A New Reform Agenda

April 28, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Today, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) released an updated policy agenda focused on new reforms to bring additional transparency and accountability to America’s investment in international development. These recommendations are designed to build on progress that has already been made and make U.S. programs more effective at alleviating poverty, eradicating disease, and driving sustainable economic growth in developing countries. In the midst of debates about the federal budget, these proposed reforms demonstrate a serious approach to ensuring U.S. assistance is as cost effective and efficient as possible.

Must Reads

Who’s In the News

Panetta nomination may signal deeper cuts for Pentagon (John T. Bennet, the Hill)

The Obama administration is portraying CIA Director Leon Panetta, the president’s pick to replace Robert Gates as Defense secretary, as a veteran Washington hand with a mix of operational expertise and management savvy. If he wins confirmation from the Senate and becomes the first Democrat to lead the Pentagon since 1997, Panetta will need to rely on those skills.

Interview: Ronald Kirk (Foreign Policy)

Believe it or not, there are less than 300,000 American businesses that export. The overwhelming majority, over 95 percent of them, are what we define as small businesses. If your focus is how you grow exports and create jobs, a great place to start is by looking at how we build on that base of small business, knowing that exporters today represent less than 1 percent of all small businesses in the United States.

Smart Power

War funding and Function 150: A tricky relationship (Rebecca Williams, the Will and the Wallet)

At play, of course, is the politically-charged concern about the nation’s growing debt. Deficit and debt reduction efforts are the talk of the town, and diplomacy and foreign aid, like other discretionary spending, has been targeted for reduction. Although reductions to State and USAID were modest for FY11, Paul Ryan’s Path to Prosperity would shrink the International Affairs budget to $37 billion, $13 billion below the recently enacted FY11 CR.

American Citizens: More Effective than Diplomats in Engaging Foreign Publics? (Morgan Roach, Foreign Policy Blogs)

The United States is winning no popularity contests in Pakistan.  Only 17 percent of Pakistanis view the U.S. in a favorable light.  Obviously, the U.S. State Department has a long way to go on the public diplomacy front.  One of the most promising ways State is trying to engage foreign publics with unfavorable perceptions of the U.S. is through citizen diplomacy.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Costly Inheritance (Linda J. Bilmes, Boston Globe)

Despite the trillion dollars added to the Pentagon’s budget since 9/11, the Navy and Air Force fleets are much smaller than they were 10 years ago. Moreover, if we chip away at spending on diplomacy, foreign language training, and foreign aid, we will sacrifice our “soft power’’ — whereas cutting obsolete heavy weapons programs from the Pentagon and spending a fraction of the money saved on such instruments of “soft’’ influence would strengthen our country while still saving money.

Hope for Michigan businesses? One word: Exports (Rick Haglund, Ann Arbor.com)

Michigan’s declining population and slow economic growth are prompting many companies, including mom-and-pop operations, to consider exporting. “There’s been a tremendous increase in interest,” said Patrick McRae, a trade specialist at the United States Commercial Service in Grand Rapids. “A lot of it is due to the economic downturn. But the global nature of modern business makes exporting essential.”

What Haiti Needs: An Entrepreneurial Revolution (Lesly J. Michelot, Forbes)

What can NGOs and donor nations do to help Haiti gain a true independence? First, foreign aid should be specifically allocated to infrastructure, a commitment from foreign governments to donate a specific amount over a twenty-year period toward road building, improvement of electrical grids, and ports, and training for Haitians so they can properly maintain the new infrastructure. These improvements would go a long way toward increasing private investment in Haiti.