Friday, September 21, 2012

Will Senate proposal shed light on Cuba programs?

Sen. Richard Lugar. Photo: lugar.senate.gov/ 
The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012 has a 68 percent chance of being enacted, according to Govtrack.us.
Senate bill 3310 would ask the president to establish:
  • Goals, performance, and evaluation guidelines for U.S. foreign assistance programs, country assistance plans, and international and multilateral assistance programs;
  • A website to make publicly available information on U.S. foreign assistance programs.
Some of that is already being done. (See the State Department's ForeignAssistance.gov). But Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., wants the government to do more.
Lugar introduced the act on June 19. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations reported on the bill on Sept. 19 and moved it along for further consideration, according to Govtrack.us. The House and Senate would have to pass the bill - and the president would have to sign it - for the legislation to take effect.
Would the proposal force the government to increase the transparency of State Department and USAID programs in Cuba?
Not by much. That's my guess.

The bill allows for some foreign aid programs to be exempt. It reads:
If the head of a Federal department or agency makes a determination that the
inclusion of a required item of information on the Web site would jeopardize the health or security of an implementing partner or program beneficiary or would be detrimental to the national interests of the United States, such item of information may be submitted to Congress in a written report in lieu of including it on the Web site, along with the reasons for not including it in the database required under subsection (c)(2).
Cuba programs could easily be exempt under that rule. And if that's not enough, there's another loophole. Government agencies would be allowed to exclude "classified or proprietary material." That is sufficiently broad and vague to allow the U.S. government - and private contractors - to continue to keep Cuba programs largely secret.

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