Step # 5 Show Us The Money!

The President’s Transition Team highlighted the fact that the Peace Corps has never fulfilled the promise of the Third Goal. This problem lies with where the Peace Corps money is situated in terms of the government bureaucracy. The Transition Team wrote, “the power of returned Volunteer cultural and linguistic skills in the new multi-cultural America; show that Peace Corps service abroad helps solve problems here at home-completing the loop for Peace Corps; and create a re-employment stream for returned Volunteers. Taxpayers will see an impact at home (as teachers, public health workers and more). Over time, this grows into more support, first for overseas mission, and then for the domestic goal.”

The Peace Corps gets its funding from the “Foreign Operations” account, called in the vernacular, the 150 Account. In Congress, the Peace Corps budget is bunched in with other foreign assistance and national security funding, and that is where the Third Goal loses out. No one wants to fund the Third Goal of the Peace Corps because it is not “foreign.” The Third Goal is domestic. The pressure always is to put as many PCVs in the field. The Third Goal is just “suppose to happen.”

There is also the personal element. When Congresswoman Nita Lowey who controls the budget meets up with fellow New Yorker Secretary of State Clinton in the power room on the Hill, who is going to get the exta $$$, the Peace Corps or State? Hello! 

The Congress influences the spending of the Peace Corps budget through the authorization and appropriations process, but seldom has the Congress been very specific in terms of how the Peace Corps spends the majority of its budget. (After the Power Room Deal.) If, however, the Peace Corps wanted to raise the readjustment allowance (God forbid!), it must seek Congress’ permission as the readjustment allowance is specified in law.

 The Peace Corps has been fortunate, over the years, to avoid too much tinkering by Congress.  That is one reason ( most people who understand the process) strongly opposed Senator Dodd’s “Volunteer Empowerment Act” (drafted by Chuck Ludlum  ((Nepal 1968-70 & Senegal 2005-07), because it tinkered unnecessarily and thus breaks a tradition that has served Peace Corps well. 

What the Peace Corps needs within the agency is to separate Third Goal money and protect it from its entire budget. In this way, the Peace Corps office of Domestic Affairs can have the opportunity and funding to make the Third Goal a reality.

Back in October 2008 Ron Tschetter (India 1966-68) announced “his vision” for a Peace Corps Foundation.  The Foundation would support Third Goal project by RPCCV. It would complete the Peace Corps cycle. It was a great idea that Ron had but alas it came about during the dying days of his Peace Corps tour as Director. He was out the door with his good friend George Bush.

The next director should latch onto Ron’s idea and establish the Foundation, increase its scope and visibility. A Peace Corps Foundation–free of government restrictions-could promote the agency, promote individual projects being done now by RPCVs across America, enlarge the vision of the agency, raise own funds outside of Congress’s oversight. It would be paid for by the contributions of other foundations, RPCVs, and projects such as a first class magazine, much like the one that the Smithsonian publishes now. It’s a great idea. And  the time has come for it to happen.