Rachel Mannino posted an articleThank you to our #GivingTuesday Champions! see more
After the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, #GivingTuesday (November 28th) is a time to give back. The Peace Corps community needs your help this #GivingTuesday, so we can continue to support our members all year long!
In this challenging political environment, the Peace Corps community has to push incredibly hard to galvanize support for the Peace Corps in Congress. It was tough this year, when the White House and the House budget both cut Peace Corps funding by $12 million. However, thanks to the hard work of our community advocates, the Senate voted to level fund the agency. We’re still fighting for that level $410 million budget. Donations made during #GivingTuesday will help fund our advocacy efforts in 2018. We will continue building our network of volunteer advocacy coordinators across the country, and provide better technology to help our members reach out to Congressional leadership. We will also implement another day of action on the Hill.
NPCA #GivingTuesday Champions have committed to enlisting 10 people to donate $10 or more on #GivingTuesday and to sharing their Peace Corps stories to increase awareness and raise support. You can help, too. Here’s how:
- Sign up to be a #GivingTuesday Champion by emailing Rachel@peacecorpsconnect.org.
- Donate to the advocacy fund, and tell others about why you gave your contribution.
- Share our #GivingTuesday social media posts on your profiles, along with your own Peace Corps story, and ask your friends and family for donations.
Thank you for all you do to support NPCA. We need your passion for our advocacy work now more than ever!
Thank you #GivingTuesday Champions!
David A. Miron
Kristina J. Owens
Tyler Lloyd from My PC Story
Maine Peace Corps Association - #GivingTuesday outreach coordinated by Nicole Lewis and Valerie Young
An important Senate sign-on letter requires action by April 24th see more
It’s a rite of spring for the Peace Corps community. And, an important moment in National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) efforts to ensure stable and strong funding for the agency and nearly 7,000 volunteers currently serving our nation.
Led by Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), a Senate letter is now circulating asking for robust funding for the Peace Corps in Fiscal Year 2019.
Take Action Now:
Follow this link and take less than five minutes to write your Senators and urge them to sign onto the Isakson-Feinstein Peace Corps funding letter. Help us reach or surpass last year’s effort, when a bi-partisan group of 37 Senators signed this letter!
Have Your Senators Signed the Letter?
As of 7 PM on April 19th, nine Senators have signed the letter (28 more needed to reach last year's signature level).
Senators below have signed the Peace Corps funding letter and should be thanked!
California: Feinstein (co-author)
Georgia: Isakson (co-author)
Massachusetts: Markey, Warren
Rhode Island: Reed
West Virginia: Manchin
Expand Our Reach!
Share this post with others you know and ask them to take action before April 24th. Thank you!
NPCA Affiliate group urges diplomacy, not conflict, with Iran see more
With the appointment of John Bolton to be National Security Advisor, this week’s confirmation hearing of Mike Pompeo to be the next Secretary of State, and a May 12th deadline approaching on President Trump’s decision to uphold or withdraw from a multi-lateral nuclear agreement, U.S. relations with Iran will be regularly in the news over the next several weeks.
Because of that, it comes as no surprise the Peace Corps Iran Association (PCIA) – an NPCA affiliate group – is urging Returned Peace Corps Volunteers and others to urge diplomacy over conflict.
As part of a resolution supporting the nuclear agreement that members agreed to at a conference last October 31st, PCIA noted they “strongly support diplomacy as the primary means for the United States and the international community to resolve issues of mutual interest with Iran and to prevent further military conflict in the region.”
As the Pompeo hearings and other actions that are concerning to PCIA approach, PCIA urges all like-minded members of the Peace Corps community - and others - to take a five minute action with their Senators urging diplomacy with Iran.
Follow this link and take action.
For more information, you are encouraged to visit the PCIA website.
Unanimous Senate approval of legislation comes as House continues its work see more
Peace Corps health and safety legislation took another step closer to becoming law on Tuesday.
The Senate unanimously passed S. 2286, the Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018.
Castle, a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in China, died in service in 2013. A 2014 Peace Corps Inspector General report found that a misdiagnosis of early symptoms and “cascading failures and delays in treatment” contributed to his death.
