My Turn: Around the world, Ayotte is a force for good

  • Frist

For the Monitor
Published: 11/2/2016 3:10:22 AM

Since entering the U.S. Senate in 2011, Sen. Kelly Ayotte has emerged as a leading voice on U.S. national security and foreign policy. Through her service on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sen. Ayotte has established herself as a strong defense hawk, consistently leading efforts to protect national security spending and to call for strong U.S. global engagement.

What is less known is Sen. Ayotte’s equally strong record of support for increased investments in the tools of U.S. soft power. Sen. Ayotte has championed strategic investments in U.S. diplomacy and development programs, and she has been a particularly strong voice in Congress for women and girls around the world.

While many Americans assume that our foreign aid dollars make up a substantial percentage of the U.S. government’s budget and that those dollars are often wasted, this could not be further from the truth. U.S. foreign assistance programs represent less than 1 percent of the federal budget, yet these programs have achieved remarkable results with strong bipartisan backing over the last two decades.

U.S. global health programs, which make up less than one-third of 1 percent of the federal budget, have saved tens of millions of lives. For example, over the last 20 years, U.S. global health leadership has resulted in the number of under-5 child deaths in the world being been cut in half (from 12 million to 6 million per year), life-saving access to HIV/AIDS medicines being provided to more than 10 million AIDS patients in Africa, and the incidence and mortality rates of malaria having been reduced by nearly 75 percent in the hardest hit countries.

Sen. Ayotte has supported U.S. investments in global development and health, and earlier this year she signed on as a co-sponsor of the Reach Every Mother and Child Act (REACH Act). The REACH Act calls on the U.S. government to commit to a strategy for realizing the goal of Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths globally by 2030, and this is something we can accomplish with bipartisan leadership between Republicans and Democrats in the legislative and executive branches.

Sen. Ayotte also has been a champion for protecting and empowering vulnerable women and girls in fragile and failed states, such as Afghanistan and Syria. She has worked across the aisle with her Democratic colleagues in the Senate to introduce and advance legislation and policy initiatives that prioritize women’s empowerment as a central tenet of U.S. foreign policy. She also has supported numerous efforts in Congress to protect women and girls through greater U.S. leadership in the fight against human trafficking and modern-day slavery.

During an election season where hyper-partisanship and personal attacks have dominated the news coverage, it’s important to remember that there are critical policy areas where our elected officials have found ways to work together to get the job done. Our commitment to global development and health has transcended partisan politics, and the results speak for themselves in terms of lives saved and the advancement of U.S. national interests through expanded political and economic partnerships across the globe.

At its core, U.S. foreign policy must always be rooted in the moral commitment for America to serve as a force for good and a beacon of light for those around the world who are less fortunate than us. Sen. Ayotte has championed this cause during her time in Congress, and for that she deserves our thanks and respect.

(Bill Frist, a cardiothoracic surgeon and former U.S. Senate majority leader from Tennessee, is the founder of Hope Through Healing Hands.)

(Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Kelly Ayotte entered the Senate in 2013. She entered in 2011.)

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