June 17, 2002 - PCOL Op-ed: Colin Gallagher: Revision to Draft Legislation Require the Attention and Comment of RPCVs

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Peace Corps Library: Reference: Congressional Relations: June 17, 2002 - PCOL Op-ed: Colin Gallagher: Revision to Draft Legislation Require the Attention and Comment of RPCVs

By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, June 17, 2002 - 10:08 pm: Edit Post

Colin Gallagher: Revision to Draft Legislation Require the Attention and Comment of RPCVs


One of the purposes of PCOL is to encourage and facilitate the exchange of different opinions and views within the Returned Volunteer Community. PCOL sent out advance copies of the new draft Peace Corps legislation to RPCVs who have previously expressed themselves on our Message Boards and asked them to read the legislation and give us their reactions in op-ed pieces.

This op-ed piece on the new legislation is written by RPCV Colin Gallagher. We are publishing other op-ed pieces on the new Peace Corps legislation in this issue and in future issues of PCOL.

Note that the author of this op-ed piece has been an outspoken critic of the language in the USA Patriot Act and the Executive Order which created the USA Freedom Corps and has written about them extensively in previous pieces for PCOL.

Read and comment on this op-ed piece on the new Peace Corps legislation at:

Revision to Draft Legislation Require the Attention and Comment of RPCVs*

* This link was active on the date it was posted. PCOL is not responsible for broken links which may have changed.

Revision to Draft Legislation Require the Attention and Comment of RPCVs

by Colin Gallagher


We are now in the second round of draft legislation concerning the Peace Corps Act. There are no clear winners yet, but there are indications of some sacrifices (or compromises) that have been made to move the legislation along.

The changes in the first few sections involve only shuffling of one paragraph with another, much like a card deck is shuffled between games, but more carefully. Notably, the section which recommends that "no Peace Corps personnel or volunteers should have any relationship with any United States intelligence agency or be used to accomplish any other goal other than the goals established by the Peace Corps Act" has been moved from the second to the third page of the draft, a less conspicuous location.

In the second draft, long-range planning is emphasized as a highly important aspect of Peace Corps re-organization. The wording, "should establish an office of strategic planning" is replaced by "It would be extremely useful for the Peace Corps to establish an office of strategic planning..." This is obviously an important point that needs to be stressed, which is occupying the minds of the legislative analysts at work on the draft. So much were they focused on this element of the proposed legislation, in fact, that in the next paragraph we find a spelling error. Where it is stated that "The Peace Corps would benefit from the advice and council of a streamlined bipartisan National Peace Corps Advisory Council...," it should in fact state that the Peace Corps would benefit from the advice and "counsel" of said Council.

Moving to the definitions, where no changes is made, it is apparent that our recommendations regarding definitions of "relevant information" as applicable to activities carried out pursuant to the Peace Corps Act will have to be directed to the staffers charged with creating the Senate's version of this legislation. The issues raised regarding the problem with the wording of Section 3(f)(iii) of the USA Freedom Corps Executive Order, which mandates that as-yet undefined "relevant information" be provided to the Freedom Corps Council, unfortunately will not be able to be addressed in the House version of this legislation. However, with additional pressure on legislators, and continued communication with Senator Dodd's staff, we may be able to have this issue addressed, as Congressman Farr has already indicated his concerns with the problems the PATRIOT Act presents. If concerns about Section 908(a) of the PATRIOT Act can be raised together with the concerns regarding Section 3(f)(iii) of the USA Freedom Corps Executive Order, an appropriate firewall mechanism may be able to be integrated into the Peace Corps Act.

It is worthy of note that the section on "Peace Corps Independence form USA Freedom Corps" has been stricken entirely from the proposed legislation in the second draft. The only way to get it back in, in one form or another, is of course to call, write, fax, and e-mail Senator Dodd's staff continuously about it. The more, the merrier: To e-mail your concerns, link to: http://www.senate.gov/~dodd/webmail/index.html Alternatively, you can call the office at 202-224-2823, fax at 202-228-1683, or write to SR-448 Russell Building, United States Senate, Washington D.C. 20510. All correspondence should be directed as follows: TO: Senator Christopher Dodd, ATT'N.: Janice O'Connell. Your message should include this paragraph: "We/I are/am concerned about the implications for Peace Corps of Section 3(f)(iii) of the USA Freedom Corps Executive Order (E.O. 13254) together with Section 908(a) of the PATRIOT Act, and it is strongly felt that definitions must be established in the new Peace Corps legislation to address this concern."

Finally, the guidelines concerning new initiatives of the President have been moved to the section on Reports to Congress, which effectively mandates that the President transmit adequate notification of his or her intentions thirty days prior to doing something that could affect Peace Corps in the way that the USA Freedom Corps Executive Order has. This is interesting because it shows resolve on the part of the legislative analysts to act to prevent, as best they can, future Presidential manhandling of independent agencies such as Peace Corps.

The reference to "substantial Muslim populations" in both draft versions of the proposed legislation has not changed. Could this be changed in such a way that there is not such an obvious reference to a specific religious group? Certainly there is, but we haven't seen it yet. Perhaps, "areas that have substantial and important ideological differences from Western culture?" It seems this aspect of the draft still needs work.

All RPCVs probably recall that we had to undergo a "NAC" prior to getting accepted to Peace Corps. The "NAC" stands for National Agency Check, and it is possibly Peace Corps' most frequently used tool to weed out recent employees of intelligence agencies. In fact, a "NAC" was done on my Salvadoran spouse-to-be prior to the Peace Corps giving her its blessing! Taking all that into consideration, it would seem necessary to apply the "NAC" to employees and members of all agencies and nonprofits being considered as potential recipients of the money from grants of the Corporation for National and Community Service. Otherwise, the Peace Corps Fund proposed by this new legislation could end up spawning front organizations for intelligence agencies -- an unintended, but possible consequence of funding without proper checks and balances. (RPCV author Michael Maren has done extensive documentation of disasters resulting from lack of monitoring of aid in his writings.) It is also interesting to note that the eligible nonprofit corporations are only those established in the District of Columbia, and that such nonprofits are to serve as "incubators" for Returned Peace Corps Volunteers seeking to use their knowledge and expertise to undertake community-based projects to carry out the goals of the Peace Corps Act.


O.K., people, looks like we need a third draft. Write Senator Dodd's staff and let them know what you think.

Click on a link below for more stories on PCOL

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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; Special Reports; Peace Corps - Congress; Speaking Out



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