Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Jessie Helms (R-NC) has called for an increase in U.S. foreign aid, with the provisio that all such assistance should be funneled through religious groups and private charities instead of government agencies, the New York Times reports.
"The time has come to reject what President Bush correctly labels the 'failed compassion of towering, distant bureaucracies' and, instead, empower private and faith-based groups who care most about those in need," stated Helms, a long-time critic of foreign aid, in a speech at the American Enterprise Institute , a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
Helms' plan seeks to replace the United States Agency for International Development with the International Development Foundation, a "quasi-governmental" foundation that would oversee the administration of grants to community relief groups and private organizations. The foundation would have a much smaller staff than USAID, which currently employs some 7,300 people.
Although many foundation and nonprofit officials were pleasantly surprised to learn about Helms' plan, others, including Bruce Wilkinson, senior vice president for World Vision, expressed concern that a shift in the way the U.S. distributes foreign aid would disrupt the long-term relationship between government and private groups. "I really do applaud the moral commitment that Helms is demonstrating, but at this point, the International Development Foundation is a very sketchy idea."