December 18, 2012
This is a joint post with Will McKitterick.Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) introduced a 923-page rewrite of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act last week. He first vowed to rewrite the bill in 2008 when he was chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Unfortunately, Berman has only days left in Congress and the bill won’t go anywhere before he leaves. Still, the draft captures years of thinking about the United States’ legislative approach to foreign assistance and offers a possible blueprint for co-sponsor Gerry Connolly (D-VA) or others to carry forward.Here are a few of the things we (and others) like about the Global Partnership Act of 2012:
- It exists! The United States’ core foreign assistance policy was written during the Kennedy administration and hasn't been reauthorized since 1985. It’s outdated and unwieldy and written for a different era. Berman and his staff have made a huge contribution by putting pen to paper on a new act that could pave the way for congressional authorizers to reassert their leadership on US foreign assistance.
- Individual sections stand alone. While a complete overhaul of the Foreign Assistance Act is preferable, it will take a huge political lift to pass an entire rewrite. But there are sections of Berman’s bill that members of Congress could lift and potentially pass in the 113th Congress. These include sections codifying a White House Global Development Council and data transparency initiatives--efforts already endorsed by the Obama administration. And Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) and others have already been working on a transparency bill that reflects elements in Berman’s draft.
- Cleaner, smarter. It clarifies the goals and purposes of US assistance, puts a premium on measuring impact, establishes a division of labor among agencies and reduces burdensome reporting requirements in exchange for more transparency on where and how aid is invested.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.