The Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act gets at both of these problems. First, it requires the president to establish — and the heads of federal agencies to implement — guidelines on establishing measurable goals, performance metrics and monitoring and evaluation plans for all foreign assistance programs. Second, it codifies what is currently being done through the State Department and USAID’s Dashboard initiative. It would make foreign aid more transparent by increasing the amount of information available to the public, including country-development plans, Congressional budget justifications, actual expenditures and reports and evaluations by subjecting all agencies responsible for aid programs to exposure on the Dashboard.
There is growing bipartisan support in both chambers of Congress for other reform ideas, as well. Research has shown that the earlier a government-administered program engages the private sector, the more likely it is that the program is going to lead to sustainable economic improvement. It is also common sense to require that recipient countries take proactive measures to combat corruption and promote financial transparency so that we have some assurance our foreign assistance dollars are not being diverted or wasted. These are just a few examples of reforms that have the support of taxpayers, the administration and nongovernmental organizations.
Many of these reform proposals would enhance the efforts that the Obama administration has undertaken through two forward-looking initiatives — the President’s Policy Directive on Global Development and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. Congressional action is needed, however, to ensure that the reforms enjoy bipartisan political support and have a lasting effect by codifying them into law.
Given the challenges that our country faces domestically and around the globe, it is necessary that we modernize and reform our foreign aid system, which is a relic of the Cold War. We need a leaner system where money is spent strategically in places where it is in the national interest of the United States. There must be measureable goals and ways to monitor the success (or lack thereof) of the assistance. We must make the foreign aid process more efficient and stretch our dollar further. Making the United States’ foreign aid process more strategic and efficient will strengthen our ability to confront global problems, overcome them and help lead the world to a brighter future.
Rep. Ted Poe (R) represents Texas’ 2nd district. Former Rep. Jim Kolbe (R), a senior transatlantic fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States and co-chairman of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, represented Arizona’s 8th district from 1985 to 2007.