It’s conventional wisdom that Congress doesn’t get much done in an election year. But under the radar, Congress has been remarkably productive at moving bipartisan legislation on foreign assistance. At a time when political polarization can seem stronger than ever, members of Congress have found common ground in ensuring the sustained effectiveness of development and diplomacy.
At the front lines in the battle against violent extremism, U.S. Africa Command – AFRICOM – recently sought to transfer funds to USAID for community-led violence prevention programs in Niger, only to be told that it lacked the authority to do so. Transfer authority would have to come from Congress. Most observers, including Admiral James Stavridis and General John Allen, agree that combating violent extremism must include what the military calls “kinetic” tools targeting insurgents alongside the “non-kinetic” tools of diplomacy and development to counter radicalization and promote stability in weak and fragile states.
As we begin 2016, several key pieces of global development legislation await Congress, having moved forward during December’s end-of-year rush. These bills on energy access, hunger, and transparency and accountability could have a lasting and positive effect on U.S. foreign assistance. Here’s an update on where they stand in Congress.