Advocacy Update – October 10, 2017

This post was written by Danielle Heiberg, Senior Advocacy Manager, and Melissa Chacko, Policy Associate, Global Health Council.

 

Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan Testifies on the Department of State Redesign

In late September, Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan testified at a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on the Department of State Redesign (Redesign). Redesign is a broad effort under the Trump administration to increase efficiency at federal agencies, including USAID and the State Department. The need for this hearing came after speculation of a possible merger of State and USAID and uncertainty on how efficiency at State would increase with the President’s proposed one-third cut to the State and USAID budget.

During the nearly three hour long hearing, committee members probed Sullivan on a broad range of issues such as increasing diversity in State hiring, how diplomacy commitments would continue despite major cuts to funding, and the number of vacant positions for political appointees and ambassadorships in several countries. Sullivan put one concern to rest: under the plan, the State Department submitted to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) State and USAID will not be merged (OMB is managing the Redesign process and will make final decisions on any restructuring). On cuts to State and USAID funds, Sullivan said that these “budget parameters” are only one part of the process. Further, Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) cited Secretary Tillerson’s memorandum to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) that stated Redesign will generate $5 billion over the next five years in efficiencies and asked if this meant further cuts to the State Department. Sullivan emphasized that these are projected efficiencies from restructuring certain functions and offices at State and not a direct cut from the beginning. In regards to a timeline, Sullivan said that the hope is that all major reforms will be completed by the end of the calendar year.

With all of the uncertainty surrounding upcoming changes, Deputy Secretary Sullivan did admit that morale is low at the State Department and having this hearing is part of the process of reducing uncertainty.

The global health community, as well as the broader development community, continues to monitor the Redesign process and the impact future steps will have on global health and development programs.  Read GHC’s statement on Redesign.

Final FY18 Appropriations Sign-on Letter

GHC is circulating a sign on letter urging appropriators to use the highest numbers from each chamber for global health, nutrition and WASH accounts as they negotiate the final FY18 appropriations bill.

In addition, we express concerns with the language allowing:

1) the transfer of unspent Ebola funds to fund USAID global health security activities and support increases for certain infectious diseases, and
2) the broad transfer authority in the House SFOPs bill, which allows funds to be drawn from a broad range of State Department and USAID accounts in order to respond to international infectious disease outbreaks.

U.S-based NGOs are encouraged to sign on. To receive the draft letter and sign on, please email advocacy@globalhealth.org. We will accept signatures until COB, Friday, October 13.

Mexico City Policy Six-Month Review

The State Department is committed to conducting a six-month review of the impact of the expansion of the Mexico City Policy (renamed to Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance). In response to the recommendations for the review provided by our community, the State Department has reached out to request additional comments and suggestions from our community.

Organizations, especially implementing organizations, should provide constructive and detailed comments and suggestions on the expanded policy and its impact, both from the programmatic and administrative perspective. We encourage you to provide feedback on how to mitigate and minimize harm, unintended consequences, impacts on the ground, and/or concerns about implementation. It is our understanding that general statements requesting a rollback of the policy will be disregarded. The State Department has indicated that there will be future opportunities to provide input as they continue to review the implementation of the policy.

These guidelines and topline themes, drafted by a few NGOs, may be useful in crafting your comments.

The period to submit comments is short: all suggestions and comments must be submitted by Sunday, October 15 to PLGHA@state.gov.