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The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) ends the 111th Congress with defeats for all three of its legislative priorities – Peace Corps doubling, Peace Corps authorization, and a Peace Corps monument on the Mall. Zero for three.
Jan 1, 2011 Legislative Summary for Peace Corps after 111th Congress
First, the vaunted Peace Corps doubling campaign – led by NPCA – is now totally and unequivocally over. The Peace Corps was appropriated $340 million in Fiscal Year 2008 and 2009. In FY 2010 it received $400 million and it’s looking like it’ll receive no more than this amount for FY 2011. We won’t know the final figure for FY 2011 until the Congress reconvenes. The $400 million figure is set in the Continuing Appropriations Resolution that remains in effect until March. The Republican-controlled House is not likely to appropriate funds that exceed this amount and it might well appropriate less. In recent years, it’s been the House that has led the Senate in proposing to expand Peace Corps appropriations. There is open talk that the House Republicans will move to freeze government spending at FY 2008 levels. The national focus controlling the enormous national debt means that the mid-and-long term prospects for Peace Corps appropriations are grim. Anticipating that the Congress would appropriate substantially increased funds, the Peace Corps took the risk of added 1,000 additional Volunteers last year. This will prove to be a major miscalculation now that the increased appropriations have evaporated. In order to sustain these additional Volunteers, the Peace Corps will now need to substantially curtail the number of additional invitations it will issue in the next year so it can sustain the “surge” group through their second year of service.
Peace Corps Authorization
As the FY 2010 and FY 2011 appropriations bills are processed, House Republicans might ask whether the $50,000 the government pays per year per Peace Corps Volunteer would be better spent to fully implement the new Volunteers for Prosperity program that places volunteers with NGOs and minimizes the need for an expensive and heavy-handed US government bureaucracy. Increasing the vulnerability of the Peace Corps in the appropriations process is its failure to embrace fundamental reform. NPCA led the effort to kill the 2007 Dodd Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 732, a bill that mandated fundamental reform. NPCA’s opposition to reform to empower the Volunteers is best explained by NPCA’s financial entanglement with the Peace Corps management, which opposed the bill.
In its place in 2009 Senator Dodd proposed S. 1382, a bill that mandated no reforms and instead asked simply that the Peace Corps think deeply about itself and prepare a report of its findings. Predictably NPCA supported this approach. The bill would have authorized $450 million for the Peace Corps in 2010, $575 million in 2011, and $700 million in 2012, the amounts needed to double the number of Volunteers. The Dodd bill was reported by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, but it never saw action on the Senate floor and expired with the Congressional adjournment, another defeat for NPCA. Senator Dodd has retired and will not be available to champion the Peace Corps in the next Congress.
Peace Corps Assessment
In response to the 2009 Dodd bill call for a report, in June 2010 the Peace Corps assessment released a report that contains few penetrating questions and no fundamental reforms for the agency. It fails to address the reforms proposed in the 2007 Dodd bill. In one sentence it mentions the 31% worldwide early termination rate, but it fails to mention that the ET rate in some countries and in some programs is running at 40-50-or even 60%. It is fair to ask if the Peace Corps is wasting 31% of its budget and paying a huge development and human price for these early terminations. (The Peace Corps denies Freedom of Information Act requests for accurate and complete ET rate data.) The report fails to mention that in recent years nearly 100% of the applicants who survived the medical screening process have been invited to training – in short, that there is no surplus of Volunteers to fuel expansion and essentially no selectivity other than for medical fitness. The report selectively reports results from the agency’s surveys of the Volunteers. It fails to mention that in the 2008 survey the Volunteers supported reform over expansion by 2.5 to 1. It fails to report the country-by-country and program-by-program results which reveal which countries are poorly managed. (The Peace Corps denies Freedom of Information Act requests for the complete survey results.) Most significantly, the Dodd bill asked the Peace Corps to assess mechanisms for Volunteers to express their views regarding programs and personnel on a confidential basis – the key provision of the 2007 Dodd bill. The Peace Corps report fails to provide this assessment. In 2007 and again in 2010 the Peace Corps has belittled, opposed, and silenced legislation to mandate that the agency engage Volunteers on a confidential basis to review programs and staff and to give Volunteer whistle blowers protection against retaliation. Peace Corps staff have whistle blower rights, but Volunteers don’t.
NPCA’s third major campaign has to secure authorization for a monument to the Peace Corps on or near the National Mall. That bill passed the House and also expired with the Congressional Adjournment. Instead of pushing for a monument with a budget of up to $7 million, NPCA should have devoted itself to funding grants for Third Goal projects.
It’s now time for NPCA to examine its failures in the 111th Congress. Its vaunted doubling campaign is over. The legislation authorizing the doubling has expired. The legislation authorizing the Peace Corps monument has expired. Perhaps it is now time, finally, NPCA to serve as an effective advocate for the Volunteers in the field, to press for fundamental Peace Corps reform and quality rather than quantity, and to abandon the self-serving notion that we Volunteers need a monument on the Mall.
Mar 18, 2010
WASHINGTON, D.C., – Peace Corps Director Aaron S. Williams testified before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs in support of President Obama’s $446.15 million Fiscal Year 2011 budget request for the Peace Corps.
In prepared testimony, Director Williams detailed his vision for the future of Peace Corps and how the appropriated funds will be used to invest in quality growth, innovation, and recruiting the next generation of Peace Corps volunteers. Director Williams’ testimony may be found in its entirety here.
Notable exceptions in Testimony
See requirements for testimony: Congressional_Appropriations#The_conferees_expect_the_review_and_strategy_for_reform_to_include_recommendations_for
- ET figures not discussed.
- Volunteer empowerment strategies http://www.peacecorpswiki.org/Peace_Corps_Volunteer_Empowerment_Act
- Whistle Blower Protection
Feb 1, 2010
President Barack Obama released his fiscal year 2011 budget. The President has requested a budget of $446.15 million for the Peace Corps. The proposed budget request reflects a plan for agency wide investment in quality growth, and will enable the Peace Corps to recruit, train, and support thousands of Americans willing to devote two years of their lives to public service in communities abroad.
Over 7600 Americans are serving as Peace Corps volunteers in 76 countries around the world. Volunteers assist local communities with projects that are designed to educate students, encourage economic development, protect and restore the environment, increase the agricultural capabilities of farming communities, expand access to basic health care for families, and address HIV/AIDS prevention and care. Peace Corps volunteers make lasting contributions to the United States and the international community by promoting mutual understanding between the peoples of the United States and other nations, responding to humanitarian crises and natural disasters, developing leadership skills among host country nationals, and preparing America's work force with overseas experience.