“Nick exemplified the extraordinary commitment of Peace Corps volunteers who devote 2-3 years in service to our country,” said Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), the sponsor of the legislation. “They deserve the very best support we can provide. Our bill will expand oversight and accountability at the Peace Corps while improving the care our volunteers receive overseas and for service-related injuries when they return home. Following unanimous passage of this legislation in the Senate, I am encouraged by continued progress in our efforts to strengthen the Peace Corps and honor Nick Castle’s memory.”
In the House of Representatives, similar legislation introduced by Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Joe Kennedy (D-MA) has 54 co-sponsors and awaits further action by the House Foreign Affairs Committee. The House bill - H.R. 2259 - contains very similar provisions related to in-service health care and continued/expanded support and reforms pertaining to sexual assault. H.R. 2259 also contains additional support for returned volunteers with service related health issues, including a proposed increase in worker’s compensation payments for RPCVs who come home with the most serious health challenges.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee passes Nick Castle Reform Act see more
On the five-year anniversary of the death of Nick Castle, a Peace Corps Volunteer who served in China, legislation named in his memory took a step closer to passage in the United States Senate.
Yesterday, the Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2017 (S. 2286) was approved unanimously by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The legislation outlines key parameters to ensure the agency hires well-qualified personnel capable of administering effective health care services for volunteers, and calls upon the agency to complete all open recommendations from a 2016 Inspector General Assessment on medical care. The legislation also includes provisions that extend key elements of volunteer safety legislation (passed in 2011) to address sexual assault and other acts of violence against volunteers, and proposes further reforms to address matters related to sexual assault. Additionally, the legislation extends existing health care coverage for service-related injuries four months after volunteers complete their service, and requires public disclosure of volunteer satisfaction surveys and early termination rates.
"I am always inspired by young people, like Nick Castle, who dedicate themselves to making a difference early in life," said Bob Corker (R-TN), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee in a press release following the vote. "Nick exemplified the extraordinary commitment of Peace Corps volunteers who devote 2 - 3 years in service to our country. They deserve the very best support we can provide...As this bill advances to the full Senate, I am encouraged by the strong bipartisan support for our efforts to strengthen the Peace Corps and honor Nick Castle's memory."
Similar Peace Corps health and safety legislation is also in the House of Representatives. Introduced by Congressmen Ted Poe (R-TX) and Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA), the Sam Farr Peace Corps Enhancement Act (H.R. 2259), contains many provisions similar to the Senate legislation, as well as additional provisions related to volunteers returning home with service related illness or injuries. Earlier this week, Congressmen John Yarmuth (D-KY), Joe Courtney (D-CT) and Sean Maloney (D-NY) became the latest co-sponsors of H.R. 2259, bringing the total number of co-sponsors to 52.
NPCA is supporting both versions of this legislation, urging the Senate and House to pass their bills and come together to approve the strongest final bill possible.
Join us. Take action now! Urge your lawmakers to co-sponsor this important Peace Corps legislation.
It's not just Capitol Hill - We're organizing 75 solidarity events around the country! see more
In Pittsburgh, Katie Haas Conrad (Sierra Leone 2010-12) says "We have to work to continue to educate our legislators of the importance of the (Peace Corps) or we will not be able to send professionals to interested countries." That's why for the second year in a row, Katie is spearheading a letter writing event with the Pittsburgh Area Peace Corps Association in March as part of NPCA's National Days of Action.
Nearly 1,000 miles due west in Nebraska, Andrea Kruse (Bulgaria 2008-10) is making plans to organize a district meeting with the Lincoln office of Senator Ben Sasse. "Years ago I was asked if I wanted to join a district meeting with some fellow Minnesota RPCVs and said yes...From that meeting, I was told by a staffer to keep coming even if the congresswoman was a Peace Corps champion, because power in numbers and the personal stories have the impact."
Not everyone can come to Capitol Hill to be an advocates on key Peace Corps issues. BUT, everyone can take a moment in March to participate in National Days of Action solidarity events being planned around the country.
Along with Pittsburgh and Lincoln, we are hearing of plans starting to emerge all around! Buffalo, New York and Portland, Maine, northern New Mexico and Hawaii!
