Engagement Amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget

John Norris
May 08, 2012

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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. 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 reforms that would help U.S. foreign affairs institutions to better reflect national interests and reduce ineffective spending.

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

Veillette and Norris argue that bipartisan support is essential to modernize America’s approach to diplomacy and development. They make four recommendations to get a better return on U.S. international affairs investments:

  • Focus U.S. economic and security assistance programs by putting more money into fewer countries and centering efforts where governments are willing to embrace reform and make aid programs more likely to succeed. 
  • 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.

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