Exclusive–Jack Kingston: Stop Treating Foreign Aid Like ‘International Street Money’

Foreign Aid-Thomas Reuters Foundation

A former Georgia Republican congressman, who was one of President Donald Trump’s strongest campaign surrogates, told Breitbart News that the President needs to reform how The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department distribute foreign aid.

“I have always felt it was it like international street money,” said Jack Kington, who was on the Defense Subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee before his unsuccessful 2014 Senate run.

It does not help Congress or anyone to get a handle on what is going on with foreign aid given the attitude of State Department personnel and its aloof culture, he said.

“There is a certain how-dare-you-ask attitude: ‘We know what we are doing,’ We’re intellectually superior to you, so we’re going to spend this money as we see fit,” he said. “This is taxpayer money, so any money you spend, there should be accountability or metrics.”

The Georgian said Rex Tillerson is exactly the type of leader to take on both the task and the culture at State.

“I think Exxon-Mobil has more locations than the State Department around the world,” Kingston said.

“You need a businessman, who can go in there and say: ‘These are our goals and objectives and this is how we are going to make them happen–and if they are not being realized? We are going to make the changes needed,'” he said.

“This is taxpayer money, so any money you spend, there should be accountability or metrics. ‘What are we getting for our money?'” he said.

Kingston said a classic example was the $73 million in foreign aid sent to Afghanistan in the fiscal year before the Sept. 11, 2o01 attacks.

“Obviously, nobody was paying attention to whether we were getting any bang for our buck,” he said.

“We were spending that money, but we weren’t watching the store,” he said. “If we were mindful of what was going on in Afghanistan, we should have seen the Taliban rise and what it meant–but we weren’t. We were just spending the money and not worrying about it.”

“We’re sort of spreading it out to our friends,” he said.

“What I could never get a straight answer on when I was in Congress was: Which NGO’s work? Which ones do the best? Which recipient countries are the most grateful? Which ones help us with our goals? And which ones are working diligently to get off of dependency?” he said. An NGO is a non-government-agency, and the term has become the catch-all for all non-government actors internationally. The NGOs act as sub-contractors for grant programs sponsored by the U.S. government.

Kingston said foreign aid should not be a permanent lifestyle for these countries.

Instead, foreign aid should be the stop-gap for people experiencing difficult economic times, he said. “You should not be dependent on us and you should be able to grow into a future market for us to export our goods to.”

The former congressman said he supports American aid targeting health issues and fighting disease, but even in those cases, there needs to be a buy-in by the host country. “They need to do their share of the lift.”

Another part of the problem is that bigger issues and bigger countries absorb so much of the bandwidth with Congress and the White House, he said.

“If there are approximately 200 countries in the world, there are the ones who are our trade and military partners that we have to give great attention to,” he said. “There are ones that have earthquakes and tsunamis we have to give emergency attention to, and there’s the ones with wars and trouble spots, and that might be 30-to-60 countries.”

Then, there are 100-to-120 countries that are left to the State Department to handle as they see fit without input from Capitol Hill or the White House, according to Kingston.

“It leaves it into the hands of the bureaucrats and the career folks at the State Department, and they seem to lose contact with the American voters and what Americans want for their money,” he said.

“The No. 1 thing Americans don’t want is their money to be wasted,” he said.


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