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Views from the Center


The day after the launch of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network's New Day, New Way Proposal, Representatives Betty McCollum (D-MN), Christopher Shays (R-CT), John Tierney (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA) introduced a bipartisan resolution to elevate global development and foreign assistance in our national interest. Continuing to build on the surge of momentum for modernizing U.S. foreign assistance, ten cosponsors of the resolution call on their colleagues to recognize that:

  • America faces a new generation of threats in the 21st century including terrorism, global health pandemics and climate change. Winning these battles will require all of America's weapons -- defense, diplomacy and foreign assistance -- and foreign assistance strategies such as long-term development, post-conflict reconstruction, humanitarian assistance and economic and military aid often represent the most effective and least expensive option to meet these growing threats.
  • Foreign assistance is more central to U.S. national security than ever before, but today our policies and programs aren't up to the task. There is large consensus amongst military, diplomatic, and development experts that U.S. foreign assistance is based on an outdated Cold War model and in need of comprehensive modernization to increase accountability, improve results and serve our national interest.

The resolution offers a broad outline for modernization that reflects the consensus recommendations of the U.S. national security community, congressionally mandated commissions, development experts and think tanks. Like the New Day, New Way proposal, the resolution calls for a renewed partnership between Congress and the administration to define a common vision of the role and management of United States foreign assistance that provides the president with the flexibility needed to act in a quickly changing world, while ensuring input and oversight by Congress. Surely, this would entail a Foreign Assistance Act make-over -- watch our short, fun video to see why. And surely it would address many of the principles Steve Radelet promotes in his chapter on U.S. foreign assistance reform in CGD's forthcoming book White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President.
This resolution is both pragmatic and principled, showing that America can be powerful in ways well beyond its military might. It is pragmatic in that it recognizes the link between investments in global development and U.S. national security -- helping poor nations become capable, open, and economically viable states that then can act in concert with America to build a better, safer world. And it is also principled -- there is growing awareness that one billion people live on less than $1 dollar a day, and more Americans than ever before recognize the costs of not sufficiently tackling the challenges of global poverty -- war, disease, lack of opportunity, hopelessness.
Above all, the resolution is an attempt by a group (hopefully growing in number) of congressional global development champions to reach out a hand in partnership to the incoming president to tackle these challenges. I hope that the resolution will draw more sponsors and continue to build momentum for real change in our national global development strategy and our foreign assistance apparatus. As much of the nation and Congress focus on the investments required for a strong U.S. military surge to protect America, I am reminded of a compelling speech delivered by Defense Secretary Gates at Kansas State University last November where he called for more resources and a new approach to development as a necessary complement to military power. Substantial and strategic investment in a global development and diplomacy surge might, in the long-run, be one of the best investments Americans could ever make.

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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.