No peace at the Peace Corps

This was in the Al Kamen’s Washington Post column, In The Loop, this morning. Kamen was a PCV in the Dominican Republic  in the early Sixties.

What with President Obama’s emphasis on volunteerism domestically and internationally, it seemed odd that there has been no announcement of a new Peace Corps director. One name circulating as a top contender for the post is James ArenaDeRosa, now New England regional manager for the Peace Corps in Boston. Arena-DeRosa also teaches developmental research and advocacy at Brandeis University and worked with the aid organization Oxfam International.

“Some folks in the returned-volunteer community, a powerful and active lobby, may be less than delighted about this. There’s a strong feeling among some former volunteers — not shared by all of us — that service overseas is a prerequisite for the job, especially with so many former volunteers available. Arena-DeRosa reportedly enjoys strong support from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick (D) and from some key players on the Hill.

“Meanwhile, the Obama budget is giving Peace Corps devotees major agita. Despite Obama’s past boosterism, it appears that the agency’s proposed budget is up only 10 percent next year and that the number of volunteers is projected to rise by 20 percent, to 9,000, by 2012. It peaks at 11,000 by the end of 2016, short of the doubling Obama talked about by 2012.”

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  • If there is no director, there is no go-to person when legislators want to discuss a reasonable Peace Corps budget, as opposed to the pathetic number now proposed. This is immoral.

  • The RPCV community is run by the NPCA, morepeacecorps, Peace Corps Connect, etc. All these are paid by the US government. They cost allot. 10 million? Their answer is to ask for more money.

    The new Director should be the NPCA Director. This would establish a nice line of succession for the agency.

    The problem with the budget might be the raises in country that just came out. This might be PC saying they’ve written off the bill that raises PCs salaries through the readjustment allowance. This might have been the plan and to show we’re ready to move to a five year budget like PEPFAR.

    Doubling the number of PCs has been proposed by every President since Bush. The budget doubles, more staff get hired, staff get raises and more five year opportunity waivers. PCs increase by maybe a third. A PC costs $47,000 or 57,000, depending on which budget gets approved. When PCs are hired out to programs like PEPFAR and NGOs have to fund them; how can we justify the cost? Everyone is better off if the NGOs or programs get the $57,000 a year.

    We don’t need to ask for more money. We need to pay the PCs what they’re worth. We can save 100s of millions and expand if we look at PC correctly.

  • The Peace Corps will survive and prosper at the volunteer levels it has enjoyed over the last 40-odd years. More (or much less) is not better.

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