U.S. Foreign Aid Reform: Will It Fix What Is Broken?

September 29, 2006

The Bush administration's foreign aid reform plan was designed with the laudable goal of introducing greater strategic coherence into the fragmented and dysfunctional U.S. foreign aid regime. Unfortunately, there are many shortcomings in its current approach. In U.S. Foreign Aid Reform: Will It Fix What Is Broken? CGD research fellow Stewart Patrick argues that the best way to correct these gaps would be a total overhaul of the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act and the creation of an independent, cabinet-level department for international development. These steps would help correct current flaws in the U.S. foreign aid reform plan, which include the limited authority given to the new director of foreign assistance, in particular that almost half of U.S. aid remains outside of his control, in other agencies and in the Department of Defense. Furthermore, the reform plan risks marginalizing and subordinating long-term development goals to short-term political and security imperatives. At a minimum, the administration should explain how it will align U.S. security, diplomatic, and development efforts. The plan also does little to address longstanding weaknesses in U.S. assistance policy. Specifically, it fails to advance a comprehensive U.S. approach toward fragile states; to clarify interagency roles in conducting post-conflict operations; to leverage the contributions of other international donors; to lay a foundation for partnerships in developing countries; or to provide a framework for monitoring and evaluating foreign aid.

Rights & Permissions

You may use and disseminate CGD’s publications under these conditions.