The US budget for international affairs will face significant pressures in the coming years under almost any imaginable scenario. A divisive political environment, worries about the economic recovery, concerns over rising budget deficits and national debt, and upcoming elections will make it difficult for policymakers to reach agreement on budget priorities.
Within this context, the Center for Global Development (CGD) and the Center for American Progress (CAP) convened the Working Group on Aid Priorities amid Declining Resources to develop recommendations for more sensible priorities in the US international affairs budget. The resulting proposals—based on consultative meetings, one-on-one interviews, literature reviews, and working group deliberations—informed the basis of the report, Engagement amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget co-authored by John Norris, executive director of the CAP’s Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative, and Connie Veillette, director of CGD’s Rethinking US Foreign Assistance Initiative.
Veillette and Norris argue that bipartisan support is essential to modernize America’s approach to diplomacy and development. They make four recommendations to get a better return on US international affairs investments:
- Focus US economic and security assistance programs by putting more money into fewer countries and centering efforts where governments are willing to embrace reform and make aid programs more likely to succeed. The report includes a rating of all 146 countries that currently receive US economic and security assistance and recommends concentrating assistance in some countries and reducing or eliminating it in others.
- Accelerate cost-sharing arrangements with upper middle income recipients of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), including Botswana, the Dominican Republic, Namibia, South Africa, and the Caribbean and Central American regions.
- Overhaul US food aid laws and regulations to end US cargo preference, eliminate monetized food aid, and allow for more local and regional food purchases.
- Establish an International Affairs Realignment Commission akin to the Defense Base Realignment and Closure Commission—to overhaul US foreign affairs agencies and operations. The International Affairs Realignment Commission would present a package of institutional and program reforms for an up or down approval by the administration and Congress.
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