Dec 13, 2009 Final DEPARTMENT OF STATE, FOREIGN OPERATIONS, AND RELATED PROGRAMS APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2010
Chart Peace Corps Funding as compared to other Independent Agencies
DEPARTMENT OF STATE - FOREIGN OPERATIONS - AND RELATED PROGRAMS - FY 2010 -Independent Agencies (in thousands $)
| DEPARTMENT OF STATE |
| FY 2005|
| FY 2006|
| FY 2007|
| FY 2008|
| FY 2009|
| FY 2010 |
| FY 2010 |
| FY 2010 |
| FY 2010 FINAL |
|Millennium Challenge Corporation||1,488,000||1,752,000||1,751,000||1,475,000||875,000||1,425,000||1,400,000||950,000||1,105,000||+230,000|
|African Development Foundation||22,000||22,000||27,000||35,000||32,500||30,000||30,000||30,000||30,000||-2,500|
|Total, Independent Agencies||1,860,000||2,124,000||2,130,000||1,878,000||1,270,000||1,851,200||1,902,760||1,376,440||1,558,000||+288,000|
Source: Sec. 7025. "Authorities for the Peace Corps, Inter-American Foundation and African Development Foundation." http://docs.house.gov/rules/omni2010/hr3288cr_divf_jes.pdf
PEACE CORPS (INCLUDING TRANSFER OF FUNDS)
The conference agreement provides $400,000,000 for the Peace Corps, which is $50,000,000 below the House and $26,560,000 above the Senate. The conference agreement includes a provision directing the Peace Corps to consult with and notify the Committees on Appropriations when a decision is made to open, close, suspend, or significantly reduce the number of personnel of a domestic or overseas office or a Peace Corps country program. The conferees provide an exception to this requirement when the situation presents a substantial security risk to volunteers or Peace Corps personnel and prior consultation or notification would delay actions necessary to safeguard personnel. Pursuant to section 7015(e) of this Act, the conferees intend that the Peace Corps shall notify the Committees as early as practicable, but no later than three days after taking action, whenever substantial risk to human health or welfare requires a waiver of the notification requirement. The conference agreement includes a provision requiring the Director of the Peace Corps to submit a spending plan to the Committees on Appropriations not later than 45 days after enactment of this Act on the proposed uses of funds. The report should include a detailed budget for funds under this heading, short-term policy and operational changes being made to absorb funding increases above current services levels, and any specific plans related to recruitment, number and placement of volunteers, existing country programs, and opening of new country programs. The conference agreement also includes a provision requiring the Director to submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations, not later than 180 days after enactment of this Act, which includes the findings of a comprehensive assessment of the current program model of the Peace Corps and a strategy for reforming operations, similar to that proposed by the House and Senate.
The conferees expect the review and strategy for reform to include recommendations for
- 1)improving the recruitment and selection process to attract a wide diversity of highly and appropriately skilled volunteers;
- 2) training and medical care for volunteers and staff, as appropriate;
- 3) adjusting volunteer placement to reflect priority United States interests, country needs and commitment to shared goals, and volunteer skills;
- 4) coordinating with international and host country development assistance organizations;
- 5) lowering Early Termination rates;
- 6)strengthening management and independent evaluation and oversight; and
- 7) any other steps needed to ensure the effective use of resources and volunteers, and to prepare for and implement an appropriate expansion of the Peace Corps. The conferees support the Director's plan to involve external specialists in the review process.
Dec 10, 2009 House FY 2010 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations News
The FY 2010 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill helps protect our national security through effective diplomacy and development. It provides needed assistance to frontline states – Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq – and it promotes security, economic development, health, education, food security, and environmental protection around the world. The bill also provides vital resources to rebuild the capacity of the State Department and USAID. It reverses a decade of reliance on supplemental appropriations and provides an honest accounting of the cost of critical national security initiatives. http://appropriations.house.gov/pdf/FY10_SFOPS_Conference_Summary.pdf
Dec 10, 2009 Summary Letter by Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff
Dear House and Senate Appropriations Committees Staff, OMB Staff, and Staff of Senator Dodd and Representatives Farr/McCollum:
The FY 10 appropriations process is over and the Congress has decisively rejected the notion that we should double the number of Peace Corps Volunteers. Given the mismanagement in the Peace Corps, this is a wise choice. Rapid expansion would have been a disaster for the Peace Corps.
The Obama budget didn't support doubling and now the Congressional appropriation doesn't. The end to the doubling campaign is a decisive victory for the Volunteers, who voted for reform over expansion by 46% to 20%.
However, the key issue remains: Will the Peace Corps acknowledge the pervasive mismanagement at the agency and expend its increased appropriations on reform -- on quality. Will it abandon the numbers game it's been playing for many decades? If reducing the number of Volunteers and countries is the best way to improve quality, will it do that?
The Senate Appropriations Committee report of July 9, 2009, explains in explicit terms what the Peace Corps needs to do to restore its credibility in the Congress.
The Committee strongly supports the mission of the Peace Corps, which can be as relevant today in promoting American values abroad as it was when it was founded almost a half century ago. But the world has changed significantly since then, and the Peace Corps needs to adapt to the 21st century. Past efforts by the Committee to encourage the Peace Corps to reform and make better use of resources have been ignored. A new Director with a new vision, who recognizes the need for reform, supports transparency and seeks a constructive relationship with Congress, is urgently needed. The Committee is aware that some have called for a large increase in funding above the amount requested by the President for fiscal year 2010, in order to send volunteers to new countries. Very few of such countries are safe enough or otherwise ready to host volunteers, and there are hundreds of volunteers currently serving in countries with little if any strategic importance to the United States who could be used more effectively. The Committee expects to recommend additional increases in funding to support the goal of doubling the Peace Corps, including sending more volunteers to countries with large Muslim populations, once it is clear that a new Director is providing the leadership the Peace Corps needs. (See Senate Report 111-44).
Note: The final FY 10 appropriation is $23 million closer to the Senate figure than the House figure.
Given the 35% ET rate, it would have been foolish and imprudent for the Peace Corps to substantially increase the number of Volunteers. It would see 35% of the additional Volunteers ET and 35% of their replacements ET, etc. The Peace Corps must focus intensively on how to bring down the costly ET rate. This can only be done with substantial improvements in the job assignments of the Volunteers, training for development, seed funding and other support, elimination of the condescension and petty harassment of the Volunteers, selecting applicants with a commitment to and experience with cross-cultural immersion and development, and many other fundamental reforms. A transformation in the Peace Corps' highly bureaucratic and risk averse culture is necessary.
With the negative reports of the Volunteers to the 2008 Peace Corps survey - regarding the quality of the Peace Corps accomplishments and management - the need for fundamental reform is clear. The Volunteers deserve better and the Volunteers who supplied us with affidavits about gross mismanagement in 28 countries deserve better. What they need is a reasonable opportunity to succeed with sustainable development projects. Giving them a post-college cross-cultural experience is not enough to justify the government spending $45,000 per year per Volunteer.