Ready to commit to organizing an event in your area? Fill out the form linked below so we can start working with you and promoting your efforts! https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc7h6nyJ73bvrfG9oh6HMCpowXyPC7kX1zgaBUosB2yBb-_BQ/viewform
Look for updates in the near future and help us secure at least one Days of Action event in every state!
Both chambers of Congress now have Peace Corps health legislation see more
On the day in which fallen Peace Corps volunteer Nick Castle would have celebrated his 28th birthday, legislation has been introduced in the United States Senate to address a series of issues related to the health and safety of Volunteers.
The Nick Castle Peace Corps Reform Act of 2018 (S. 2286) was introduced Wednesday, January 10th by Senator Bob Corker (R-TN), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Other lead sponsors include Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Chris Coons (D-DE).
Nick Castle died while serving in China in 2013. A November 2014 report on the death by the Peace Corps Office of Inspector General cited poor judgement and misdiagnosis by the Peace Corps Medical Officer, as well as "cascading failures and delays in treatment."
About the Legislation
Provisions in the Corker legislation would ensure that "the Peace Corps maintains well-qualified and capable medical officers and support staff for overseas Peace Corps posts and that the Director reviews and evaluates the performance of such staff and implements outstanding recommendations by the Inspector General to improve associated systems and programs."
Another key provision would allow Peace Corps to be fully involved in the diagnosis, treatment and support of returning Volunteers with service related illness or injuries for a four-month period following their completion of service. Currently, volunteers who come home with service-related health issues are swiftly referred to the U.S. Department of Labor (DoL) for benefits provided under the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA).
Along with requiring public disclosure of volunteer satisfaction surveys and other reporting requirements, the legislation would also promote further reforms and extend key initiatives pertaining to sexual assault and other acts of violence against volunteers. This includes a re-authorization of the Peace Corps Office of Victim Advocacy and the agency's Sexual Assault Advisory Council.
Click here for a copy of the legislation.
Click here for Senator Corker's press release.
Meanwhile, Peace Corps health legislation in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2259) introduced last May by Congressman Ted Poe (R-TX) and returned Peace Corps Volunteer Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) has a bi-partisan list of nearly 50 co-sponsors.
Along with the most provisions outlined above, the House legislation also includes an important proposal for volunteers who served their country but came home with service-related injuries or illness that rendered them temporarily or permanently disabled. The legislation proposes raising the worker's compensation payments for these individuals. This has been a priority issue of the affiliate group Health Justice for Peace Corps Volunteers, which has led efforts and worked tirelessly for years on efforts to provide relief for those in our community who struggle most in the aftermath of their service. However, questions have arisen about the ability to sustain this provision in accordance with House rules on entitlement spending.
"While the content and presentation of the Senate and House Peace Corps health bills have significant differences, we are grateful that Senator Corker, Congressman Poe and other lead sponsors have introduced legislation to keep us moving forward," said NPCA President and CEO Glenn Blumhorst. "Taken together, both bills contain improvements, reforms and re-authorizations that are important to various members of our community. We look forward to continued progress with Senate and House sponsors, and urge them to work collaboratively so we can come away with the best possible legislation to support our Volunteers and respect their sacrifices in serving our country."
Call your Senators and ask them to support and advance S. 2286, Peace Corps health legislation introduced by Senator Corker.
If your Congressman/woman has not yet co-sponsored H.R. 2259, take action here.
JM Ascienzo posted an articleAdvocacy Update, Week of December 25, 2017—RPCVs Needed On Capitol Hill see more
Congress finished a busy week on Capitol Hill before the Holiday break by passing the third Continuing Resolution (CR) of the fiscal year, funding the government at FY17 levels until January 19. Following negotiations that changed by the hour throughout the week Congress at last passed a "clean" CR, scraping a House bill that funded the Pentagon through September 30 but the rest of the government through just January 19, and leaving out an $81-billion hurricane and wildfire relief package for after the holidays. The new CR gives the White House and Congressional leadership until January 19 to agree to a new budget deal to amend the Budget Control Act of 2011 by raising spending caps, paving the way for appropriators on Capitol Hill to fund the government at higher levels. Like all Federal agencies, Peace Corps is most likely to receive an increase in funding with a lift in caps, and even more likely if that lift has parity.
