A Foreign Assistance Manifesto for the Next President

By Dan Runde | AUGUST 25, 2015

Thankfully, U.S. foreign assistance policy has not been part of the foreign policy and national security debate in this presidential campaign season. U.S. foreign assistance is for the vast majority of voters not a vote moving issue in primaries or even in the general election in November. In past cycles, when development has gotten any attention it has been around ending assistance, or very focused debate on a small subset of countries. However, international development and U.S. assistance policy domatter to a broad series of critical questions that demonstrate a candidate meets the commander-in-chief test. A different kind of discussion about development is warranted, and the U.S. foreign assistance budget of around $30 billion a year (less than 1 percent of the federal budget) should be thought of as an important instrument of U.S. global leadership.

There are still some inside and outside the Republican Party who believe all assistance is useless — money down a rat hole or gone to Swiss Bank Accounts. Historically, Republican presidents including Reagan, Bush 41, and Bush 43 have used assistance to expand political freedom and economic freedom in the world. These presidents worked closely with the U.S. Congress to make significant change whether it was creating the National Endowment for Democracy under President Reagan, supporting the emergence of a Europe Whole and Free under Bush 41, or the major contributions of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the President’s Malaria Initiative, and PEPFAR to combat HIV/AIDS. All of these accomplishments were done in partnership with the U.S. Congress. Unfortunately, the Obama administration has produced nothing new in partnership with the Congress.

Originally published in Foreign Policy