WASHINGTON—Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) wants to know why the Peace Corps spends millions of U.S. tax dollars annually in China and sends dozens of volunteers to work on projects that the Beijing government should be paying for with its own resources.
“Peace Corps volunteers are charged with promoting freedom and spreading American ideals to developing countries across the globe,” Scott said in a statement he issued after meeting with Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen on July 11.
During the meeting, Scott asked Olsen to “end Peace Corps programs in China,” but his request was denied. Even so, Scott said in his statement that he expects cooperation from the Peace Corps with his request.
“China steals our technology and intellectual property, refuses to open up their markets, refuses to allow human rights and supports Maduro’s genocide in Venezuela,” he said.
“China is also militarizing the South China Sea and building its military to compete with the United States on the world stage. I’ve asked the Peace Corps to pull all volunteers and resources from China immediately, and I look forward to their swift cooperation.”
The Peace Corps was was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1961.
“What the Peace Corps shouldn’t be doing is propping up our adversaries with U.S. tax dollars. Let’s remember, China is a wealthy nation that certainly has the resources to fund initiatives,” Scott said.
“There is no reason the U.S. should be giving millions in foreign aid to China every year, and there is no reason American taxpayers should be sending volunteers to do the work of the Communist government of China,” he added.
Scott also made public a letter he sent to Office of Management and Budget (OMB) acting Director Russ Vought concerning U.S. foreign aid spending in China.
“I applaud President Trump’s commitment to hold China accountable,” Scott told Vought in his July 1 letter. “China is clearly our enemy, and I was horrified to recently learn that the federal government spends more than $32.5 million per year in foreign aid in China, a country wealthy enough not to need support from U.S. taxpayers.”
Scott said a 2016 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report “shows American taxpayers spent nearly $100 million on energy programs in China. Not only is our country supporting programs that China should be funding themselves, this same report showed the programs were lacking the proper performance monitoring.”
The Florida Republican said the result appears to be that “we are spending U.S. taxpayer dollars without even measuring the return-on-investment for U.S. taxpayers. That is unacceptable, and this is just one example of irresponsible spending.”
Scott said he worries that the actual total of U.S. foreign aid going to China “will be staggering.”
The 2016 GAO study focused on the 10 federal programs, including the Peace Corps, that account for 98 percent of all U.S. foreign assistance spending.
The congressional agency found that official spending figures provided to the public by the 10 programs “were incomplete,” and criticized the State Department as “not fully transparent about such limitations” in its public disclosures on the ForeignAssistance.gov government web site.
As an example, GAO said its “analysis of fiscal year 2014 data showed that ForeignAssistance.gov didn’t report over $10 billion in disbursements and about $6 billion in obligations provided by the 10 reporting agencies,” compared to data provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Currently, the USAID website that claims to provide comprehensive data on how much U.S. foreign assistance goes to individual countries shows China received $48 million in 2018.
The annual totals reported by USAID have been as high as $100 million in 2008 and as low as $11 million in 2001.
Among the U.S. aid given to programs in China are $11 million for an “unspecified project” on “democracy, human rights and labor,” $5 million for the “Low Emissions Cities Alliance,” a redacted grant worth $3.7 million from the U.S. National Endowment for Democracy, $6.8 million in “support to ethnic Tibetans,” and $6.8 million for “disease control.”