Ideas to Action:

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CGD in the News

August 13, 2017

With Budget Cuts Looming, US Aid Chief Vows To Do More With Less (Reuters)

From the article:

Facing potentially deep budget cuts to U.S. foreign aid, new USAID administrator Mark Green says he needs to do more with less and prove to President Donald Trump that development assistance can further his "America First" agenda...

But U.S. foreign assistance has traditionally garnered bipartisan support in Congress, which controls the aid purse strings. Green has stronger relations with lawmakers than his predecessors, who battled Congress on funding and objectives.

"What's very different for Mark Green is that his strongest allies are on the Hill," said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development in Washington. "Where he faces headwinds are with both the White House and the State Department."

"There is a real potential for conflicts in basic philosophy about what USAID does," added Morris.

Green is nevertheless sanguine about prospects for a downsized, budget-constrained USAID.

"We can't do everything," he said. "The resources are limited, so we have to prioritize."

Read full article here.

August 11, 2017

The Portfolio Model of Foreign Assistance (Foreign Affairs)

From the op-ed:

By Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Vice President for Global Development at InterAction, and Senior Associate with the Project on Prosperity and Development at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She was formerly Chief Strategy Officer for the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

In the first half of this year, U.S. President Donald Trump [1]’s administration began to call for reform of the various agencies, offices, and programs that provide U.S. foreign assistance. In response, the foreign policy community produced several structural bureaucratic proposals. Organizations such as the Center for Strategic and International Studies [2], the Center for Global Development [3], and the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network [4], as well as coalitions like InterAction [5] and the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid [6]all made various recommendations, ranging from the immediate incremental step of a multilateral foreign assistance review to a fundamental redesign that would integrate all smaller agencies into a single US global development structure.

If the United States wants to maximize the value of its foreign aid [7], it needs a fresh paradigm that supports the purpose of foreign assistance, acknowledges the aspects of international aid that it can alter through structural change, and acknowledges that there are global or market forces that remain beyond Washington’s control.

Read full op-ed here.

August 8, 2017

A Bevy of Good Ideas on Foreign Aid Reform….If Anyone’s Listening (LobeLog)

From the article:

Recent reports by the co-chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) and a task force of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) take the long view by proposing far-reaching structural reforms. Although the current administration is unlikely to embrace their recommendations, they offer a compelling vision and set a constructive tone for debate.

new paper by Jeremy Konyndyk and Cindy Huang of the Center for Global Development (CGD) opts for a different approach, adding to the mix a list of 14 smart, “immediately actionable reforms.” Although it also lays out options for major reorganization, most of the emphasis is on what could be done now to pave the way for future progress.

Half the proposed reforms involve changes that the administration could make without legislative approval. To the uninitiated they may sound abstruse, but they can be grouped under three general headings.

Read full article here.

August 3, 2017

Senate Confirms New USAID Administrator Mark Green (Reuters)

From the article:

The U.S. Senate on Thursday confirmed former congressman Mark Green as President Donald Trump's choice to lead the U.S. Agency for International Development at a time the administration is proposing cuts in foreign aid and a reorganization of the agency...

Green's appointment has been widely applauded by development experts and aid groups.

"Green's confirmation is a sign of hope that if we are entering a period of triage when it comes to many USAID programs, we will at least have a responsible actor overseeing this difficult and fraught process, and hopefully one who will stand firm on behalf of his agency's critical mission," said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development and a former U.S. Treasury official.

Read full article here.

July 28, 2017

In Trump's US Aid Shake-up, Advocates See a Window for Long-Sought Reforms (Devex)

From the article:

Others see an opportunity to caution the new administration against some of the sweeping changes it has reportedly entertained. Given widespread disagreement with the idea of merging USAID and the State Department, pursuing that plan would mean entering a costly fight the administration might not win. In lieu of that the White House might consider some smaller changes that could actually help achieve its stated goal of optimizing U.S. development programs, according to experts from the Center for Global Development.

“We wanted to make the point that there is a real agenda for constructive reform that doesn’t have to involve folding anyone into anyone else,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a CGD senior fellow who directed foreign disaster assistance during the Obama administration.

“There’s been so much focus in the media and so much speculation and fear in the development community about a State-AID merger or other things in that vein. Our council here is, walk before you run on some of that,” Konyndyk said.

CGD’s proposal calls for organizing U.S. development around four core priorities: Fragile states, inclusive growth, global health, and humanitarian assistance. The authors also propose a set of 14 “immediately actionable reforms,” including building flexibility into USAID’s procurement system so it can respond faster in unstable environments and making the agency’s hiring mechanisms more “rational.”

“There might be big talk around huge reforms, [but] those require really big lift and previous attempts have not been successful,” said Cindy Huang, a CGD senior fellow who served at the Millennium Challenge Corp. and State Department.

“The piece that I think is targeted for this time is, what are the practical steps that we can take — not all easy, but relatively modest compared to other proposals that have been put out recently — that will ‘grease the skids’ or really have a chance at building momentum?” Huang added.

Read full article here.

