Ban On USAID Outsourcing Programs Makes Bipartisan Sense - InformationWeek
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Ban On USAID Outsourcing Programs Makes Bipartisan Sense

U.S. Congressman Tim Bishop wants to bar the development agency from using public funds to help train offshore workers. Here's why lawmakers from both sides of the aisle should support the initiative.

In this highly polarized electoral season, there may be one piece of legislation on which partisans on both the left and right can probably agree--Congressman Tim Bishop's proposal to ban the United States Agency for International Development from funding training programs designed to prepare students in foreign countries for jobs in offshore IT and call centers.

Bishop, a Long Island Democrat, said on Thursday said he introduced to an appropriations bill language that would severely restrict USAID's ability to spend taxpayers' money by effectively subsidizing foreign employee training costs for highly profitable companies looking to offshore call center jobs in countries like Sri Lanka and the Philippines.

Under section 7028 of the FY2013 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill, USAID would be barred from providing funds to any U.S. business that plans to move jobs overseas. It would also forbid the agency from funding training programs that prepare foreign workers for jobs at outsourcing companies.

"Outsourcing is a job killer, and this explicit prohibition on any aid program that makes it easier to send American jobs overseas is long overdue," said Bishop, in a statement. "I made the case to the appropriations committee that this language was necessary to ensure once and for all that American taxpayers are not supporting outsourcing."

InformationWeek first reported in 2010 how USAID was spending $10 million to fund a program to train students in Sri Lanka for IT outsourcing jobs. In April, I uncovered a similar program to train students in the Philippines to work in that country's burgeoning offshore call center industry. The program, known as JEEP (Job Enabling English Proficiency) was part of a $100 million USAID economic development plan for the Muslim enclave of Mindanao in the Philippines.

[ Is India's outsourcing economy running out of steam? See Indian Outsourcing Model Over, Says HCL Exec. ]

Such programs are odious for a number of reasons, which is why Democratic and Republican lawmakers should have no trouble agreeing on Bishop's amendment. For starters, the federal government has no business using public funds for programs that benefit foreign companies but do little to boost employment in the U.S. Second, USAID is a habitual offender on this issue. The agency canceled its IT outsourcing training program in Sri Lanka after I exposed it and Bishop lodged a formal complaint to USAID chief Rajiv Shah , then embarked on a similar program in the Philippines a couple of years later.

Finally, USAID's justification for training foreign nationals to work in offshore software development and call centers is that these programs provide economic opportunity to individuals in developing nations who might otherwise turn to terrorism against the U.S. Yet it's been shown time and again that militant Islam's terror plots against the West are fueled by ideology and zealotry, not by poverty.

Bishop's proposed offshoring restrictions are on the money because they apply only to companies and agencies receiving public funds. Private businesses have every right to pursue an offshore outsourcing strategy if desired, in the effort to serve customers and shareholders. But the federal government has no business using your money, and mine, to subsidize those overseas exploits.

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User Rank: Apprentice
5/15/2012 | 5:54:20 PM
re: Ban On USAID Outsourcing Programs Makes Bipartisan Sense
I know the US, as a super power, needs to provide certain development support for countries that need to catch up. The ultimate goal is to allow these countries to support themselves so not to rely on others... That being said, what about us!!! Our tax dollars - expecially for government programs - should be spent on US soil. This is a way to support ourselves. Why do our tax dollars, taxes pay by Americans that are having a hard time finding work, have to go someplace where there is no interest in the US welfare? Why does the government allow companies that get US contracts, to send those dollars over seas to make parts or products that are sent back to the US for use. The government should make a condition of the contract for the parts to be made in the US so the jobs are kept here. The tax dollars need to stimulate the US economy, not foreign countries where the dollars are gone.
We need elected officials that back the US long term. Training programs for the US people out of work, displaces and our college grads.
Come-on, wake up America - your government is not your partner in your future.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/14/2012 | 9:37:08 PM
re: Ban On USAID Outsourcing Programs Makes Bipartisan Sense
Hi Paul,
I love muckraking journalism but I think your arguments oversimplify the problem. The solution in overcoming zealotry (whether Christian, Islamic, Jewish, etc.) is education, and education in English is a good way to open people/communities stuck in violent cycles to pursue opportunities beyond the narrow brainwashing of religious schools in places like Pakistan, and possibly Mindanao. There are/were some rich zealots, like Bin Ladin, who are not mired in poverty, but they recruit very poor young people who can be controlled by limited education. I support USAID programs that combat terrorism, and in this case learning English can be good way for moving young people into nursing and other careers that build community. I do not support outsourcing call center jobs, and I do not support "big businesses" profiting from my tax dollars. Calling to end the Mindanao program, however, is shortsighted, reactionary and serves to make good headlines. As the other commentator wrote, we need basic development programs in places like Mindanao, and education, including English education, is a key component.
User Rank: Strategist
5/12/2012 | 12:27:29 AM
re: Ban On USAID Outsourcing Programs Makes Bipartisan Sense
I enjoyed the comment by USAID that training them in programming will keep them from turning to terrorism against the US. Could someone brief USAID about cyber terrorism and its expected, ever increasing role on the world stage? Is it better to train them to successively hide code in popular programs to act as a prestaged botnet? Perhaps the AID chief was simply fulfulling the oldest of political strategies, using position to funnel business for pet causes whether they are alumni at a university, jobs for your electorate, or regional/cultural pride.

Perhaps the focus needs to return to teaching basics (government, farming, construction, social development, etc.) in underdeveloped areas instead of state of the art technology in direct competition. But this question goes hand in hand with universities providing subsidized degrees to select foreign nationals who then return to their home to build competitive international businesses while US students are charged full rates or compete for grants, scholarships, and other programs leaving college with years of debt.
User Rank: Apprentice
5/11/2012 | 5:09:30 PM
re: Ban On USAID Outsourcing Programs Makes Bipartisan Sense
Thanks for bringing this issue to light as I didn't know that my tax dollar was being used to train foreign employees for the benefit of large corporations. This is an absolute insult. I'm in the IS/IT industry for a decade now and have been let go from few places due to outsourcing. Knowing that my tax dollar was spent to train my replacement is adding salt to wound.

This issue is far from being Bipartisan! Republicans will fight this ferociously as they are the main benefactors of outsourcing. They are big business.

It was only few months ago when republicans voted down a bill that would have eleminated tax breaks for corporations that are engaged with offshore outsourcing. Why would they be on board with this now?!
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