Committee on International Relations
U.S. House of Representatives
Henry J. Hyde, Chairman

CONTACT: Sam Stratman, (202) 226-7875, March 23, 2004

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For IMMEDIATE Release

Safety & Security of Peace Corps Volunteers
Hyde schedules Wednesday oversight hearing;
Plans introduction of legislation to remedy problems

 

BACKGROUND: The President’s intention of doubling the size of the Peace Corps comes at a time of heightened risk for Americans living abroad. Recent critical reports by the General Accounting Office (GAO) and an award-winning series by the Dayton Daily News illustrate uneven performance by the Peace Corps in developing safe and secure housing and worksites, responding to volunteer concerns, and planning for emergencies. Among those scheduled to testify are Walter R. Poirier, the father of missing Peace Corps volunteer Walter J. Poirier. The younger Poirier, a native of Lowell, Massachusetts, and a 2000 graduate of the University of Notre Dame, served as a volunteer in Bolivia until his disappearance in March 2001. A subsequent GAO report found that “the Peace Corps failed to properly supervise Poirier and lost track of him.” Peace Corps Director Gaddi Vasquez is expected to testify on recent policies adopted by the Peace Corps to promote the safety and security of its volunteers.  Later this month, Chairman Hyde will introduce the Peace Corps Safety and Security Act of 2003 to create an agency ombudsman; enhance the Corps’ security office; and give greater independence to the agency’s Office of the Inspector General.

WHAT: Full Committee oversight hearing: Safety and Security of Peace Corps Volunteers

WHEN: 10:30 a.m., Wednesday, March 24, 2004

WHERE: Room 2172 Rayburn House Office Building

WITNESSES: Gaddi H. Vasquez, Director, The Peace Corps; Charles D. Smith, Inspector General, The Peace Corps; Jeffrey Bruce, Editor, Dayton Daily News; Jess Ford, Director, International Affairs and Trade, General Accounting Office; Walter R. Poirier, father of missing Peace Corps volunteer; and Kevin Quigley, President, National Peace Corps Association.

Issues expected to be examined at the hearing:

o        How does the Peace Corps monitor the safety and security of its volunteers in the field?

o        Is there a standard policy on a global or country-by-country basis that requires supervisors to visit or contact volunteers in person at a specified interval?

o        How does the Peace Corps train its volunteers, especially with respect to safety and security?  After several months on assignment, do Peace Corps volunteers feel that they have been adequately prepared for their assignment?

o       Is it possible to expand the presence of the Peace Corps in additional countries while taking into account the safety of Peace Corps volunteers?

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