Press Release

Book Launch: George Bush's Foreign Aid: Transformation or Chaos?

May 19, 2008
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Book Launch: George Bush's Foreign Aid: Transformation or Chaos?

George Bush's Foreign Aid: Transformation or ChaosWASHINGTON,D.C.(May 20,2008)- The administration of George W. Bush has ramped up foreign aid spending to unprecedented levels and has implemented a number of important foreign aid initiatives but each of these advances has brought with it a set of policy challenges for the future and has added to the troubling fragmentation already plaguing US foreign aid, according to a new book by Carol Lancaster, a visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the director of Georgetown University’s Mortara Center for International Studies.

Lancaster, who has held senior development policy positions in both U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department, said that the winner of the November presidential election should begin to tackle the problem of modernizing U.S. foreign aid even before taking office.

“President Bush leaves a mixed legacy on foreign assistance,” she said. “Development issues have received more attention and money under this administration than at any time since President Kennedy. But the lack of a clear strategic direction and jumble of agencies and missions undermines effectiveness and fails to serve U.S. interests,” she said.

Lancaster untangles this complex legacy and suggests a path forward for the next administration in a new book, George Bush’s Foreign Aid: Transformation or Chaos?, published by the Center for Global Development. CGD will release the book on May 20, 2008, at an event in Washington D.C. Retired U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), the former chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and an outspoken advocate for more effective U.S. development assistance will deliver the keynote address.

During the Bush administration, U.S. foreign assistance rose dramatically – from $12 billion in 2000 to $27 billion in 2006. Even after adjusting for the large share of assistance – about 23% percent – that went to Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006, aid to other developing countries doubled, according to Lancaster.

Lancaster ‘s book describes how the Bush administration attempted to improve aid effectiveness through restructuring and through innovative programs and delivery mechanisms. For example, the Bush administration created two significant new aid agencies: the Millennium Challenge Corp. or MCC, which set out to provide large grants to poor, well-governed countries; and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief or PEPFAR, which provides billions of dollars to treat and prevent a single disease in 17 target countries.

The Defense Department has also begun to provide economic aid for development and stabilization in non-conflict zones. Finally, an effort was made to partially integrate USAID into the Department of State – an effort that brought some benefits in the form of better information and joint planning but raised the threat that eventually USAID and its development mission would be overwhelmed by the Department of State with its compelling diplomatic goals.

CGD president Nancy Birdsall, who will also speak at the book launch, writes in a forward to the book: “The past 40 years of foreign assistance have shown successes, but they have also shown that our foreign assistance programs are out of synch with one another, out of date, and badly in need of an overhaul to meet the challenges of the 21st century.” Among the topics that are likely to be discussed at the book launch is the best way to organize U.S. foreign assistance going forward. The book concludes by exploring the costs and benefits of different options for the future.

According to Lancaster, there are three ways to restructure U.S. foreign aid: a new cabinet-level Department of Development; a subcabinet-level agency governing all U.S. aid programs; and a full merger of USAID into the Department of State. Lancaster promotes the subcabinet-level agency with control over all U.S. aid programs as the most effective and realistic model for restructuring foreign aid.