The Peace Corps should use the 2008 survey to target its reforms. It should use it to close down the most dysfunctional programs -- starting with the ones where the Volunteers themselves recommend that the programs be terminated, the ones with the highest ET rates and the lowest extension rates. Here's a target list: Ghana, 40.1% ET rate; Burkina Faso, 42.6%; Tonga, 42.6%; Eastern Caribbean, 43.8%; Ecuador, 44.1%; Costa Rica, 45.1%; Georgia, 49.4%; Guyana, 49.6%; Jamaica, 50%; Benin, 50.5%; Jordan, 50.9%; Samoa, 51.9%; Niger, 52.2%; Suriname, 53.1%; Kyrgyzstan, 55.7%; Kiribati, 57.8%; and Ethiopia, 69%. (Source country-by-country results of 2008 survey.)
The Peace Corps should move to expand only those programs that are found to be well managed -- perhaps 15 countries now qualify. It should focus on the countries where the Volunteers give more support to expansion: 59% in Guinea, 55% in Mexico and Peru, 51% in Mozambique, 50% in Kiribati, 48% in Armenia, 47% in Tanzania, 45% in Madagascar, 44% in China and Zambia, and 40% in Azerbaijan. It should not consider expanding in countries where most of the Volunteers oppose expansion: only 3% in Surinam support expansion, The Gambia, and Macedonia support expansion; 4% in Benin and Samoa; 5% in Jamaica and Romania; 6% in the Eastern Caribbean; 7% in Bulgaria; Cape Verde and Togo; 8% in Ghana and Ukraine; and 9% in Botswana, Fiji, Moldova and Morocco.
We've recommended twenty areas where increased expenditures -- $31+ million -- are needed to fund reform. See our reform budgets attached.
It must organize itself so that it has an institutional memory of successful projects that can be replicated and taken to scale. The Peace Corps has essentially lost 50 years worth of lessons about what works and doesn't work.
The Peace Corps should provide seed funding for Volunteer projects as an initial step to fortifying First Goal accomplishments. This was a mandate in the 2007 Dodd Peace Corps bill.
It should fully fund third-year extensions.
It should set up listening mechanisms -- including 360 degree reviews -- so that Volunteers voices are heard - regarding programs and managers. This is common practice in all well managed entrepreneurial firms. This was a mandate in the 2007 Dodd bill.
It should reduce the ratio of Volunteers to program staff to 15-to-1 (from about 35-to-1).
It should raise the standard of medical care for Volunteers.
It should substantially modify the Five-Year rule, which destroys continuity and institutional memory.
We have to reduce the number of political appointees at the agency and substantially improve the quality of the Country Directors.
In addition, the Peace Corps should cease claiming that there are 20 countries that are "shovel-ready" for the Peace Corps. This claim is dubious at best, like the Peace Corps' misrepresentation regarding the ET rate of Volunteers.
The Peace Corps should cease making claims about the overall number of initial applicants when the only relevant number is of those who survive the medical and legal clearance process. Touting the number of initial applicants is like touting the number of runners who start a maratho rather than the number who finish. As we found in response to our FOIA request to the Peace Corps, in FY 2007 the ratio of applicants who survived medical and legal clearance (that is "qualified" applicants who meet the minimum standard for becoming Volunteers) to the available training slots was 1.04 to 1 and in FY 2008 it was 1.03 to 1. Only 180 and 142, respectively, of these "qualified" applicants were not invited to training. That is, there was no surplus of "qualified" applicants. Perhaps this is now changing, but do we really want Peace Corps Volunteers who have joined because they are refugees from the economic crisis with no other job options?
We need a substantial surplus of applicants -- a real surplus -- so that the Peace Corps can begin to be selective -- focusing on those applicants with the commitment and skills needed to thrive as agents of development and cross-cultural exchange.
The Congress must begin to engage in serious oversight of the agency.
It should enact the 2009 Dodd authorization bill. It's a pale version of his 2007 authorization bill, which included sixteen mandates, but it gives the Peace Corps an opportunity to demonstrate that it's committed to reform. The 2009 bill should be strengthened with amendments we have proposed -- see attached.
The House should press GAO to conduct a searching inquiry of the Peace Corps.
OMB must end the Peace Corps misrepresentations regarding the ET rate and number of initial applicants.
We hope that the Peace Corps will now turn the corner -- away from the numbers game. We hope it will finally focus on quality. This is the transformation it will need to make to secure the confidence of the Hill. This is what the Volunteers deserve.
Finally, it's time to abandon the embarrassing and self-congratulatory idea of building a monument to the Peace Corps on or near the Mall. A monument implies that the Peace Corps is near perfect, which is inconsistent with the sorry reality in the Peace Corps today. NPCA should focus on securing funding Third Goal programs -- which it has never provided and which has been deleted from the 2009 Dodd bill -- instead of seeking to raise up to $7 million for this monument.
Thanks for your support and vision. Now the hard work must begin on a fundamental overhaul of the Peace Corps. Long overdue.
Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff
Dec 10, 2009 Country-by-Country results by Chuck Ludlam
Dear Friends of the Peace Corps:
We have previously sent to you -- included in our mega-reform report -- a summary of the worldwide results of the Peace Corps 2008 Biennial Survey of the Volunteers. The pervasively mediocre results confirm our emphasis on reform and our cautions about expansion.
We have now obtained the country-by-country results for this survey and they provide a neon-lit road map for which countries are most in need of reform and which are best able to manage expansion.
We have loaded the results on an Excel spread sheet that ranks the countries top-to-bottom on certain key measures. It's obvious that some countries repeatedly appear at the top and others repeatedly appear at the bottom. Overall the results are mediocre, but there are a few well managed programs. There are some disastrously mismanaged programs. The mismanagement is confirmed by the worldwide 35% Early Termination rate, which the Peace Corps continues to conceal. It's also confirmed by the affidavits we've forwarded to you from Volunteers in 28 countries regarding mismanagement.
The survey has 85 questions but there are four that appear to be particularly important in assessing how to proceed. The effectiveness of the Country Director, the degree to which the country staff support the Volunteers, the Volunteer's views on whether reform or expansion should be the top priority, and the impact of the programs in achieving sustainable results.
The top and bottom ranked countries follow a pattern in these four areas -- not a precisely correlation but it's clear where the opportunities and challenges lie. When we combine the survey data, with the Early Termination rate data (cohort rate), and extension rate data, we can see precisely where to target our reforms and expansion.
If the Peace Corps is truly interested in quality and not just quantity, it can use this data to target its reforms and institute a continuous process of renewal. It can also institute 360 degree reviews to learn even more about the Volunteer viewpoint.
We submit that there is no one better positioned to assess the performance of the Peace Corps than the Volunteers. The RPCVs need to focus on the 2009 version of the Peace Corps. We need to listen to TODAY's Volunteers. We need to respect and empower them. "We" includes the Congress and the RPCVs.
