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THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL

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JANUARY-FEBRUARY 2017

27

Here are eight recommendations to rationalize U.S. foreign assistance

and, thus, greatly increase its effectiveness.

BY THOMAS C . ADAMS

FOREIGN

ASSISTANCE

Time to Sharpen a Vital Diplomatic Tool

Thomas C. Adams is a retired Senior State Department

official who spent more than 40 years in government

service, including 11 years in the Foreign Service with

assignments to Zanzibar, Brussels and Budapest before

converting to Civil Service. During most of his government service,

he was engaged in managing foreign assistance. As a member of the

Senior Executive Service, he served as coordinator of assistance to

Europe and Eurasia, and as Haiti special coordinator.

W

hen the U.S. Agency for

International Develop-

ment was established

in 1961 during the

Kennedy administra-

tion, the idea was to

create a skilled and

muscular foreign aid

agency out of an exist-

ing apparatus that had become bureaucratically fragmented

and not particularly effective. Evidence of the importance that

Presidents John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson assigned to

FOCUS

NOTES TO THE NEW ADMINISTRATION

this effort can be seen in their selection of USAID’s second

Administrator, David Bell, who left his job as director of the

Bureau of the Budget for what he considered a far more impor-

tant position: USAID Administrator.

In the last three decades, however, we have returned to a

highly fragmented system of foreign assistance, with some

20 agencies managing what are in many cases overlapping

programs. The next administration has a good opportunity to

rationalize the way the United States administers its foreign

assistance and, thus, greatly increase its effectiveness.

Every president wants to have a strong foreign policy.

Though many in Congress seem utterly hostile to foreign aid,

the reality is that behind closed doors there is broad bipartisan

support for foreign assistance as a key element of advanc-

ing U.S. foreign policy goals. And with the American people

increasingly wary of large-scale military intervention, there is

a desire to use diplomatic tools over military ones.

As these leaders recognize—fallacious or under-informed

critiques of “nation-building” notwithstanding—U.S. foreign

aid programs that build effective governments, reduce ram-

pant disease, offer education and hope for the future, increase