July 28, 2017

Opinion: 4 Pragmatic Steps to Jump-Start Foreign Assistance Reform (Devex)

From the op-ed:

President Donald Trump and his Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have embarked upon a time-honored tradition for new administrations: A government efficiency review. In the case of the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development, Tillerson has brought in outside consultants to conduct wide-ranging interviews with staff, and even produced “word clouds” to help suss out foreign affairs priorities.

The White House, State and USAID reviews have rightly emphasized addressing duplication and inefficiency. But rather than focusing on a State/USAID merger, as has been widely rumored, the administration should look at something that leads to some of the biggest duplications, triplications, and even quadruplications of capacity that exists in the U.S. government: The severe fragmentation of U.S. development assistance.

Writing as former senior officials in two of the government’s largest development agencies — USAID and the Millennium Challenge Corporation — we have seen this fragmentation first-hand. The biggest efficiency gap in the U.S. foreign affairs agencies is not the division between State and USAID — it is the diffusion of U.S. development aid’s goals and roles across twenty-some federal agencies and offices. State and USAID should remain separate and distinct — they have different missions, represent distinct professional disciplines and require different organizational cultures. But the development architecture is long overdue for realignment and consolidation. We have just released a paper laying out a path for doing this — starting with a set of immediately actionable reforms, and moving from there toward a more fundamental reorganization plan.

Read full op-ed here.

July 12, 2017

House Bill Would Cut State Department Funding By 14 Percent (The Hill)

From the article:

The House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday proposed a spending bill that would cut 14 percent at the State Department in fiscal 2018 from current levels...

International development experts also voiced concern that the cuts risked damaging U.S. standing in the world.

“The evidence shows that U.S. taxpayers support effective foreign assistance programs, but serious reform efforts aimed at greater effectiveness and efficiency will be undermined if budget cuts of this sort mark the starting point,” said Scott Morris, the Director of the US Development Policy Initiative at the Center for Global Development.

Read full article here.

May 31, 2017

'Trump's Aid Budget is Breathtakingly Cruel – Cuts Like These Will Kill People' (The Guardian)

From the article:

The Trump administration may not see the value in investing in peace, but these budget choices will just mean more people killed by conflict.

I could go on and on. I could talk about the debilitating cuts to global food security programming, which will all but guarantee more famine risks in the years ahead. I could talk about the wholesale elimination of Development Assistance funding, which supports basic education, economic development, clean water, and countless other interventions that improve millions of lives each year. I could talk about the zeroing out of the Food for Education programme, which helps kids in extreme poverty stay in school by providing them with a simple daily meal.

But you get the picture. This budget will harm tens of millions of lives to save fractions of pennies. It is gratuitously cruel and unbecoming of the deep American traditions of helping those in need around the world. President Trump and his budget director should think hard about the standard they’ve expressed for themselves – and begin to refocus this budget on “actually helping” people.

Read full article here.

May 23, 2017

Tillerson Defends State Department Cuts Lawmakers Vow to Block (Bloomberg)

From the article:

A proposed State Department budget that would cut spending by more than 28 percent -- rolling back international food aid, humanitarian assistance and health funding -- drew immediate opposition from lawmakers who will decide its fate...

Critics of the proposed foreign aid cuts say the U.S. is already paying less than its fair share of development aid. While the U.S. contributes more than any other nation, at $33.6 billion year, that’s 0.18 percent of its gross domestic product and about half the 0.32 percent contributed by high-income countries, according to Jeremy Konyndyk of the Center for Global Development...
Tillerson and his aides are in the process of a “listening tour” with staff of the State Department and USAID as they consider a major restructuring. Pitkin said major structural changes or actions such as closing overseas posts may come in the fiscal 2019 budget proposal.
In the meantime, Tillerson may have to settle for more money than he wants if Congress has its way.
Refusing to spend the money “would be tantamount to declaring war on congressional appropriators, which is not a wise thing for an administration to do,” said Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development. “We’re in uncharted territory where you have cabinet secretaries going out there for debilitating cuts to their own agencies, so it’s hard to know what to expect.”
May 4, 2017

Clinton and Helms Nearly Ruined State. Tillerson Wants to Finish the Job. (POLITICO)

From the article:

As President Donald Trump prepares to slash the civilian side of U.S. foreign policy, he would do well to examine the last time this was tried. The quote above is from Secretary of State Warren Christopher, not Rex Tillerson, and it ushered in a major deterioration in civilian national security readiness. Over the course of his administration, President Bill Clinton allowed the foreign affairs budget to fall to half the level (adjusted for inflation) that it had enjoyed at its peak under President Ronald Reagan. Clinton also signed off on debilitating cuts—championed by Senator Jesse Helms—to U.S. civilian presence and staffing levels overseas. Ironically it was a Republican president, George W. Bush, who reversed this trend—but only after his military-centric foreign policy (sound familiar?), combined with hollowed-out capacity at State and USAID, led to disaster in post-war Iraq.

Why rehash this history now? Because Trump seems to see the Clinton-era cuts and Bush’s overreliance on the military as a good start, rather than a cautionary tale. The White House is seeking to gut civilian foreign affairs budgets in fiscal year 2018 while bulking up a military budget that is already tenfold larger. Tillerson is proposing to cut State Department staffing by 9 percent. And rumors abound of plans to fold USAID into the State Department.

Read full article here.