As you've seen, we have presented a comprehensive reform agenda in our draft report. We have also transmitted to you a comprehensive budget reform and expansion that dovetails with the report. It calls for $31 million in appropriations for reform, not counting appropriations to cover the current shortfalls and expansion.
One crucial element is for the authorizing Committees to embrace reform, centered around the Dodd/Kennedy PCV Empowerment Act. It sets up 360 degree reviews, the most important reform. It also focuses on support for Volunteers to achieve sustainable results.
We have high confidence that the Appropriations Committees and OMB will provide crucial leadership in favor of reform and expansion.
We've documented the need for fundamental reform -- meticulously. We’ve documented how we can grow the Peace Corps organically by reducing ETs and promoting extensions. We've now documented country-by-country where the reform is needed most. We're supportive of expansion if it's targeted at the (few) well managed countries. We hope that you find this helpful.
Following is a summary of the country-by-country survey data for the four key questions mentioned above.
We're previously reported that overall the Volunteers support reform over expansion by a 46% to 20%. We should listen to the Volunteers on this crucial subject. Here are the top scores for reform and the top scores for expansion vs. reform.
The Volunteers in some countries enthusiastically support expansion: 59% in Guinea, 55% in Mexico and Peru, 51% in Mozambique, 50% in Kiribati, 48% in Armenia, 47% in Tanzania, 45% in Madagascar, 44% in China and Zambia, and 40% in Azerbaijan. In others there is very little support for expansion: only 3% in Surinam, The Gambia, and Macedonia support expansion; 4% in Benin and Samoa; 5% in Jamaica and Romania; 6% in the Eastern Caribbean; 7% in Bulgaria; Cape Verde and Togo; 8% in Ghana and Ukraine; and 9% in Botswana, Fiji, Moldova and Morocco. If the Peace Corps is listening to and respecting Volunteers it will only expand in the countries where the Volunteers support expansion.
In terms of reducing or terminating programs, the Volunteers are equally decisive. 45% of the Volunteers in Togo support reducing or terminating the program; 40% in Jamaica; 38% in The Gambia; 35% in Samoa; 24% in Macedonia; 25% in Surinam (all for termination); and 21% in Ukraine. If the Peace Corps is listening to and respecting Volunteers it will not expand these programs and it will consider reducing them.
In terms of refocusing and redesigning programs, there are many where the overwhelming majority of the Volunteers are in support; 74% in Jordan; 73% in Ethiopia; 72% in Benin; 71% in Romania; 69% in Surinam; 68% in Botswana; 67% in Niger; 64% in Fiji, Guyana, and Cape Verde; 63% in Bulgaria and Moldova; 62% in Cambodia; 61% in Samoa and Tonga; 60% in Eastern Caribbean; 57% in Senegal and Turkmenistan; 56% in Cameroon, Ghana and Thailand; 55% in Morocco and South Africa; and 47% in China. Clearly, an investigation is needed in these countries to determine how the Volunteers would recommend that the program be reformed.
There were only a few countries where many Volunteers supported maintaining a program “as is.” These include 49% of the Volunteers in Micronesia; 47% in Zambia; 43% in Panama; 41% in Paraguay; and 40% in Vanuatu.
In terms of the ratings of Country Directors, here are the rankings:
The top ten rated Country Directors are: Romania, Botswana, Lesotho, Guinea, Moldova, Vanuatu, Mauritania, Senegal, Micronesia and Dominican Republican. Here are the bottom ten rated CDs: Morocco, Mongolia, Ethiopia, Surinam, Ecuador, Uganda, Mozambique, Guyana, El Salvador and Jordan. If the Peace Corps is listening to the Volunteers, it’ll back the best ranked CDs and replace the worst.
In terms of the support given to Volunteers by the country Staff, here are the rankings:
The top ten rankings for staff support of Volunteers: China, Georgia, Macedonia, Kazakhstan, Bulgaria, Dominican Republic, Mongolia, Nicaragua, Vanuatu, and Azerbaijan. The bottom ten are: Namibia, Samoa, Zambia, South Africa, Fiji, Togo, Ethiopia, Guyana, Uganda, and Surinam.
In terms of the impact of the programs on sustainable development, here are the rankings:
The single most important measure – “building capacity” – shows that there are a few countries that are performing well. The top scores go to Ecuador where 55% of the Volunteers say that their assignments do well. The scores are high for Costa Rica and South Africa (54%), Honduras (52%), Botswana, Peru and Zambia (51%), and Belize, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, and Senegal (50%). The scores are poor for Jordan (9%), Swaziland (16%), Namibia (19%), China and Samoa (25%), Benin (26%), Ethiopia and Lesotho (27%), and Cambodia and Fiji (29%). The Peace Corps must take an intensive look at why some countries are so much more effective in achieving sustainable results and what it can do to raise all of the scores. This is a critical issue discussed at length in this report.
So, these survey responses give us targets – for reform and expansion. Combining them with ET rate data (cohort rate) and extension rate data – and most important, 360 degree reviews – we can see precisely how and WHERE to proceed with reform and expansion. What we need is a commitment at the Peace Corps and on the part of the RPCVs to focus on quality, not quantity.
Comments are welcome.
Thanks very much.
Dec 10, 2009 AMENDMENTS PROPOSED TO S. 1382, PC IMPROVEMENT AND EXPANSION ACT by Chuck Ludlam
AMENDMENTS PROPOSED TO S. 1382, THE PEACE CORPS IMPROVEMENT AND EXPANSION ACT
SIX PROPOSED ADDITIONAL PROVISIONS THAT COULD BE IMPLEMENTED BY THE PEACE CORPS WITH ITS EXISTING LEGAL AUTHORITY. THESE ARE BINDING REFORM MANDATES
1. PARTICIPATION OF PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS IN REVIEWS OF SENIOR STAFF AND PROGRAMS (360 DEGREE REVIEWS). (a) Reviews of Senior Staff- (1) IN GENERAL- The Director of the Peace Corps shall establish a mechanism for soliciting the views of Peace Corps volunteers serving in country, on a confidential basis, regarding the support provided by senior staff. The information shall be kept confidential and reported to the appropriate Regional Peace Corps Directors. (2) CONSIDERATION OF REVIEWS IN CONNECTION WITH CONTRACT DECISIONS- The information collected pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be given substantial weight in the decision making process with respect to the extension of contracts for Country Directors, Chief Administrative Officers, Peace Corps Medical Officers, and Associate Peace Corps Directors. (b) Reviews of Peace Corps Programs- (1) IN GENERAL- The Director of the Peace Corps shall establish a mechanism for soliciting the views of Peace Corps volunteers serving in country, on a confidential basis, regarding the design, effectiveness, and continued need for the programs in which they serve. The information shall be kept confidential and reported to the appropriate Regional Peace Corps Directors. (2) CONSIDERATION OF REVIEWS IN CONNECTION WITH PROGRAM DECISIONS- The information collected pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be given substantial weight in the decision making process with respect to the design of, and continued need for, Peace Corps programs. [This provision is a binding reform mandate taken from the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 732, introduced by Senators Dodd and Kennedy on March 1, 2007.]
