The Foreign Service Journal - July/August 2017
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The Future of Foreign Assistance

This is my last column

as USAID VP, so I want to

begin by expressing my

deepest admiration to my

fellow USAID FSOs for their

focused dedication to the

agency’s honorable and

challenging mission around

the globe.

USAID’s duty to help end

extreme poverty and pro-

mote resilient, democratic

societies worldwide, while

advancing U.S. security and

prosperity, is one we can all

stand proudly behind.

As I ponder the next

phase of my life and what

will make it most meaning-

ful, I have been considering

what it is that makes a per-

son, an organization, or even

a country, great. Looking

beyond oneself and giving

for the betterment of others

comes up as an almost uni-

versal distinguishing quality

of greatness.

When an individual or

an organization is fondly

remembered, it is often for

unselfish acts that improve

the lives of those around

them. For example, when a

business starts contributing

positively to the community,

not only does the neigh-

borhood benefit, but the

business gains an improved


It is no wonder that

recognizing the value of

foreign assistance in our

global community, Congress

enacted the Foreign Assis-

tance Act of 1961.

This act established a





single agency, USAID, to be

responsible for administer-

ing aid to foreign countries

and managing assistance

overseas. The act reads:

“to promote the foreign

policy, security and general

welfare of the United States

by assisting peoples of the

world in their efforts toward

economic development and

internal and external secu-

rity, and for other purposes.”

Acknowledging the

responsibility of the great-

est nation in the world, the

act went on to say that the

United States should take

the lead, in concert with

other nations, to mobilize

such resources from public

and private sources.

USAID programs focus

on problems so monumental

that they cannot be resolved

without interagency and

international cooperation.

The 2014 Ebola outbreak

illustrates the importance of

improving health systems in

Africa to reduce the risk of a

disease outbreak that could

easily lead to a global pan-

demic. It also demonstrated

USAID’s great strength in

mobilizing resources, as

temporary clinics were set

up all over the affected area.

Another example is the

Power Africa initiative, for

which USAID and other

agencies have mobilized

$43 billion, most of it private

capital. In Latin America,

USAID has leveraged five

dollars for every one dollar


USAID takes great pride

in its role combating issues

that drive extremism,

including insecurity, injus-

tice, hopelessness and lack

of opportunity. In our global

community, USAID works to

stabilize countries and bring

hope that their citizens can

build a satisfying life in their

home country.

There is much uncer-

tainty in the air as the U.S.

government reviews USAID

for efficiencies. An updated

review of USAID programs

and initiatives is welcome

and wise. Such a review

would not be complete,

however, if it did not con-

sider the intent of USAID’s

founding legislation that

the agency be staffed and

resourced as the country’s

lead development agency,

consolidating all foreign

assistance under its aegis.

For years, USAID has been

understaffed, misunder-

stood and undersupported.

According to surveys

such as the Kaiser Fam-

ily Foundation polls, many

Americans believe that the

United States spends as

much as 25 percent of the

federal budget on foreign

aid, more than Social

Security or Medicare. When

informed of the real figure

(less than 1 percent of the

federal budget is spent on

foreign aid), surveys show

60 percent of Americans

think that we should either

continue that level of spend-

ing or spend more to reduce

hunger and poverty around

the world.

The United States ranks

22nd among Development

Assistance Committee

member countries in foreign

assistance spending as a

percentage of gross national


When reviewing the

national budget, a truly

great nation would seek to

increase its strategic invest-

ment in foreign develop-


The benefits to the

United States from foreign

development assistance

must not be undervalued.


Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA USAID VP.


or (202) 712-1631



The benefits to the United States

from foreign development assistance

must not be undervalued.