This Op-Ed was published in The Hill
One of the most significant challenges facing the future of American foreign policy is the ongoing reorganization planning at the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Last week marked a milestone in that process, with State and USAID submitting their reform proposals to the White House. Such efforts have the potential to fundamentally shift how the United States conducts essential aid and relief missions. The Trump administration is rightly seeking to further advance the effectiveness of these missions, and improve the efficiency in how they are carried out. Because of this, we believe it's critically important that this work be done in a transparent manner, and in partnership with Congress.
As Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Effective Foreign Assistance (CCEFA), we are focused on creating dialogue with the key actors who deliver and support U.S. development and assistance abroad - translating lessons learned into policy that makes aid as effective and efficient as possible. As a nation, we spend approximately 1 percent of our budget on international assistance, but returns can be massive.
Americans working overseas in partnership with international organizations and local stakeholders have not only been instrumental in helping deliver emergency disaster assistance, but more importantly have worked with countries in need at the local level to open their economies - helping transition them from aid-dependent-nations into trading partners of the United States. We believe strongly that results-driven, evidence-based, and sustainable aid, focusing on empowering the countries to become self-sufficient and integrated into world markets, should remain a central pillar of our foreign policy.
Progress has been made, particularly with the bipartisan Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability and Global Food Security Acts being signed into law last year. These pieces of legislation both will help institutionalize transparency, strengthen evaluation programs, and promote strategic planning. Our currently introduced Economic Growth and Development Act (EGDA), formulated with the strong support of the CCEFA, would take the next step - creating a single point of entry for private companies to coordinate development and aid investments with government programs and projects overseas. It would also ensure comprehensive reviews by agencies to help identify barriers to growth within each country where they work.
We agree with and support current proposals put forward by a bipartisan group of our colleagues on the Appropriations Committee that require the administration to provide detailed information on any reorganization plan prior to it being implemented. Many organizations, often comprised of bipartisan experts on international assistance who have spent their careers in this space, work every day to find ways of effectively and efficiently building stability and economic capacity in developing nations. One of these organizations, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN), has created guiding principles on how the administration and Congress can partner with the development community to truly make a difference in our work overseas. It is critical that these and other views be taken into account, as they emphasize the value of both public and private sector efforts.
We welcome the opportunity to work with the newly confirmed USAID Administrator Mark Green, who will bring critical leadership to our lead development agency during this transition period. Any efforts to find efficiencies at USAID must have the administrator squarely at the center, with an equal voice to his counterparts at the State Department. Administrator Green has a long track record of global engagement, and deeply understands the importance of development in American foreign policy.
The coming months represent a very real opportunity to not only continue to improve the efficacy of our aid and development programs inside the government, but also to drive a new level of partnership with the private sector to help improve the lives of those living in poverty. We stand ready to work with this administration, as well as the career professionals at both the State Department and USAID. This mission is far too significant to not get right.
Smith represents Washington's 9th District and is ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee. Yoho represents Florida's 3rd District and is a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Smith and Yoho are the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Effective Foreign Assistance.
This Op-Ed was published in The Hill on September 20, 2017