2. INPUT OF VOLUNTEERS REGARDING SITE SELECTION AND TRAINING CURRICULUM. Country Directors and Associate Peace Corps Directors shall give substantial weight to the recommendations of Peace Corps volunteers regarding-- (1) Peace Corps site selection, including the placement of additional or subsequent Peace Corps volunteers at existing sites; and (2) the training curriculum for Peace Corps volunteers. [This provision is a binding reform mandate taken from the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 732, introduced by Senators Dodd and Kennedy on March 1, 2007]
3. REIMBURSEMENT FOR WORK RELATED EXPENSES OF VOLUNTEERS (a) Findings- Congress makes the following findings: (1) The Peace Corps is an agency focused on grassroots, bottom-up development. (2) Reimbursement for work related expenses for demonstration and similar projects is crucial to the success of Peace Corps volunteers. (3) Demonstration and similar projects are a very effective method for Peace Corps volunteers to educate people in host countries. (b) Funding- There is authorized to be appropriated up to 1 percent of the total amount appropriated for the Peace Corps for fiscal year 2010 and each fiscal year thereafter for reimbursement for work related expenses for Peace Corps volunteers to carry out demonstration and similar projects that have been approved in advance by the Peace Corps Country Director or his or her designee in the country where the volunteer is serving. (c) Reimbursement for work related volunteer expenses - (1) AVAILABILITY OF FUNDS- The Director of the Peace Corps shall determine at the beginning of each fiscal year the amount of funding that will be available as reimbursement for work related volunteer expenses for demonstration and similar projects for that fiscal year and inform each Country Director of the portion of that amount that will be available to distribute to volunteers under the supervision of such Country Director. (2) AWARDING OF FUNDS- The Director of the Peace Corps shall promulgate rules pursuant to which each Country Director may reimburse volunteers for work related expenses utilizing funds made available under this section to eligible Peace Corp volunteers. (3) ELIGIBILITY- To be eligible for reimbursement for work-related expenses under this subsection, a Peace Corps volunteer shall-- (A) submit to the Country Director or his or her designee of the country where the volunteer is serving a plan for a demonstration or similar project, including an explanation of how the demonstration or similar project will lead to sustainable development and a statement of the efforts the volunteers has made to secure funding for the demonstration or similar project from non-Peace Corps sources; and (B) make a written attestation that funds awarded under this subsection are utilized for the purposes specified in the plan. (4) AMOUNT OF REIMBURSEMENT- Reimbursement of work related expenses provided to a volunteer based on his or her application or applications for reimbursement may not exceed $1000 during his or her initial term of service. (5) REPORT- Each Peace Corps volunteer who receives reimbursement under this subsection shall submit to the Country Director or his or her designee of the country where the volunteer is serving before the close of such volunteer's service a report on the demonstration or similr project funded by the reimbursement. [This provision is a binding reform mandate taken from the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 732, introduced by Senators Dodd and Kennedy on March 1, 2007.]
4. CHARITABLE FUNDRAISING BY PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS. (a) Sense of Congress on Assistance in Fundraising- It is the sense of Congress that Peace Corps volunteers should apply for grants and loans from nongovernmental organizations to carry out demonstration projects, including by partnering with governmental and nongovernmental agencies and working with host country nationals. (b) Fundraising by Volunteers- (1) AUTHORITY- (A) IN GENERAL- Subject to subparagraph (B), Peace Corps volunteers are authorized to solicit contributions for demonstration projects from persons personally known to them, including family members, friends, and members of their home community in the United States, and from government and nongovernmental agencies, including, but not limited to working through the Peace Corps Partnership Program. Any such solicitation shall state the demonstration project or projects to which contributed funds will be applied. (B) REQUIRED APPROVAL- A Peace Corps volunteer shall seek and receive advance approval from the Country Director of the country where the volunteer is serving before exercising the authority under subparagraph (A). (2) ACCOUNTABILITY- Peace Corps volunteers receiving contributions pursuant to the authority under paragraph (1) shall-- (A) maintain records and receipts to confirm the proper application of contributed funds; and (B) ensure that such funds are expended solely for the demonstration project or projects for which they were intended. [This provision is a binding reform mandate taken from the Peace Corps Volunteer Empowerment Act, S. 732, introduced by Senators Dodd and Kennedy on March 1, 2007.]
5. TRANSPARENCY OF THE PEACE CORPS The Peace Corps shall publish on line information that it has supplied to the public in response to freedom of Information Act requests. [If the Peace Corps has determined that it is appropriate to produce this information to requesting parties, it should not object to others seeing it. This is a binding reform mandate.]
6. EARLY TERMINATION RATES DATA In an effort to better determine early termination rates of volunteers, the Peace Corps shall— (1) calculate the rate of early terminations among volunteers utilizing the cohort or similar statistical method; (2) publish such data on a yearly, country-by-country and program-by-program basis and include as much demographic data as is feasible and appropriate. [This provision is a binding reform mandate taken by a February 2009 draft of the Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act circulated by Senator Dodd’s staff.]
Dec 8, 2009 Congress Prepares to Approve $400 Million for Peace Corps by Jonathan Pearson
Breaking News: Congress Prepares to Approve $400 Million for Peace Corps
The United States Congress is beginning final action on Fiscal Year 2010 appropriations. According to Congressman Sam Farr, speaking tonight at an event in Washington to celebrate the Peace Corps, negotiations on the State/Foreign Operations appropriations bill have closed. Congressman Farr says the final bill contains $400 million for the Peace Corps.
"This wonderful news represents a tremendous and historic investment for a bigger, better and bolder Peace Corps", said National Peace Corps Association President Kevin Quigley. "Our congratulations to the many lawmakers on Capitol Hill who championed this cause, and also to the thousands of members of the Peace Corps community who took action over the past two years. As we prepare to continue future advocacy to improve, embolden and expand the Peace Corps, we applaud everyone who helped secure this initial victory. You really made a huge difference."
Further details, updates and "thank you" actions will be coming shortly.
