Foreign Assistance is essential to U.S. national security and ensuring American interests overseas. For this reason, current efforts by policy makers to slash the 1% of the national budget allotted for funding by upwards of 20%- or eliminating it entirely - are unnerving. However,Americans will fail to reap the benefits of its engagement overseas without dramatic reform that goes beyond the State Department’s plans for expansion of civil servants overseas.Layers of regulations and bureaucracy amassed over the five decades since the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act not only prevent official servants from achieving America’s goals abroad, but also burden the nation with huge amounts of wasteful spending. Six numbers make the argument for policy change:
$0.40 = the amount of every $1.00 of official American aid that reaches beneficiaries
According to a report by the Brookings Institute, the transaction costs of the channels for official aid could amount to 60 percent or more, which would mean that beneficiaries would only see $0.40 or less of every taxpayer dollar sent overseas.
$0.27 = the amount of every taxpayer dollar spent on development and assistance in Iraq that reaches beneficiaries
In the case of Iraq, the Center for Strategic and International Studies indicated that only $0.27 of every taxpayer dollar reaches the beneficiaries of development and assistance.
$500,000 = the average cost of a single State Department position overseas
The Inspector General's 2010 assessment of State's management and performance challenges indicates that, on average, each overseas position costs State $500,000. In posts requiring heightened security measures, costs are likely to be higher.
219% = the percent increase in the cost for deploying an official American civilian overseas
The marginal cost for deployment of "official" civilian power has increased from $228,000 in 1993 to $500,000 in 2010. Added costs are likely a direct result of embassy/consulate compound development, increased security, and additional benefits to accommodate increased work in fragile states.
77 = the number of diplomatic facilities constructed since 1999 that adhere to the requirements of the Secure Embassy Construction and Counterterrorism Act (SECCA)
In 1999, Congress passed SECCA, which introduced new standards of security for US diplomatic compounds overseas. Requirements for facilities to be at least 100 feet from the perimeter of the property have often forced relocation from urban centers, into large compounds outside of major cities. Subsequent shifts in the methods for conducting diplomacy and outreach activities have led to questions about the effectiveness of engagement with foreign communities.
50 = the number of years since the US foreign assistance policy was subject to system-level reform
The United States’ current model of foreign assistance was implemented in 1961 by President John F. Kennedy under the Foreign Assistance Act. Despite dramatic advances in technology and global relations, the system has been subjected to only minor reforms since this date.
Ongoing government budget discussions have brought renewed attention to the size and scope of U.S. foreign assistance allocations. In contrast to the calls for across-the-board reductions, BTD is actively working with congressional leaders to offer a practical model of foreign assistance reform that more effectively uses funding to engage American civil society leaders, and utilizes today’s modern technologies for long-term and sustainable impact overseas.
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