Press Release

More for the Money: A Bipartisan Approach to Realign U.S. Foreign Aid

May 04, 2012


To download the executive summary, click here. To read the full report, click here.

Washington, D.C. (May 7, 2012) – The United States should be more selective about where and how it spends foreign assistance, according to the authors of Engagement Amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget released today. The report, co-authored by John Norris of the Center for American Progress and Connie Veillette of the Center for Global Development, identifies four flagship ideas that would help reform U.S. foreign affairs institutions to better reflect national interests and reduce ineffective spending.

Media contact:
Catherine An
Media Relations Associate
(202) 416-4040

“The international affairs agencies play a vital role in advancing America’s interests around the globe,” said Norris, “and we must not lose sight of that fact during what will be very tough budget battles ahead. It is equally important to make sure that every dollar we spend has the greatest possible impact in promoting stability, prosperity, and economic growth. That is what these reforms are all about.”

The report, which draws input from a senior-level, bipartisan working group of international affairs experts, includes a country-by-country analysis of where the United States spends its economic and security assistance.

“The United States must make hard choices about where to invest its resources. Foreign assistance works best in countries that embrace policy reforms and are committed to working with the United States as partners,” said co-author Veillette.

Norris and Veillette urge the U.S. Congress and the Administration to focus aid spending in roughly half the number of countries that currently receive funds. In 2012, the United States spent bilateral assistance in 146 countries, with 103 receiving economic aid and 134 receiving security aid. The authors say America’s interests and the interest of the developing world would be better served with more U.S. dollars in fewer countries and recommend concentrating economic assistance in 53 countries and security assistance in 72 countries.

The report includes three additional recommendations to get a better return on the United States’ international affairs investments:

  • Accelerate cost-sharing arrangements with upper middle income recipients of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), including Botswana, the Dominican Republic, Namibia, South Africa and the Caribbean and Central American regions.
  • Overhaul U.S. food aid laws and regulations to end U.S. cargo preference, eliminate monetized food aid, and allow for more local and regional food purchases.
  • Establish an International Affairs Realignment Commission—akin to the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission—to overhaul U.S. foreign affairs agencies and operations. The International Affairs Realignment Commission would present a package of institutional and program reforms for an up or down approval by the Administration and Congress.

To download the executive summary, click here.

To read the full report, click here.

Please Catherine An at 202.416.4040 or for more information about the report or to speak with the authors.

The Center for Global Development: CGD works to reduce global poverty and inequality through rigorous research and active engagement with the policy community to make the world a more prosperous, just, and safe place for all people. As a nimble, independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit think tank, focused on improving the policies and practices of the rich and powerful, the Center combines world-class scholarly research with policy analysis and innovative outreach and communications to turn ideas into action.