For nearly a decade, many of us in the aid community, through our participating in the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) and through our own work, have advocated for reforms that would make our assistance more effective and efficient. (Senator Lugar is an honorary co-chair, and I serve as an executive co-chair of MFAN.) Making dollars go farther and with greater impact is a win for US taxpayers and for the communities we seek to help. It speaks to the humanitarian nature of the American people, builds markets for US companies, and supports a more stable and prosperous world.
The Trump administration has begun its review of government programs, including our foreign affairs agencies – the State Department, USAID, and a number of smaller agencies that provide some type of assistance. Initial plans from government departments were due to the Office of Management and Budget by mid-September where they will be reviewed in preparing the President’s 2019 budget request. In the meantime, agencies are reviewing their internal capacities and finding areas that can be more efficiently redesigned.
Where does consensus come into play? As this redesign process started to unfold, MFAN created a list of principles that should guide it. Such things as – there should be a lead development agency with the capacity to do its job; development and diplomacy should remain be distinct but complementary enterprises. To date, more than 170 organizations and expert individuals have endorsed this set of principles.
As if that was not consensus enough, MFAN’s executive co-chairs decided to put together our own redesign plan that adhered to our principles. Pulling on the expertise of numerous organizations in the community, and led by MFAN co-chair George Ingram, we produced a plan that we hoped was bold and realistic. We were delighted when a number of other thought leaders followed suit with plans of their own -- respected organizations such as the Atlantic Council, USAID’s Advisory Council on Voluntary Foreign Aid, the Center for Global Development, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, and former USAID Administrators Brian Atwood and Andrew Natsios. Looking at the six reports, it is remarkable how many points of convergence there really are.
So, naturally, the next step is to see if we can reconcile the six reports into one consensus plan. This is an ambitious process but one that can help the administration and Congress see where agreement exists. I believe the goal for all of us is to have a redesign process that allows evidence to guide it and results in government agencies that have clear lines of authority with the capacity of staff and resources to carry out their missions and that get us closer to a prosperous and stable world in which American values can thrive.