Reforming and Reorganizing U.S. Foreign Assistance: Increased Efficiency and Effectiveness
CSIS convened a bipartisan Task Force on Reforming and Reorganizing U.S. Foreign Assistance in response to the March 1, 2017, executive order asking all federal departments and agencies to submit reorganization plans that will “improve efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability” and to the president’s FY2018 budget request.1 The Trump administration is right to question whether the current foreign assistance system is optimized to meet the challenges of the 21st century. Although many Americans believe that foreign assistance makes up 25 percent or more the federal budget, it is no more than 1 percent. However small a percentage, it is important to note that these funds do not represent pure altruism; they are smart investments that contribute to the national security and prosperity of the United States.
Though it intends to align priorities, strategy, budget, and work force, the Trump administration’s first budget proposal includes significant cuts to foreign assistance funding and runs the risk of having budgeted amounts—rather than U.S. national interests—drive creation of strategy and organization. This would produce suboptimal outcomes, particularly if the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) were to be subsumed into the Department of State as some have suggested. It is not in the national interest to remove the development leg from the U.S. national security stool.
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