2013’s Smart Power Resolution

January 15, 2013 By Ashley E. (Chandler) Chang

ResolutionIt’s a new year, and two weeks into 2013, big changes are everywhere you look in Washington, from Capitol Hill, to Foggy Bottom, and across the Potomac to the Pentagon. By Day 4, the 113th Congress was sworn in. With more than 80 freshmen in the House and Senate, there is also a record number of women serving on both sides of the Capitol, and with more than 170 freshman and sophomore Representatives in the House, Congress has the highest number of junior members since 1994.

All of these new beginnings, fresh on the heels of yearend countdowns and champagne toasts, got me thinking about New Year’s resolutions and what they could mean for the International Affairs Budget. Around 40 to 45 percent of American adults make New Year’s resolutions, so what if this year Washington made a resolution to prioritize a smart power approach to foreign policy?

First, start by asking whether you believe in a more secure America?  In growing the American economy?  In creating jobs here at home? And if humanitarian organizations and faith-based groups reflect the values we stand for as a country? Then, ask whether or not you think accomplishing all this for one percent of the Federal Budget gets you some serious bang for the buck?

Here’s a hint: An emphatic “YES!” should be your answer.

Looks like the White House may agree.   The Administration decided to start 2013 off by nominating Smart Power successors to Foggy Bottom, the Pentagon, and at the Treasury Department. If confirmed, nominees for Secretary of State, John Kerry, Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel, and Secretary of Treasury, Jack Lew, will bring with them a long track records of support for the International Affairs Budget and U.S. global engagement. There’s still a lot of work to do to implement and institutionalize policies and programs announced in the first term, such as Feed the Future, the Foreign Assistance Dashboard, the Global Security Contingency Fund, and the Global Development Council, so these nominees have their work cut out for them.

Under both President Obama and President Bush, the White House has taken steps to strengthen and elevate America’s civilian capacity to meet new complex global threats, embrace new development innovations, make programs more results-oriented, and emphasize partnerships that are more reflective of global economic trends.  We hope this continues in the new year.

But since it takes two to tango, will Capitol Hill make a 2013 Smart Power Resolution? Doing so requires no fasting from eating carbs or hitting the gym, but it does require continued investments in advancing America’s global interests.

Creating jobs is a top priority in every Congressional district, so Members should take this New Year’s resolution seriously.  The International Affairs Budget might just be what your district’s corporations and entrepreneurs need to take their businesses to the next level–and that’s exporting their goods and services overseas.  And almost half of our exports go to the developing world—a trend that continues to grow every year.

The aptly named Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) mobilizes U.S. investment abroad, generates American exports, and helps create jobs back home while working to solve critical development challenges. Oh, and OPIC also earned over half a billion dollars for U.S. taxpayers over the last two years.

That’s a good start to the New Year!

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) also rang in the New Year with a bang by identifying over $2.2 billion in U.S. exports last year. Meaning, for every $1 the Agency spent on programming, it generated over $63 in U.S. exports. Plus, it awards 40 percent of its larger international contracts to helping American small businesses – the backbone of our economy! – expand into emerging economies.

And both of these agencies are funded through the International Affairs Budget.

It is said that people who make resolutions are ten times more likely to attain their goals than those who don’t.  So what’s the reward for making a Smart Power Resolution?   Well it not only goes toward ensuring a prosperous New Year, but it also goes a long way to helping build a better, safer America and world.