More Peace Corps Legislation Could Enable More to Serve Abroad

As the Serve America Act becomes law, it offers no support of Peace Corps. Legislation to increase the capacity of Peace Corps was introduced in the House of Representatives earlier this year.

A fish farming family

A fish farming family

In mid-February, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) introduced H.R. 1066, the Peace Corps Expansion Act of 2009. The legislation calls for gradually increased funding for Peace Corps (up to $750 million in 2012), enabling more Volunteers to serve, and increasing the amount of the readjustment allowance Volunteers receive at the end of their service term.

13,011 Americans applied in 2008 to volunteer their service in the Peace Corps, a 16 percent increase over the 11,246 applications received in 2007. While applications to Peace Corps and other service corps are seeing record numbers, Peace Corps has funding for 400 fewer Volunteers this year (compared with 2008), and is reportedly offering one-year deferrals to candidates.

(In 1966, according to the Boston Globe, 15,000 Peace Corps Volunteers served in the field.)

According to the Boston Globe article about Peace Corps from this past weekend, former Peace Corps Country Director Mark Gearan said, “We spend more on the military marching bands. …This is 1 percent of 1 percent [of the federal budget]. There’s no question that there’s a wellspring of interest around the country. We just have to broaden the awareness of it and then fund it.”

The Globe article estimates that 20 developing nations have requested Volunteers but Peace Corps is unable to help them.

The rationale for expanding Peace Corps is argued in a paper Ten Times the Peace Corps released last September by Brookings Institution’s Lex Rieffel and the National Peace Corps Association president Kevin F.F. Quigley:

A critical challenge for the next president of the United States will be to convince the rest of the world that we are more interested in being a reliable partner than a military superpower. Our future security and prosperity will depend on the success of this effort.

Reversing the negative attitudes toward the United States that prevail in many parts of the world will require a mix of hard power and soft power instruments. The Peace Corps has been one of the most effective forms of American soft power since it was created by John F. Kennedy almost 50 years ago. With 8,000 volunteers in the field, however, it is half the size it reached at its peak in 1966, and most Americans are unaware that it still exists.

Scaling up the Peace Corps to ten times its present size could be one of the smartest initiatives advanced by the next president if it is premised on a new vision, a different funding model, and an enhanced organizational form.

Currently H.R. 1066 is in the House Foreign Relations Committee.

A campaign of the National Peace Corps Association, More Peace Corps is looking to increase the number of bill cosponsors to ensure its passage as well as appropriations to actually fund it.

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3 thoughts on “More Peace Corps Legislation Could Enable More to Serve Abroad

  1. “Peace Corps has funding for 500 fewer Volunteers this year (compared with 2008), and is reportedly offering one-year deferrals to applicants.”

    Yeah, that’s not encouraging news. I’m thinking of applying this year, and I’m just wondering if it’s worth it. I know I want to serve, I just don’t want to bother if the odds are against me.

  2. According to an email I received last week, 101 members of Congress have co-sponsored Congressman Sam Farr’s Colombia 64-66 bill to more than double the Peace Corps’ budget, but that is not enough. There is a goal to get 120 co-sponsors to come on board by June 1, 2009. In order to do this, people need to start writing their congress person. There is a list, which I have a copy of, circulating which shows who has and has not co-sponsored the bill.

    My blog The Advanced Ape blog, from Colony Magazine, has a link to a form letter for people to write to their congress person asking them to get behind this act. You can also see a sample letter to use on the More Peace Corps site.

  3. @thekigalicollective – apply even if the odds are against you. You don’t know if you don’t try. Also, I think the application process for Peace Corps is quite useful in helping determine if you are motivated enough to get in. They may have a lot of applicants, but they also have a pretty rigorous selection criteria. If you want to do this and have the skill set – apply. Consider doing a domestic term of service while applying for PC – VISTA is an excellent skill and resume builder for you PC application. Best of luck!

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