Four Proposals for Redesigning US Foreign Assistance


WASHINGTON, D.C. — In the United States today, less than 1 percent of the national budget of approximately $4 trillion is spent on foreign aid. While this figure still comes out to several billion dollars, as a proportion of total GDP it is much less than the contributions of most European nations. Much of this comes as a result of poor administrative management by the government, a system largely unchanged since the 1960s while issues of global development and international assistance are changing nearly every year.

In September 2017, however, experts on the subject discussed four proposals for redesigning U.S. foreign assistance at the Center for Global Development, in Washington, DC. So, what are they? The Borgen Project was invited to attend this panel discussion on foreign aid solutions.

The first comes from Jeremy Konyndyk and Cindy Huang, a pair of senior policy fellows at the Center for Global Development. Konyndyk and Huang’s proposal focuses mainly on four key goals for the United States Agency for International Aid (USAID): state fragility, inclusive growth, global health and humanitarian assistance.

The four goals are to be met across a fourteen-point program. These points include greater use of USAID competition waivers, increased co-operation between USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation and streamlined reporting requirements within USAID using a standardized rating system.

The second of the four proposals for redesigning U.S. foreign assistance was conceived by Jim Roberts, a research fellow for economic freedom and growth at the Heritage Foundation. The center of Roberts’ proposal is to merge USAID with the State Department itself to ensure that foreign aid is more closely aligned with foreign affairs.

Roberts states that the most feasible way of executing this proposal would be to first eliminate duplicative and unsuccessful programs, improve the coordination of remaining programs and re-brand the new USAID as the United States Health and Humanitarian Assistance Agency (USHHAA). Furthermore, Roberts proposes that decisions on aid programs and expenditures be made by U.S. ambassadors around the world.

This would allow for a more microcosmic, case-by-case decision-making process to be carried out, and more closely equating foreign aid with foreign affairs. Roberts justifies his positions by observing that other developed nations — Canada, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark, to name but a few — have already adopted this strategy.The third proposal comes from

The third proposal comes from senior fellow for global economy and development at the Brookings Institution George Ingram. Ingram’s proposal focuses on the synthesis of all grant assistance into one unit, and all developmental finance firms into another, both with expanded authority. Unlike Roberts, Ingram believes that keeping these new “omni-firms” completely separate and independent from the State Department is the key to success.

By not interfering with one another, both the State Department and the firms in question will be able to operate at maximum efficiency. “The second best solution is coordination,” Ingram said. “But the best solution is to establish clear lines of authority.”

The final of four proposals for redesigning U.S. foreign assistance is that of deputy director and fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Erol Yayboke, who supports what he refers to as the transition of “aid-to-trade”. Much like Ingram, Yayboke believes that USAID should be kept independent of the government, and that the U.S. should use foreign aid to pursue strategic interest where possible.

Yayboke’s viewpoint is also similar to that of Roberts’, in that both believe that the USAID needs streamlining and refinement through mergers and better coordination to operate at maximum efficiency.

These four proposals for redesigning U.S. foreign assistance are all extremely valuable as potential solutions to global poverty. While it may seem as though the United States may not be maximizing its potential as a global poverty alleviation force, it is always possible to find potential solutions to make the U.S. a world leader in foreign assistance.

Bradley Tait

Photo: Flickr


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