Foreign Assistance:

Impact of Funding Restrictions on USAID's Voluntary Family Planning Program

NSIAD-97-123: Published: Apr 25, 1997. Publicly Released: May 27, 1997.

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Benjamin F. Nelson
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the impact of funding restrictions on the U.S. Agency for International Development's (AID) voluntary family planning program, focusing on: (1) the effect of the fiscal year (FY) 1996 and 1997 funding limits and delayed release of funds on AID's voluntary family planning program; (2) the effect of current funding restrictions if they were imposed in FY 1998; and (3) whether a relationship exists between AID's family planning program and a reduction in abortions.

GAO noted that: (1) AID took steps to minimize the impact of FY 1996 and 1997 funding cuts and the delayed release of funds on its family planning program; (2) it did not have to drop any countries from the program or terminate any contracts, grants, or cooperative agreements; (3) AID was able to maintain the structure and scope of its family planning program because it consolidated programs and cut activities in 1995 in anticipation of FY 1996 governmentwide cuts, supplemented its FY 1996 appropriation with carryover funds, and drew funds from its pipeline; (4) however, cooperating agencies and missions had to delay or cut back some program elements and could not implement some planned expansion; (5) the delay in releasing funds reduced AID's family planning pipeline 44 percent; (6) during this time frame, the development assistance pipeline increased about $500 million or 39 percent; (7) as a result, some centrally managed and bilateral projects operated with pipelines close to levels considered disruptive by AID; (8) with the release of FY 1997 funds in March 1997 rather than July 1997, AID should have sufficient resources to cover its FY 1997 requirements; (9) GAO's analysis shows that if the FY 1998 funding level remains at $385 million, a 9-month delay in releasing funds occurs, and funds are metered on a monthly basis, most of AID's bilateral projects would be in serious jeopardy of running out of funds sometime during FY 1998 and the centrally managed projects would have minimal levels of funding available by September 1998; (10) AID officials stated that under this funding scenario, AID would not have access to sufficient funds to satisfy program needs, and certain bilateral family planning programs would have to be terminated; (11) on the other hand, GAO's analysis shows that if FY 1998 funding is available in October 1997, rather than July 1998, the current bilateral and centrally managed programs will not be in jeopardy, even if the funds are metered; (12) some studies have shown a correlation between increased use of modern contraceptives and a reduction in abortion; (13) a recent Demographic and Health Surveys project conducted by Macro International, Inc, indicated that in countries where AID is the primary family planning service funder and contraceptive use increases, fertility rates have dropped significantly, and abortion rates have declined; and (14) however, because of the lack of accurate and reliable data, researchers have been unable to prove conclusively that a statistically based causal relationship exists between increases in the use of modern family planning methods and decreases in abortion.

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