Aug 10, 2009 Peace Corps Early Termination Rates: Country by Country Data by Chuck Ludam
Dear House and Senate Appropriations Committee Staffers: The most recent Peace Corps early termination rates are now public (see http://peacecorpswiki.org/Early_Termination#Current_ET_Rates) and they show that the worldwide ET rate (the percentage of Volunteers who do not complete their service) is running at 31%. The rates vary widely country-by-country. Here is a list of the ET rates – least to greatest percentage: Paraguay, 12.5%; China, 14.1%; Philippines, 16.8%; Guatemala, 18.2%; Lesotho, 18.3%; Azerbaijan, 18.5%; Namibia, 18.5%; Peru, 19.3%; Mauritania, 19.7%; Bulgaria, 20.1%; Kenya, 21.8%; Senegal, 22.1%; Panama, 22.8%; Tanzania, 22.8%; Mozambique, 23%; Nicaragua, 24.3%; Turkmenistan, 24.3%; Cape Verde, 25%; Malawi, 25.2%; Romania, 25.3%; Zambia, 25.8%; Ukraine, 26%; Mali, 26.8%; Fiji, 28%; Macedonia, 28.9%; Dominican Republic, 29%; Micronesia, 29.5%; Cameroon, 29.6%; Morocco, 29.7%; Bolivia, 30.1%; Swaziland, 30.2%; Vanuatu, 30.6%; Mongolia, 30.7%; Botswana, 30.9%; Moldova, 30.9%; Mexico, 31%; Honduras, 31.1%; Cambodia, 31.7%; Madagascar, 32%; Togo, 32%; Thailand, 32.1%; Uganda, 32.2%; Kazakhstan, 32.7%; Guinea, 32.8%; El Salvador, 33.3%; South Africa, 34.6%; Albania, 36.1%; Armenia, 38.2%; Belize, 38.7%; Gambia, 39.8%; Ghana, 40.1%; Burkina Faso, 42.6%; Tonga, 42.6%; Eastern Caribbean, 43.8%; Ecuador, 44.1%; Costa Rica, 45.1%; Georgia, 49.4%; Guyana, 49.6%; Jamaica, 50%; Benin, 50.5%; Jordan, 50.9%; Samoa, 51.9%; Niger, 52.2%; Suriname, 53.1%; Kyrgyzstan, 55.7%; Kiribati, 57.8%; and Ethiopia, 69%. It’s obvious that expansion of the number of Volunteers in countries with a high ET rate would be extremely wasteful. Why would we want to expand the number of Volunteers and see 50% of them ET? The Peace Corps should establish a policy of expanding only in countries with a low ET rate, say less than 20% (9 countries) or 25% (17 countries). It would be absurd to expand in countries with ET rates in excess of 30% (38 countries). We have proposed that expansion only occur in countries with low ET rates, high extension rates, excellent ratings of the managers and programs in the 2008 Biennial Survey of Volunteers, the ratio of APCDs and PCMOs to Volunteers is reduced and the other staff slots—Administrative Officers—and resources are appropriately increased to accommodate the additional Volunteers, and the CD establishes a program for 360 degree confidential reviews of programs and staff and publishes the results of these reviews to Headquarters and the Volunteers currently serving in that program. The direct and indirect cost of the 31% of the Volunteers who ET is high. The Peace Corps should calculate the cost of early terminations including direct costs and a prorated percentage of the agency’s overhead. One can argue that if 31% of the Volunteers ET, the Peace Corps has squandered 31% of its overall budget. A more accurate measure would give weight to how long the Volunteer served. The presumption should be that if a Volunteer ETs before the second year, most of the Peace Corps investment in that Volunteer has been squandered because Volunteers achieve most of their successes in their second year. The continuing refusal of the Peace Corps to report the number of Volunteers who complete their service (the cohort rate) is an obvious attempt to avoid having to defend a 31% ET rate at at time when it's lobbying openly for increased appropriations. The best ways for the Peace Corps to expand the number of Volunteers is to focus on reducing the ET rate and fully fund third year extensions. Expanding the number of Volunteers only to see high percentages of them ET is a costly and wasteful spiral. Thanks very much. Chuck Ludlam
Jun 19, 2009 Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff
Dear House Friends of the Peace Corps:
We thank Representatives Lowey and Granger and the members of their Subcommittee for their bipartisan support for appropriating $450 million for the Peace Corps for FY 2010.
Congratulations also go to the professional staffs of Representative Lowey and Granger (Nisha Desai, Craig Higgins, Ann Vaughan, Courtney Dunn, AnnMarie Chotvacs, and Jason Small), to Representatives Farr and McCollum and their professional staff (Marc Hanson, Debbie Merrill, Bill Harper, and Peter Frosch), and to Rajeev Goyal, Larry Leamer, Jonathan Pearson, Harris Wofford, and Tim Shriver.
Now comes the hard part – ensuring that the Peace Corps wisely invests these substantial funds.
More funding is necessary but not sufficient. More than increased funding, we need a commitment at the agency to institutionalize a process for renewal and reform, achieve greater sustainable development results, and listen to, respect and empower the Volunteers. Let’s be frank: funding has been lacking in the past primarily because vision and performance at the Peace Corps have been lacking.
For decades the Peace Corps has focused on increasing the numbers of Volunteers—emphasizing quantity at the expense of quality. A numbers game. Now it will have sufficient funds to focus on fundamental reforms—emphasizing quality as well as quantity. This is an opportunity for the Peace Corps to show that it can professionally manage Volunteers so that they have a greater impact on sustainable development. The challenge is to professionalize the Peace Corps and to address the high Early Termination rate, the low extension rate, and the Volunteer reports of pervasive mediocrity at the agency.
In setting its priorities, the Peace Corps should listen to the Volunteers. They overwhelmingly support reform over expansion—46% to 20%. More Volunteers want to maintain the level of Volunteers "as is" than to expand it. The Volunteers know best what the Peace Corps needs. As a policy matter, the bulk of the funds should be invested in reform and support of the Volunteers. Achieving greater results is a moral imperative and it is what we owe the Volunteers without whom there is no Peace Corps.
As a practical matter, the Peace Corps may have little choice but to invest the funds in reform and support of the Volunteers because the agency needs a year's lead time to prepare before the first Volunteers arrive in a new country. This means that the principal expenditures for expansion in new countries would come in FY 2011 and thereafter.
To increase the number of Volunteers at current posts, the Peace Corps needs first to build infrastructure—additional programs, training, medical and administrative staff, and high quality sites for more Volunteers. Achieving an absolute reduction in the ratio of Volunteers to program staff, beyond what is needed for expansion, should be an urgent priority. The main focus should be on improving program design and training using 360 degree reviews (confidential input from the Volunteers). The Peace Corps should expand only in the few countries that have a low ET rate, a high extension rate, and well above average ratings in the 2008 Biennial Survey. The many poorly managed posts should get no additional Volunteers.
The results of the 2008 Biennial Survey reveal which programs could expand and which ones must give priority to reform. The ET rates, the extension rates and the 2008 Biennial Survey give us the road map. We must listen to the Volunteers and pat attention to this data.
