There are many examples of waste, theft and misuse of our military aid to countries such as Egypt and Pakistan. Much of this misuse has been recorded by the State Department. We have laws as part of the Arms Export Control Act that require President Obama to report to Congress violations by foreign countries of the conditions of their aid. Theft of funds or equipment, or the misuse of defense articles, would qualify in this regard.
If a substantial violation is discovered, that country can be deemed ineligible for further U.S. military aid. To my knowledge, this has never actually occurred. Still, the abuse and misuse continues, as does American taxpayer dollars flowing to countries that behave in this fashion.
Foreign aid continues even when substantial violations by various countries are regularly uncovered. During Secretary of State John F. Kerry’s testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee recently, he pledged to investigate any instances of waste and even theft of foreign aid. I was glad to hear this.
There’s a problem, however. The details of these violations remain classified. We know these violations are occurring; we just aren’t allowed to know by whom, in what country and the nature of the violations.
How are we supposed to investigate misuse of foreign aid when we aren’t allowed to know what violations have occurred? How can we examine millions — or billions — of dollars wasted, when that waste is kept secret? How can we decide if foreign governments are up to no good with our tax dollars when our own government regularly ignores or covers up any wrongdoing?
The administration once promised transparency, but nations such as Egypt and Pakistan now regularly receive billions of our dollars with no reasonable amount of oversight or enforceable conditions. At a time when Americans are watching debt pile up back home at astronomical levels, Washington continues to send money to countries that don’t seem to respect us, much less appreciate our generous financial gestures.
Part of the problem is that the State Department has not had an inspector general in more than five years. This position is specifically designed to ferret out wasteful programs and instances of misused or stolen program funds. The House Committee on Foreign Affairs sent Mr. Kerry a letter in February asking that the secretary appoint someone to fill this vacancy.
Today, the position remains unfilled.
This means that currently, the State Department is not adequately equipped to investigate or properly examine waste within the foreign-assistance programs it manages. This is the sort of recklessness and inefficiency many have come to expect from the federal government. Foreign aid is certainly no exception.
We need to see more responsible leadership on this issue. More accurate judgments about the utility of our foreign aid will require its failures to be as highlighted as its successes. This administration needs to examine with more scrutiny the clear instances of waste and misuse.
There are examples already cataloged within the State Department that could be made available to the public, where Americans could judge for themselves whether the benefits are worth the cost.
Mr. Kerry promised he would investigate any of these costly and damaging flaws in our foreign-aid system. I intend to hold him to this promise.
Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations and Homeland Security committees.