAID and the Department of State, we see renewed bipartisan support for development as a key aspect of U.S. foreign policy.

Concurrently, a related development with equally dramatic consequences is receiving far less public attention. On March 13, the President signed an Executive Order “Reorganizing the Executive Branch.” This order directs each federal agency, in the next six months, to submit a reorganization plan “to improve efficiency, effectiveness and accountability.” This action, both shortsighted and on short timeline, is coupled with budget cuts, all of which strains the U.S. aid system that is already under pressure from current global threats and crises. A restructuring pursued and premised under the guise of campaign rhetoric or solely based on budget decisions is unwise. Any change not in service to actual needs will only lead to more global suffering without rationale or reason, and runs counter to our national interest and values.

Here is one example. The more than 20 million people experiencing or facing threat of famine and starvation in North East Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Yemen rely on emergency assistance from the United States, United Nations, and partnering NGOs. Any withdraw of funding for essential programs led or supported by our government at the UN will break a continuity of commitment that is necessary to alleviate suffering, recover from crisis, and build resilience against future challenges. U.S. global leadership, through an organized and deliberate aid program, is a catalyst that drives others— from multilateral agencies to countries to individuals— to act.

We do not reject change out of hand. Reforms can and should be pursued in how we all work together for the common good. The InterAction community strives for and expects excellence and continuously seeks ways that we and our partners in government and multilateral agencies can improve our work and impacts. However, ad hoc restructuring or merging of programs to achieve the appearance of fiscal prudence in name only will damage the long-term capabilities of our country to cope with an uncertain future and harm those around the world who would champion our values.

Every day, U.S. aid programs save and change millions of lives. The number of global childhood deaths per year has been cut in half since 1990, in large part due to important work of the U.S. government and its partners. However, as uncertainty, suffering, and crises increase, a reasonable, inclusive, and thoughtful reform process, with an eye towards how the American public and government can sustain our commitment to the world’s most vulnerable people, is in everyone’s best interests.