If the increased appropriations are invested in quality improvements, the Peace Corps is likely to automatically achieve a reduction in the 35% Early Termination rate. This would yield an increase in the number of Volunteers in the field. If the funds are invested to fund third-year extensions of Volunteers (without reducing the number of trainees), the number of Volunteers would also rise. Growing the Peace Corps based on quality improvements is the best strategy.
Investing funds to reform the dysfunctional medical selection process is another means to increase the number of applicants (compared to the number of trainees), permitting the Peace Corps to more carefully select which applicants are invited to training. This too should lower the ET rate.
We urge the appropriations committees to utilize report and legislative language and other communications to press for reforms. Attached is a list of eighteen issues we propose that it include in this language and these communications. We urge it hold an oversight hearing six months after the new Director is confirmed.
We urge the authorizing committees in the House and Senate, led by the RPCV Members, to introduce legislation mandating reform. They should start with the provisions of the Dodd/Kennedy bill (S. 732). The Senate could use this reform agenda as the basis for the confirmation hearing. If the Peace Corps leadership demonstrates a commitment to reform, not all provisions of the reform legislation would need to be legislated. (The 360 degree review and seed funding provisions are the top priorities for enactment.) We urge the authorizing committees to hold annual oversight hearings and solicit input from the Volunteers in the field.
We urge OMB to press for reforms under the Performance Results Act of 1993.
We hope you can acknowledge that one of the reasons why the Peace Corps went so far astray is that oversight by Congress, OMB, and RPCVs has been lacking. The Peace Corps has also been adversely affected by a absence of insightful analysis by the media. All of the Peace Corps publics must hold it strictly accountable for results, like any other agency or entity.
Our draft reform report, which provides a detailed plan for reform and expansion, will be issued when a Peace Corps director is nominated. Our proposed budget for reform targets 20 initiatives that would cost approximately $31 million to implement (not counting the cost of reducing the ratio of Volunteers to staff). We invite comments on these proposals from the Hill, OMB, the Peace Corps, PCV s and RPCVs.
If the Peace Corps makes good use of the funds to enhance its management of the Volunteers and achieves greater sustainable development results, then it lays the groundwork to legitimately request further increases in funding in the out years. It must not squander this opportunity, disappoint the Volunteers, and fail the host country nationals who rely on the Peace Corps to follow through on commitments to both sustainable development and cross cultural understanding.
Larry Leamer summed up what those of us who love the Peace Corps must do to follow up on this appropriations victory. “The Peace Corps has to be held to the highest standards. Rajeev [Goyal] and I are not in this for the short term. I’ve told Chairwoman Lowey and I’ve told Senator Leahy that we’re going to be just as relentless and tough on the Peace Corps once they get the funding, making sure that they are true to the vision of what the Peace Corps can be. And if they squander it, we’ll be back on the Hill next year blowing the whistle.” This approach should apply to the Volunteers in the field, the Peace Corps staff, the appropriations and authorizing committees, OMB, NPCA, the Friends groups, and individual RPCVs. See http://www.newsmax.com/headlines/peace_corps_party_divide/2009/06/16/225743.html
Thank you again for your support for the Peace Corps. We look forward to working with you to ensure that the Peace Corps reaches its full potential.
Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff
May 31, 2008 Recommendations Regarding PC Appropriations Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff
MEMORANDUM To: House and Senate Appropriations Committee Staff From: Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff Subject: The Bottom Line: Recommendations Regarding Peace Corps Appropriations
Thank you again for meeting with us last week regarding Peace Corps reform and appropriations issues.
You have seen our draft report on Peace Corps reform. Building on that framework, we would like to present a list of the functions at the Peace Corps for which we believe increased appropriations are justified. Our focus is on improving quality, not just quantity. For far too long, the Peace Corps has focused on a numbers game. It’s now time to focus on quality and update the Peace Corps for the 21st Century. Our focus on quality listens to the Volunteers, who have said by a margin of 46% to 20% that they support reform over expansion.
Appropriations for Reform
1. Early Termination Rates: The Peace Corps needs approximately $1 million in funds to develop and implement a wide-ranging strategic vision of how to halve the early termination rate (ET) due to non-medical causes. If this reduction is achieved, the number of Peace Corps Volunteers will rise organically by approximately 10%, a cohort of approximately 800 Volunteers. Note: the appropriate measure of the ET rate is the number and percentage of Volunteers who complete their 2+ years of service (the cohort rate), as explained in detail in our report. The only way the Peace Corps will be able to reduce the non-medical ET rate is to implement fundamental reforms such as those proposed here – all of which focus on quality and increasing the effectiveness of the Volunteers in achieving sustainable development and cross-cultural results. Volunteers who feel that they are accomplishing something worthwhile are much less likely to ET. With a worldwide ET rate of approximately 35% (cohort rate), it can be argued that the Peace Corps is wasting a substantial portion of the funds appropriated to it.
2. Third Year Extensions: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2.25 million to fully fund third year extensions of Volunteers. The Peace Corps should not zero out one training slot for every Volunteer who extends for a third year, as has been the policy. By fully funding third year extensions the Peace Corps can organically increase the number of Volunteers by a cohort of approximately 500.
3. Reimbursement of Volunteers for Work-Related Expenses: The Peace Corps needs approximately $6 million the first year and $4 million per year thereafter to give each Volunteer a $1000 account that they may draw on during their service for their work-related expenses. The Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Empowerment Act (S. 732)(110th Congress) makes this reform a priority.
This proposal and proposals 4-15 will all substantially increase the effectiveness of the Volunteers and help to reduce the ET rate. These proposals are discussed in our reform report.
4. Connectedness of Volunteers: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2 million to upgrade its networks to connect Volunteers with one another worldwide. The focus should be on providing Best Practices Guides (providing all the specifics on successful projects) to Volunteers so that they do not have to reinvent the wheel.
5. Innovation Fund: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2 million to award competitively for innovative programs of Country Directors, especially those focused on increasing the First Goal (development) accomplishments of the Peace Corps.
6. Sarge Fund: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2 million to take to scale the most successful Volunteer programs. These funds should be awarded based on a competition among Volunteers.
7. Reduction of the APCD and PCMO-to-Volunteer Ratio: The Peace Corps needs to reduce ratio of APCDs (program officers) and PCMOs (medical officers) to Volunteer to 20-to-1 and 50-to-1, respectively. We are not able to provide an estimate for the cost of this reform.
8. NGO/AID Partnerships: The Peace Corps needs approximately $500,000 to launch an initiative to substantially increase its partnerships with NGOs and US AID. Most of this funding should be go to the country posts.
9. Evaluation of First Goal Results: The Peace Corps needs approximately $1 million to launch a program for vigorous evaluation of the First Goal (development) results of the Volunteers.
10. Peace Building: The Peace Corps needs approximately $250,000 to launch a new initiative to position Volunteers to support peace building programs.
