- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 1, 2003

Time is short to avert another 1984 in Africa

As the article "Aid workers seek to break hunger cycle" (World, Thursday) reminds us, famine stalks the people of Africa. Already ravaged by civil strife and the HIV pandemic, the African people face an even more immediate tragedy: Three years of drought have brought millions of them to the brink of starvation. More than 30 million people are considered to be at risk. Worse, because of the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, many of them are even less able to cope with reduced food availability. Death rates will rise and the work force available to get in new crops, having been severely reduced, will contribute to this cycle of hunger.

The country with the largest and most urgent famine scenario is Ethiopia, where almost 1 million people died in a terrible famine in 1984. An estimated 10 million to 12 million people are at risk, and Rep. Frank R. Wolf, Virginia Republican, who recently returned from the area, believes a repeat of 1984 can be avoided only if massive international resources can be mobilized quickly.

Brother Stephen Power, the Jesuit Refugee Service country director for Ethiopia, agrees. "The main concern is that food and cash have to be on the move now," he reports. "Pledges are not good enough."

To this end, and as soon as possible, Congress should pass the budget level for PL 480 Title II food aid of $1.2 billion in the president's budget for fiscal year 2003. Yet even this is not enough. Commodity prices have increased by 30 percent since the budget was written, and the crisis has expanded much more rapidly than anticipated. Humanitarian nongovernmental organizations are urging that an additional $600 million be appropriated for fiscal year 2003 to meet this crisis.

The Omnibus Appropriation bill, which has just passed the Senate, includes this funding, although lowering it to $500 million. The Senate's action is a great victory for humanitarian efforts and should be matched by the House in the coming conference committee negotiations.

This is the most time-urgent and threatening humanitarian crisis that the international humanitarian community has faced in many years. On behalf of the American people, the Congress must act promptly and generously.


Country director

Jesuit Refugee Service/USA


Bush AWOL on borders

In her Monday Commentary column, "State of the borders," Michelle Malkin predicts that President Bush would have "nothing nada to say during his State of the Union address" Wednesday night about the government's shameful neglect of border security. Sadly for America, she was correct.

At least Gov. Gary Locke, Washington state Democrat, in giving the Democrats' response to the president's address, drew some attention to the importance of border protection when he noted the unsuccessful attempt in 1999 of "an al Qaeda operative to enter my state with a trunk full of explosives" destined, authorities think, for the Los Angeles millennium celebrations.

Mr. Bush may drone on about providing billions of dollars to fight AIDS in Africa, reviving the economy with tax cuts, "giving" prescription drug benefits to seniors, and even launching a war with Iraq, but if he (and the government he leads) do not do more to address the most basic form of national security protection of our borders then America shows how truly impotent it is in fighting the war on terrorism.


Montgomery Village

Give the SBA a break

Velma Montoya's column "Small business dilemma" (Commentary, Wednesday), is right about the injustices small businesses face when confronted with bureaucracy and big government. The case of Russell P. LeFrois is a prime example of how many times government is more interested in punishing small businesses for technical violations of rules rather than working with them to solve problems.

Unfortunately, the columnist missed the mark when she asserted that the Office of Advocacy, which I head, was asleep at the wheel in not filing an amicus curiae brief in the LeFrois case. Mr. LeFrois' case involves an improper enforcement action by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration a type of action in which we are not legally allowed to participate. My office can file amicus curiae briefs in court actions, but only in those cases that involve a review of federal agency regulations in the context of the rule-making process. We have done so in the past, and we will do so in the future.

The Office of Advocacy is an independent office within the U.S. Small Business Administration. We represent the views of small business to Congress, the president and federal agencies, and our research highlights the unique role of small businesses in our nation's economy.

Our office continues to use its arsenal of tools on behalf of small business. We saved businesses more than $21 billion in forgone regulatory costs in fiscal 2002. We did that by working with federal agencies to ensure that their proposed regulations did not impose unnecessary burdens on small entities. Our office also is engaged in a nationwide effort to persuade state lawmakers to introduce legislation akin to the federal Regulatory Flexibility Act a law that requires agencies to analyze the impact of their regulations and consider less burdensome alternatives.

Government can and should create an environment in which entrepreneurs flourish, creating jobs and economic growth. It can do that by tearing down regulatory barriers to entrepreneurial success. Our office will continue to do its part in the fight to achieve that goal.


Chief counsel for advocacy

U.S. Small Business Administration


The small-business community has received unprecedented support from the U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy through the years when that office was the only voice of reason in Washington's rule-making community.

In her column, Velma Montoya attacks the Office of Advocacy because it made "no appearance" in a case brought against an individual business owner by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission. Clearly, this small-business owner has been the victim of an inflexible administrative procedure that should be changed, but the Office of Advocacy's ability to address the immediate case is limited.

Under the Regulatory Flexibility Act, the authority of the office's chief counsel to appear in judicial proceedings is limited. The chief counsel can appear only as an amicus curiae (friend of the court) when a rule is challenged under the Administrative Procedure Act. The commission case is an administrative law procedure, and the chief counsel has no authority to take such action.

The greater harm in Mrs. Montoya's commentary is the misinformation she has disseminated. The small-business community has relied consistently upon the Office of Advocacy's limited staff and resources. That office has produced volumes of analyses to federal agencies and the Office of Management and Budget about complex regulatory proposals.

Federal agencies because of limited resources, interest or will historically have ignored the impact of regulations on small business. The Office of Advocacy has leveraged its limited resources to show agencies alternative approaches to rules; demonstrated that small businesses were not the sources of problems to be solved by regulations; and provided economic analyses of industries and compliance costs.

Mrs. Montoya is responsible for understanding the facts. Her claims could only be substantiated if the Office of Advocacy had the authority to intervene in the commission action and she could demonstrate that the agency was asked and failed to assist in making a change to the rules. The agency's staff of about 12 lawyers faces volumes of proposed rules each year and must select which battles to charge. The small-business community could never fight those battles alone. A more constructive approach would be simply to ask the agency how it can help.


Vice president of government affairs

Associated Builders and Contractors


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