Saturday, July 29, 2017

Opinion: A new vision for US foreign assistance

Dan Runde,

Image from article, with caption: Senegalese women plant sweet potato seeds as part of the USAID-funded Feed the Future Yaajeende food security and nutrition program.

In response to the Trump administration’s call for greater effectiveness, efficiency and accountability in U.S. foreign assistance, the Center for Strategic and International Studies convened a bipartisan task force on foreign assistance reform and reorganization.  
We were fortunate to have Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Todd Young (R-IN) as co-chairs for the task force. We brought together around 30 high-level experts: former Bush administration officials, former Obama administration officials, retired foreign service officers, former U.S. ambassadors, as well as senior officials from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, Treasury, and the National Security Council.  
There were a few clear consensus items that all members of the task force agreed upon. Not a single person said that the current system was perfect. At the same time, not a single person argued for a “full merger” of USAID into the State Department. Many of the participants have bad memories of the merger of USIA into State in the late 1990s and see it as a failure that significantly hampered America’s ability to leverage our public diplomacy assets. No one wanted to “break” development in the same way that we had crippled our public diplomacy capacities.
They all argued that we need a strategy for how we deploy our “soft power” just as we do for our military power. While all could identify potential savings in the existing aid program, none agreed with the drastic cuts proposed in the so-called “skinny budget” released for fiscal year 2018. ...

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