A broad coalition of development leaders and organizations called on President Barack Obama and Congress to overhaul the U.S. foreign assistance policy.The Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, a coalition of organizations that back a development policy overhaul, made the appeal in a letter published March 17 in the Politico newspaper.  More than 140 signed the letter including Oxfam America, the Center for Global Development, Bread for the World President David Beckmann, former Millennium Challenge Corp. CEO John Danilovich and former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman John M. Shalikashvili."We are writing to urge you to make modernization of our foreign assistance programs a priority, and pledge our cooperation with and support for efforts to make global development a co-equal pillar of U.S. foreign policy alongside defense and diplomacy," the letter said."While there are standout programs that continue to deliver real value and impact, overall the current system for managing U.S. global development efforts is outdated and messy, with too many agencies running too many programs that lack an overall strategy - and these programs are governed by a Foreign Assistance Act that was written 47 years ago and has not been reauthorized in more than 20 years," the letter continued.The group also urged the public to sign on to the letter at its Web site.Beckmann and Steve Radelet, co-chairs of MFAN, said the Obama administration recognizes the role development can play in an effective foreign policy. However, the way the U.S. development bureaucracy is set up detracts from this recognition."Today, that system is not as coordinated and efficient as it could be because too many agencies oversee too many programs, and we lack both an overall global development strategy and up-to-date legislation to organize our efforts and maximize their impact," they said in a statement.The MFAN letter is the latest in a series of calls for an overhaul of U.S. development policy and bureaucracy. It has been echoed by academics, development professionals and even by some lawmakers on Capitol Hill.However, the Obama administration remains silent on the issue. There was talk of a foreign assistance overhaul during the campaign, but that has died in the early days of the administration. Secretary of State Hilary Clinton has barely mentioned development reform; neither has Obama nor Vice President Joe Biden.The lack of chatter out of official administration channels is most likely because the economic crisis has dominated Obama's early months in office. As such, any hopes for early development policy change are likely going to be false.

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    David Francis

    David is a Washington-based journalist and former Devex staffer who spearheaded Devex's "Obama's Foreign Aid Reform" blog. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette, SportsIllustrated.com, San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy magazine, and the Washington Monthly. David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Georgetown University.