11. Written Language Materials and Language PodCasts: The Peace Corps needs approximately $1 million to launch a major program to develop written language materials and language podcasts for Volunteers. Most of this funding should go to the country posts.
12. Reimbursement for Required Medical Tests: The Peace Corps needs approximately $5 million to implement the Peace Corps IG recommended reforms of the medical screening process and to provide full reimbursement to applicants for the costs of required medical tests. By providing full reimbursement the Peace Corps can increase the pool of medically qualified applicants so that the Peace Corps can select from among them the most qualified and committed to invite to training. It can also better match the skills of the applicants to the available positions and reduce the extent to which it switches applicants away from the program that the applicant is nominated to serve in (prior to the medical selection process). This increased selectivity and improved matching will be especially helpful in reducing the ET rate. The Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Empowerment Act (S. 732)(110th Congress) makes reform of the medical selection process a priority.
13. Volunteer Input on Program and Staffing Decisions: The Peace Corps needs approximately $1 million to institutionalize 360 degree reviews – where Volunteers provide confidential reviews of the programs in which they serve and their managers. This is the way to hold managers accountable and institute a continuous process of reform and renewal. The results of these reviews, along with evidence from the ET rate, extension rate, and surveys of the Volunteers, must be given substantial weight in considerations of contract extensions for staff. The Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Empowerment Act (S. 732)(110th Congress) makes this reform a priority.
14. Raising the Standard of Medical Care: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2.5 million to raise the standard of medical care. See our report for detailed recommendations. This is a moral imperative for the Peace Corps.
15. Reconnecting RPCVs: The Peace Corps needs approximately $500,000 to launch an initiative to reconnect Volunteers to the countries and sites in which they served.
16. Upgrade Financial Systems: The Peace Corps needs approximately $2 million to upgrade its financial systems. See our report for specifics.
17. Staff Incentives: The Peace Corps needs $2.5 million to provide additional incentives to Peace Corps staff, including enhanced training and benefits comparable to those of other overseas mission staff. See our report for specifics.
18. WorldView Subscription: The Peace Corps needs approximately $50,000 to fully fund subscriptions to WorldView magazine (NPCA) to distribute it to all currently serving Volunteers.
19. Mentoring Program: The Peace Corps needs approximately $100,000 to fully fund the mentoring program it has established with NPCA for Volunteers who have recently completed their service.
20. Professionalization of Friends Groups: The Peace Corps needs approximately $200,000 to fund a program to professionalize the Friends groups (enabling them to provide support, including financial support, to PCVs). The Peace Corps should modify its fundraising rules, a priority in the Dodd/Kennedy Peace Corps Empowerment Act (S. 732)(110th Congress).
Total Appropriations for Reform: $31.58 million (not counting item 7)
The Peace Corps can provide more accurate estimates of the implementation costs of these reforms. It should be invited to advance additional reform proposals.
Note: Implementation of these reforms will be possible only if the Peace Corps ends the politicization of the Country Director (CD) selection process and upgrades the quality of these managers. The results of the 2008 Biennial Survey of the Volunteers documents the problems with the quality of the current cohort of CDs. CDs make or break the programs they manage.
Appropriations to Cover Shortfalls
In addition to implementation of these reforms, the Peace Corps needs approximately $30 million to cover its short-falls – and the reduction in the number of trainees – during the last year. Most of these are due to the devaluation of the dollar, inflation in commodity prices, and other developments beyond the control of the Peace Corps.
Appropriations for Expansion
In terms of expansion of the number of Volunteers, the first priority should be to grow the number of Volunteers organically through an emphasis on quality (see first two reform proposals above).
In addition, the Peace Corps should be appropriated sufficient funds to launch new programs. Note: It has been forced to terminate a number of programs recently (Bolivia, Guinea and Madagascar), so these savings could be applied to fund launching of new programs. We doubt if there are anything like 20 countries where Peace Corps programs can soon be launched.
In terms of expanding existing programs, funds should be appropriated to the Peace Corps for expansion of existing programs only in countries where it is clear that the current Peace Corps program in that country is well managed. This means that expansion should only be funded in countries where the following conditions hold: a. The non-medical ET rate is well below the worldwide average. b. The extension rate is well above the worldwide average. c. The ratings of the managers and programs in the 2008 Biennial Survey of Volunteers is among the top 15%. d. The ratio of APCDs and PCMOs to Volunteers is reduced and the other staff slots – AOs – and resources are appropriately increased to accommodate the additional Volunteers. e. The Country Director establishes a program for 360 degree confidential reviews of programs and staff and publishes these reviews to Headquarters and the Volunteers currently serving in that program.
Appropriations for Volunteers for Prosperity
The Subcommittee should fully fund the new Volunteers for Prosperity program, which promotes international volunteerism based on the AmeriCorps model. Fully funding the VfP program so that it can compete with the Peace Corps will enhance the prospects for substantial Peace Corps reform. The Peace Corps should be required to submit a report on how the Peace Corps intends to meet the competition from the VfP program, including an explanation for how the Peace Corps can justify expending over four times more per Volunteer.
In addition to funding and implementing programs for which appropriated funds are needed, the Peace Corps should be required to take actions that do not carry a cost.
It should publish the results of the 2008 Biennial Survey of Volunteers, with the results presented on a country-by-country basis, and forward the results to those applicants who are invited to training. It should be required to provide information to these invitees about the Early Termination rate in the country in which they are invited to serve (using the cohort rate of accounting). It should also be required to transmit the results of 360 degree reviews to these trainees. Invitees should be given access to the country websites so that they can chat with current Volunteers. This shift towards transparency will institutionalize a process of continuous reform and renewal.
The Peace Corps headquarters staff should be required to submit a plan to reduce the expenses and head count of headquarters by 15% for each of the next two years and transfer these resources to the country posts.
The Peace Corps should be required to transfer back to the Peace Corps Inspector General the authority and responsibility to investigate violent crimes against Volunteers. This issue is discussed in depth in our report.
The Peace Corps should be required to publish on line on an ongoing basis all of the documents that the Peace Corps produces in response to FOIA requests. The posting should include all documents produced since 2005.
Some reforms may need to be enacted into law. The Volunteers should be given standing as Whistle Blowers. The Inspector General for the Peace Corps should be appointed by the President to guarantee his or her independence. (We are active in promoting both proposals as legislation.) And the number of political appointees at the Peace Corps should be reduced to no more than 10.
It is crucial that the Appropriations Committees substantially increase their oversight of the Peace Corps and of the reform process.
Our draft reform report and this budget proposal make it clear that we support increased appropriations for the Peace Corps – principally to fund quality improvements.
If the Peace Corps embraces fundamental reform, then it should be rewarded with increased appropriations over the long term.
We are happy to discuss any and all of these recommendations with you. We very much appreciate your support for the Peace Corps.
Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff