New from CGD

New Day, New Way Proposal Launched on Capitol Hill

June 10, 2008

From left: David Beckmann, Steve Radelet, Gayle Smith, and George Ingram

A proposal calling for what amounts to a complete makeover of U.S. foreign assistance was launched Tuesday at a packed event on Capitol Hill featuring remarks from elected representatives from both political parties and the House and Senate. New Day, New Way: U.S. Foreign Assistance for the 21st Century is an urgent call for reform from members of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a group of the prominent foreign policy and global development experts who work in a variety of academic, policy, development and advocacy professions. CGD senior fellow Steve Radelet and Gayle Smith, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, are co-chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network.

New Day, New Way argues that foreign assistance is a key element of U.S. foreign policy and the national interest but needs a dramatic overhaul to meet today's global challenges. It urges the next president, Congress, policymakers and the American people to take specific steps to bring U.S. foreign assistance up to date. The legislators attending expressed similar views.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) said he was energized and “flabbergasted” at the large turnout for the event—more than 250 people packed into the Rayburn Building’s House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing room. “I will take a very serious review [of this report],” he said. “It is my firm belief that this won’t just be another process of stating how we want the world to be. It will be a pick-up-and-run-with-it report,” he added.

Sen. Hagel (R-NE)

Sen. Hagel (R-NE), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said New Day, New Way covered “the most important issues that will face our country and world over the next 20 to 25 years” and that the reforms it advocates could help to reintroduce America to the world. “I have never believed that foreign assistance should be viewed as welfare,” he said. “It is an investment in America’s role in the world; an investment in stability in the world; an investment in a more peaceful world; and clearly in the interests of America to do this wisely.”

Rep. Nita Lowey

Rep. Nita Lowey, chairwoman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee for Foreign Operations, welcomed the report and the remarks of her congressional colleagues, saying that development issues are more critical than ever to U.S. foreign policy. “It is in the interest of the United States of America to pursue rigorous aid and development programs,” she said, adding that in order for this to happen “the diffusion of resources and responsibilities across agencies and departments must be examined.”

Citing the findings of the report, Radelet said that although some recent programs, such as those to fight HIV/AIDS and the Millennium Challenge Account, are welcome, the system as a whole is badly outdated. “At this point, no band aid approach can be effective," he said. "The organization, policies and practices of U.S. foreign assistance must be fundamentally overhauled to meet the challenges of the 21st century." Steps recommended in the report include articulating a U.S. national global development strategy, passing a new foreign assistance act as part of a "grand bargain" between the executive branch and Congress, streamlining organizational structures (ideally into a cabinet-level department for global development), and increasing funding and accountability for foreign assistance.

Smith said that the American public and foreign policy experts understand the importance of supporting development and poverty reduction abroad more clearly now then aver before. “People understand that this is both a moral imperative and a prerequisite for sustained U.S. national security," she said. The Foreign Assistance Act is badly in need of an overhaul because more than four decades have passed since President Kennedy signed it and "recent changes have brought more chaos than clarity," she added.

From left: Carol Lancaster, George Ingram, Congressman Howard Berman, David Beckmann and Steve Radelet

In her remarks, Rep. Lowey drew attention to an amendment to the 2009 defense authorization bill that she, Rep. Berman and Rep. Skelton (D-MO, and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee) have proposed that would establish a 12-member panel to review how the Defense and State departments, as well as USAID, collaborate on national security issues. The amendment was passed in the House and awaits Senate attention. Rep. Lowey said “now is the time for us to look at foreign assistance” and reinvent it to reflect the challenges and needs of the 21st century.

The New Day, New Way report says that U.S. foreign assistance has served the national interests in three ways: enhancing national security, expanding global economic opportunities, and promoting American values. "These interests are mutually reinforcing, and when the U.S. pursues them each strategically and in tandem it positions itself as a pragmatic and principled world leader," Radelet said.