The USGLC reviewed over 60 reports by think tanks, NGOs, and national security and foreign policy experts from across the political spectrum on ensuring America’s civilian tools of national security advance our security and economic interests around the world.
These reports focused on a broad range of issues with a wide spectrum of recommendations – from one suggesting moving USAID into the State Department to the other extreme of consolidating all of government-wide development programs into an elevated Cabinet-level agency headed by USAID. Neither of these two positions carry significant bipartisan support.
However, there is consensus on seven key areas – among the vast majority of reports – to strengthen, improve, and reform diplomacy and development. While reports offer different options as to how to tactically implement these areas of reform, these seven areas of consensus provide a smart pathway forward for the reform agenda.
Nearly all reports agree that diplomacy and development have different, equally important strategic missions that require a distinct and independent development agency. Options for ensuring an independent development agency include designating the USAID Administrator as Director of Foreign Assistance and strengthening USAID’s existing budget and policy capacity to ensure it can be a strategic partner with the State Department.
Most reports identified a range of ways to reduce duplication and inefficiencies in America’s diplomacy and development programs. Options for how to address these issues focused on the need for better coordination in global health, humanitarian assistance, and economic growth along with reforming procurement, human resources, and earmarks that limit program effectiveness.
Nearly all reports agree that America’s global economic leadership and efforts to promote economic growth are critical to our own prosperity and American jobs at a time when we face rising competition from countries like China. Options for strengthening these efforts include greater leveraging of private sector expertise and resources to have an impact at scale, unleashing development finance, and increasing America’s economic diplomacy around the world.
Nearly all reports agree that America’s civilian tools of national security will be critical in fighting terrorism and preventing violent extremism, especially in fragile states. Options for improving these tools include strengthening civilian capacity to operate in conflict environments and deepening engagement with allies to broaden cooperation around the world.
A wide range of reports highlight the unprecedented, complex, and chronic crises that threaten our national security require that the U.S. bolster and strengthen our humanitarian assistance programs. Options for bolstering assistance include reducing or eliminating inefficient American cargo preference and investing in local capacity to respond to disasters in weak and fragile states.
Reports strongly agree that foreign assistance must demonstrate a return on investment and maximize the impact from taxpayer dollars. Options include building on reforms that invest in new technologies to develop innovative solutions, strengthening monitoring and evaluation to ensure policy decisions are driven by data, and developing strategies for transitioning countries from foreign assistance.
Nearly all reports recognized that, given the challenges our nation faces today, the debate on reforming diplomacy and development cannot be separated from resources. Options include working with Congress to increase resources for the International Affairs Budget, as well as to ensure that reforms will be sustainable.