Democrats have long stated that parity—or a dollar-to-dollar match—for increases in Defense and Non-Defense Discretionary spending is a priority for a new budget deal. Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY-17), ranking members of both the full Appropriations Committee and the State Foreign-Ops subcommittee—the latter funds Peace Corps and its partners—have recently made their case for why budget parity is urgently needed to help America's international affairs programs. Rep. Lowey co-authored her plea with Budget Committee Ranking Member John Yarmuth (D-KY-03). Though dollar-to-dollar parity may not be in a new deal, rumored increased spending levels should provide appropriators with enough funds to at least keep America's development and diplomacy programs at FY17 levels, and perhaps more. Speaking publicly at a recent U.S. Global Leadership Council event, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chairman of the State-Foreign Ops Appropriations Subcommittee, said, "When this is all over, we’re gonna have more money for foreign assistance, not less.”
Bring Your Voice to Washington, DC—NPCA Capitol Hill Day of Action Registration Open
A new budget deal would potentially have significant short and long-term implications for Peace Corps by providing Congress the opportunity to tap into an agency poised for improvement and growth and that is urgently needed to share the best of America with the rest of the world. The Peace Corps community will be needed to urge Congress to make the right decision.
In the coming weeks stay tuned to NPCA updates and your local Advocacy Coordinators to take quick action with your lawmakers, and register now for NPCA's annual Capitol Hill Day of Action on March 1, 2018. March 1 is your chance to join Peace Corps' Congressional champions, host country embassy representatives, and the Peace Corps community to urge lawmakers to increase Peace Corps funding and pass major RPCV healthcare legislation. Check out a past Capitol Hill Day of Action and Sign up now!
It's time to start mobilizing for this annual Capitol Hill gathering of the Peace Corps community! see more
The power of the Peace Corps lies within you.
- The individual Returned Peace Corps Volunteer (RPCV) with a story to tell about how Peace Corps transformed so many lives - including their own.
- The former Peace Corps staff member who knows the intricacies of operating an agency that has serviced more than 225,000 volunteers.
- The leaders of National Peace Corps Association affiliate groups whose dedication to ongoing service and bringing the world home is central to their mission.
- The Peace Corps applicant who desperately hopes to be part of this iconic symbol of the United States at its best.
For all of you, the time is coming for you to personally tell Congress about the power of the Peace Corps!
During NPCA's National Days of Action in Support of the Peace Corps we're holding our annual Capitol Hill Day of Action on March 1, 2018. With supply and demand for volunteers skyrocketing, communities all over the world in need, people-to-people relationships increasingly critical, and an RPCV healthcare bill in need of passage, we need to tell America's lawmakers to prioritize Peace Corps funding and legislation.
There's no reason to delay. Register here for the Capitol Hill Day of Action!
Please share this message with your Peace Corps friends and other supporters who want to join us on March 1st. Come to lobby for peace and—as many others do—use the rest of your time in our nation's capital to see the sights, connect with friends, or schedule a reunion for your Peace Corps cohort!
Capitol Hill Day of Action kicks off NPCA's annual Shriver Leadership Summit weekend. Interested in attending? Learn more.
Can't join us in Washington? We still need you! Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and make plans to organize a Day of Action solidarity event in your hometown on/about March 1st!
The Peace Corps Iran Association shares its view on the Iran Nuclear Agreement see more
Nearly 150 Iran RPCVs attended a conference in Annapolis, Maryland, which featured panel discussions and workshops on topics ranging from advocacy and current events to archiving Peace Corps service materials and promoting person-to-person cultural exchanges.
At this biennial gathering of the Peace Corps Iran Association (PCIA), members generated a resolution supporting the Iran Nuclear Agreement. "We strongly support diplomacy as the primary means for the United States and the international community to resolve issues of mutual interest with Iran and to prevent further military conflict in the region."
The resolution comes as Congress considers the fate of the Iran Nuclear Agreement, more formally referred to as the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed by the U.S. and Iran, along with five other nations (China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom). In mid-October, during the quarterly review required by Congress, President Trump announced he was decertifying - but not withdrawing from - the agreement, giving Congress until mid-December to determine if it will fully withdraw from the JCPOA, uphold it, or take another action in an attempt to modify the agreement.
Click here for contact information to call or write your Senators and express your views on the Iran Nuclear Agreement.
- Read the PCIA resolution here
- Learn more about PCIA here
- Read the State Department overview of the JCPOA here
A powerful message kicks off NPCA advocacy on the FY 2019 federal budget see more
Our thanks to the 106 affiliate groups of the National Peace Corps Association who signed a letter to President Trump urging him to increase funding for the Peace Corps as his administration prepares his fiscal year 2019 budget.
The letter, in part, highlights the outstanding contributions affiliate groups continue to make in their communities and around the world. "NPCA affiliate groups are not-for-profit organizations comprised of members of the Peace Corps community - primarily Returned Peace Corps Volunteers (RPCVs). Over five decades, we have evolved from our efforts to execute the Peace Corps' Third Goal of educating Americans about our countries of service to becoming indispensable civic enterprises and recognized leaders in volunteerism, charity and public - and private - sector problem solving."
"Our annual letter to the president is exemplary of NPCA's vision of a united and vibrant Peace Corps community," said NPCA President Glenn Blumhorst. "In these challenging fiscal times, having more than 100 of our affiliate groups sign a letter calling for increased funding provides an impressive start to our advocacy efforts for fiscal year 2019."
Click here to read the FY 2019 Peace Corps funding letter to the president.
As advocacy for fiscal year 2019 is underway, NPCA continues to monitor and advocate with congressional leaders on the final Peace Corps appropriation for fiscal year 2018. Look for further updates as we seek to reduce or eliminate the President's proposed $12 million cut in Peace Corps funding for the fiscal year that began October 1st.
This simple legislation to honor Peace Corps service can pass - but only if you act! see more
When one thinks of legislation before Congress, thoughts come to mind of hundreds, even thousands of pages of text, quite often confusing to the general public with arcane references to legislative definitions, the United States Code, and subsections.
But that’s not the case with House Bill 1295, legislation that would allow for a simple, no-cost fix to honor Peace Corps service.
Introduced by Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ) and David Young (R-IA), the heart of the legislation is this: “The official seal or emblem and the name ‘Peace Corps’ may be used on any death announcement, gravestone, plaque or other grave marker of any person who served as a volunteer or as an officer or employee of the Peace Corps…”
The original Peace Corps Act – signed into law 56 years ago tomorrow, September 22nd – did not include the iconic Peace Corps logo as an allowable use to honor service at the time of death. The Sires – Young legislation, all 143 words of it, would correct that.
Take Action Now!
This is a piece of legislation every member of the House of Representatives can get behind. But they won't act unless you ask them!
- Follow this link to see if your rep is already a co-sponsor. If s/he is, send them a thank you message!
- If they are not signed on, ask them to become a co-sponsor of H.R. 1295. Call your rep or send an automated message (be sure to edit and personalize your message)
- Reach out to others you know and ask them to take similar action!
Want to get more involved in efforts to pass this legislation? Contact us at email@example.com.
(Photo: After meeting with constituents earlier this month in suburban Chicago, Congressman Peter Roskam agreed to become the next co-sponsor of the Respect for Peace Corps Volunteers Act!)
Come to Capitol Hill for Health Justice Awareness Day - June 22 see more
We are very proud of the hard work and commitment of our NPCA Volunteer Advocacy Coordinators – who are the key conduits between NPCA advocacy staff and our community at large. As we approach our third annual Health Justice Awareness Day, we are featuring Louisiana Advocacy Coordinator Kendra LeSar (Honduras 2007-09), who will be on Capitol Hill on June 22 to advocate for critical Peace Corps health care legislation, something she cares about from both a professional and personal perspective.
Best of Both Worlds
When Kendra graduated from college, she faced a decision that many face. Peace Corps or graduate school? “When I found the Master's International program at Tulane University School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine it seemed like the best of both. I was assigned to work with two government-run health centers in eastern Honduras where I taught reproductive health, HIV prevention, and nutrition classes.”
Kendra’s main assignment ended turned out to be teaching 5th grade sex education at a public elementary school. “I loved it and have worked in school health ever since.”
Making Advocacy Personal
As an experienced advocate who has engaged at both the national and state level, Kendra is coming to Washington because she knows the most effective advocacy goes beyond a phone click.
“I think that participating in our democracy is critical. While emails and phone calls are useful, showing up and speaking to elected officials and their staff can have a huge impact on their consideration of issues.”
And, when it comes to Peace Corps post-service health care, Kendra’s personal experience is like that of many others. “I am coming to share my personal experience as a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who is proud to have served my country but who also faced challenges accessing care for service-related injuries when I came home. I hope to speak with elected officials from Louisiana to tell them how important the Peace Corps is and how difficult it can be, under the current system, for volunteers to receive the health care that they need.”
Progress on Multiple Fronts
As the Advocacy Coordinator with the Louisiana Peace Corps Association, Kendra says she is seeing increased interest in advocacy for Peace Corps and many other issues. “Our campaign to contact elected officials in March led to (Congressman) Cedric Richmond signing on to the Peace Corps funding Dear Colleague letter for the first time. It's exciting to see our efforts pay off!”
At the same time, Kendra notes that being an advocate for the Peace Corps goes beyond funding. “Funding is obviously essential to keep the Peace Corps operating, but to truly support the current, future, and returned volunteers we need to advocate for policies to improve the agency. As a public health professional, I think it is critical to ensure that all volunteers have access to the health services they need both while they are serving and when they return home.”
There is still time to join Kendra on Capitol Hill on June 22nd, but you need to register here by our Sunday, June 18th deadline.
And, if you can’t join us on Capitol Hill, set aside time and make plans to take action on June 22nd during our Health Justice Awareness Day.
Megan Patrick posted an articleTop 10 events in 2016 for the Peace Corps community. see more
The Peace Corps community experienced a tremendous year — one that closes an era and presents an open future. Together in 2016, we reinforced our connection and shared experience; we advocated for the right to serve; we created positive impact both domestically and abroad. In the 55th year of America's greatest institution, Peace Corps Volunteers expanded programs into new countries, while Returned Peace Corps Volunteers united to meet new global challenges in affiliate groups. The following list reflects closure, new beginnings, and our community's diverse acts toward Peace Corps values in 2016:
- NPCA published the final print Peace Corps Community Directory, and provided an online platform for all PCVs, RPCVs and Peace Corps staff to connect with individuals and affiliate groups.
- Peace Corps announced historical new programs in Myanmar and Vietnam.
- With firm conviction that RPCVs have the cross-cultural skills, adaptability, and commitment to make a significant contribution in the global humanitarian effort, Peace Corps Community for the Support of Refugees became an official NPCA affiliate group.
- With the retirement of Congressman Sam Farr (D-CA) and the defeat of Congressman Mike Honda (D-CA), just two RPCVs are left in Congress, the lowest level of representation in almost 40 years.
- Peace Corps unveiled a new look to engage the next generation of service-minded Americans.
- In one day, over 230 individuals arrived on Capitol Hill to tell Congress that America and the world need a bigger, better Peace Corps. *To read more about NPCA's 2016 advocacy wins click here.
- The community celebrated the 55th anniversary of the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C. Sept 21-25, 2016.
- NPCA transformed into a mission-driven organization with the global impact of the Community Fund.
- Carrie Hessler-Radelet served her final year as the 19th Director of the Peace Corps. **Share your memories and photos here in gratitude for her service.
- Donald Trump became President-elect of the United States. A 115th Congress and a Trump Administration present a new political landscape.
Navigating the future for the Peace Corps depends on all of us. With your support and engagement, we will continue shaping history together in 2017.
JM Ascienzo posted an articleDetails on the President's proposed budget cuts: implications and opposition see more
Last week the Trump Administration released its full budget proposal for fiscal year 2018, requesting a nearly $12 million cut to Peace Corps and a 32% cut to International Affairs. These cuts represent the biggest budget decrease requested for the Peace Corps by a president in over 40 years as well as spending levels for development and diplomacy programs not seen since 9/11 when adjusted for inflation.
