Reorganizing U.S. Foreign Aid

12.14.2005

The Financial Times (London) reported on December 12, 2005, that the Bush administration is planning to implement one of the most sweeping changes to the US foreign aid apparatus in the last 40 years. As part of this reform, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) could become a branch of the State Department. According to the Financial Times article, critics of the proposed reforms have argued that this restructuring will politicize foreign assistance. On the other hand, those in favor of the reform view this as an important attempt to improve USAID programs.

“Supporters of the proposed reforms argue that USAID must be brought more in line with policy goals focused on post-conflict reconstruction and democratisation rather than pure development aid…”

At this point while it is not yet clear if the current administration will be able to overhaul the system as it has announced. What is clear is that there is a committment to implement profound changes to the current foreign aid system. At this point it is important to consider the implications of this proposed overhaul. Will the subordination of the foreign aid structure under an agency that is more under direct control of the White House raise suspicions around the world about the goals of foreign aid? More importantly, how would this reorganization affect current USAID’s goals of assisting countries to recover from disaster, escape poverty, and engage in democratic reforms?