February 5, 2002 - Reliable Source: New Peace Corps Legislation to be Introduced in Congress

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By Admin1 (admin) on Tuesday, February 05, 2002 - 6:22 pm: Edit Post

Reliable Source: New Peace Corps Legislation to be Introduced in Congress

Read and comment on the following information which has come to us from a reliable source on Peace Corps legislation that will soon be introduced in Congress:

Reliable Source: New Peace Corps Legislation to be Introduced

President Bush in his State of the Union Address on January 29 called for doubling the size of the Peace Corps within five years and for the Peace Corps to become part of an umbrella organization called the US Freedom Corps.

Legislation will be introduced to accomplish these goals. Yesterday the OMB released the President's Budget for FY 2003 which included an increase in the Peace Corps Budget of 15%, the first step in a series of budget increases which will result in a doubling of the Peace Corps Budget over the next five years.

Now we have received information from a reliable source that Senator Dodd and Congressman Udall may be holding a Press Conference as early as next week to introduce companion bills into the Senate and House of Representatives concerning the Peace Corps.

It is expected that the legislation will concern itself with the implementation of President Bush's plan to double the Peace Corps within the next five years and with the President's plan for the Peace Corps to become part of the US Freedom Corps - an umbrella organization that will also include Americorps. The legislation may also include a new "Fourth Goal" for the Peace Corps and elements of a "New Mandate" for the Peace Corps.

Does the Peace Corps Remain Independent?

The big question is whether the legislation introduced by Dodd and Udall will assure that the Peace Corps remains an independent agency or whether it becomes a subsidiary part of the US Freedom Corps.

Concerns have been raised within the RPCV community that the Peace Corps needs to remain independent to work effectively. The last time the Peace Corps was made a part of an umbrella agency, the ACTION Corps in 1971, the experiment was widely considered a failure. Congress reversed the legislation and made the Peace Corps an independent agency again in 1981.

In 1995 Senator Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee, recommended a major restructuring of the country's foreign policy apparatus in which the Peace Corps would have been merged into the US State Department. Senator Dodd, along with Senator Paul Coverdell, Senator Jay Rockefeller, and Senator Arlen Specter led the fight against the change and in the end Senator McConnell withdrew his proposal citing the "considerable experience and strong views" of his petitioners.

Important not to trade Peace Corps Independence

Sources within the executive branch of government have previously told us that Bush's plan is for the Peace Corps to remain as an independent agency and that the US Freedom Corps will only serve the purpose of inter-agency coordination

However, Former Peace Corps Director Mark Gearan, in an interview with the Providence Journal, warned last week that it is important not to trade Peace Corps independence for the efficient coordination that the White House umbrella agency might bring.

"The Peace Corps cannot be seen as an arm of foreign policy, of the State Department and, for the good of the volunteers, can't be seen in any way as an intelligence-gathering body," Gearan said..

The Fourth Goal of the Peace Corps

Another question is whether Dodd and Udall's legislation will include the "Fourth Goal" for the Peace Corps which Sargent Shriver advocated in speeches at Yale University last November, at Peace Corps Headquarters last week, and in a letter to Senator Dodd in December.

In his speech at Yale, Shriver defined the Fourth Goal this way:


When we proposed legislation for the original Peace Corps, we came up with only three goals: (1) to provide technical assistance to poor people; (2) to promote better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served; and (3) to bring the world home to America. Forty years later, we could probably question some of these goals, or scrap them altogether. But I propose that we renew our vision by concentrating on a new Fourth Goal. We’ve struggled with words for the Fourth Goal, but let me give you the sense of it: to bind all human beings together in a common cause to assure peace and survival for all.

Words can be tricky, and I don’t want to debate the meaning of the phrase I just uttered. I just want you to catch its spirit: to bind all people together in common cause to assure peace and survival for all.

Now more than ever, we depend on one another for our very existence! We are not just Americans, or Jews, or Muslims, or Catholics, or rich, or poor, or famous, or obscure. Yes, we still wear these labels today, during our short existence on earth. But we must bequeath to our children and grand-children a world of stark choices: Peace or Death. As for me, for my children, my wife, and my friends, I choose Peace.

The New Mandate

Dodd and Udall's legislation is also expected to include elements of "New Mandate" legislation which has been led by Roger Landrum and Dave Hibbard of the Committee for a New Peace Corps and has been championed by both Peace Corps Online and the NPCA.

One element of the "New Mandate" would be for Congress to consider earmarking funds directly to Returned Volunteer Groups to manage new projects by RPCVs, both overseas and at home. This could trigger broader and long overdue cooperation between Peace Corps and its alumni, above and beyond routine agency staffing roles.

Another element could be Congressional mandates for international nonprofit ventures led by entrepreneurial RPCVs like the International Women's Democracy Center, World Corps, and Youth Service International. Landrum calls these ventures "direct extensions of Peace Corps experience and expertise."

Other options include Congressionally-mandated missions for RPCV teams working at home with Muslim foreign students and immigrant communities. Hibbard describes these roles as "directly related to American interests in better relations with the overseas Islamic world."

Check back next week

Peace Corps Online will continue reporting this story as it develops. and will be attending and reporting on any Press Conference held to discuss new Peace Corps legislation.

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