The Administration's budget cuts the Peace Corps 2.7% from $410 million to $398,221,000, making it nearly impossible for the agency to set a course for significantly increasing the number of Volunteers in the field and meeting its target of 10,000 Volunteers by the end of fiscal year 2018; approximately 7,200 Volunteers currently serve. The cuts would come at a time when the agency is poised to dramatically enhance its impact. Nearly 24,000 Americans applied to serve in fiscal year 2016, with applications for the two-year program the second highest in 40 years. Additionally, many countries continue to request more Volunteers. Increasingly, the Peace Corps has leveraged Volunteers' skills, cultural agility, and placements to implement projects for the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), and in recent years Volunteers have become indispensable to interagency partnerships focused on malaria prevention and global food security. The agency has also successfully implemented significant safety, security, and health improvements.
Overall International Affairs fares far worse in the president's budget, facing devastating cuts that would bring America's development and diplomacy programs back to WWII levels as a percentage of GDP. The cuts include 44% for development and economic programs, zeroing out assistance to 37 countries, a reduction of global health programs by 26%, and a 44% decrease for humanitarian assistance. For a comprehensive overview, including by line item, see the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition's full budget analysis.
Opposition to the cuts from Capitol Hill has been loud since the president's "skinny" budget was released—and grew louder with the full budget. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), chair of the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee—which sets funding levels for the Peace Corps and International Affairs—said that if the budget were implemented "we'd have to retreat from the world and put a lot of people at risk," setting the stage for "a lot of Benghazis." Representative Hal Rogers (R-KY-5), Senator Graham's counterpart in the House, called the proposed cuts "potentially counterproductive to our national security goals."
Cuts of this magnitude to the International Affairs Budget would also likely inhibit the Peace Corps' partner agencies from maintaining or enhancing partnerships, including with the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), global food security projects and malaria prevention. These cuts would also have devastating impact on the countless Returned Peace Corps Volunteers currently working in the development and diplomacy sectors, and current and future PCVs who hope to pursue a career with America's international affairs programs.
While the Administration’s budget might not be implemented in full, it does set the stage for negotiations between the White House and Congress. This summer and fall the House and Senate Budget Committees will work to set the topline discretionary spending level for the federal government (known as the 302(a) allocation), followed by the critical decisions made by the Appropriations Committees on spending allocations for each spending bill (known as the 302(b) allocation). NPCA and its international affairs advocacy partners have been advocating for $60 billion for the State, Foreign Operations Appropriations bill since before the inauguration.
In addition to the firewall of opposition to the budget from Capitol Hill, America's military leaders and the faith-based and business communities have all spoken out against cuts. The morning before the budget release 225 business executives sent a letter to Secretary of State Tillerson—CEO to CEO—stating "the importance of U.S. international affairs programs to boost our exports abroad and our jobs here at home." The letter followed one from over 100 faith-based leaders to Congressional leadership, noting their "moral responsibility to urge [Congress] to support and protect the International Affairs Budget," and a letter from over 120 retired three and four-star generals to Congressional leadership stating that the "Peace Corps and other development agencies are critical to preventing conflict and reducing the need to put our men and women in uniform in harm’s way."
A record level of support for the Peace Corps from the House came in March, when 175 members signed a bipartisan letter to appropriators requesting level funding of $410 million for the agency. A Senate companion letter is expected to begin circulating in early June.
Until the president has signed a spending bill for fiscal year 2018 into law, NPCA and its partners will continue to advocate for $410 million for the Peace Corps and $60 billion for the International Affairs Budget. The Peace Corps community has been active at the local and national level since November, sending in thousands of letters, postcards and phone calls to Capitol Hill, placing letters-to-the-editor and Op-Eds in local papers, meeting with lawmakers in the district and in Washington, DC during NPCA's March National Days of Action, and are currently gearing up for more actions. To learn more please visit NPCA's #ProtectPeaceCorps webpage and contact your NPCA Advocacy Coordinator to get involved locally.