Letter to the Editor: Open letter to U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho(R-3)

Dr. Richard Lipsey
Posted 4/12/17

As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Sarawak, Borneo from 1963 to 1965 and living in Clay County for years, I hope that Congressman Yoho will give strong consideration to supporting at least level …

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Letter to the Editor: Open letter to U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho(R-3)

Posted

As a former Peace Corps volunteer in Sarawak, Borneo from 1963 to 1965 and living in Clay County for years, I hope that Congressman Yoho will give strong consideration to supporting at least level funding of $410 million for the Peace Corps and $60 billion for the International Affairs Budget for fiscal year 2018.

The Peace Corps – just 0.01 percent of the federal budget – and the development and diplomacy programs in International Affairs – just nine-tenths of 1 percent of the federal budget – are needed now more than ever to continue to contribute to America’s national security.

“National security?” some readers might say. That’s right, national security.

More than 120 retired three and four-star generals agree. In a recent letter to Congressional leadership, these generals wrote:

“The State Department, USAID, Millennium Challenge Corporation, 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.” Four of the 121 signatures include four former Admirals who live in near St. Augustine.

And as Defense Secretary James Mattis said while Commander of U.S. Central Command, “If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

Yet the Peace Corps and International Affairs are under threat of deep cuts from the administration’s budget proposal. If we can’t take America’s military leaders at their word, who can we?

Additionally, Peace Corps Volunteers are America’s grassroots ambassadors, implementing democratic ideals 24/7/365 in remote, isolated communities in 63 countries around the world. Indeed, many beneficiaries of Peace Corps Volunteers have gone on to become leaders of their nation and champions of American principles.

President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani has said, “Peace Corps Volunteers taught at my school. I learned English, fair play and the meaning of democracy.”

Yet for an extremely effective and cost-efficient form of national security, the Peace Corps is terribly underutilized. Each year, approximately 24,000 Americans apply for roughly 3,800 positions, meaning thousands of qualified applicants are turned away from serving their country and the world.

As retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal has said, “This gap represents democratic energy wasted and a generation of patriotism needlessly squandered.” And demand for the Peace Corps remains high: 20 countries consistently request more Peace Corps Volunteers.

There are currently 7,200 Peace Corps Volunteers serving in 63 countries, including Ukraine, Colombia and Myanmar. Are these not countries where we want more Peace Corps Volunteers? And if America doesn’t demonstrate a commitment to these countries, who will? And what will those commitments be?

Congressman Yoho, we thank you for your service to Florida’s 3rd District, and hope that you will champion the Peace Corps and International Affairs. As the generals conclude in their letter to Congress, “Now is not the time to retreat.”

Dr. Richard Lipsey

Middleburg

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