MFAN: Americans Need 'Honest Facts' on US Foreign Aid

A member of the U.S. Marines helps unload humanitarian aid supplies for Haiti. Foreign aid should not be used a "budget piñata," according to co-chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network. Photo by: Marion Doss / CC BY-SA

The debate around U.S. foreign assistance cannot afford to get lost in the “usual political back and forth,” co-chairs of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network says, adding that the U.S. public needs to know the “honest facts” about the aid the U.S. sends overseas.

For instance, it is imperative to correct the misconception that U.S. foreign assistance accounts for 25 percent of the federal budget, David Beckmann, George Ingram and Jim Kolbe write. The United States only spends 1 percent of its annual budget on foreign aid, they say.

It is also time to stop using foreign aid as a “budget piñata,” the three add, highlighting that development is now among the key components of U.S. foreign policy.

“Our modest investment in strategic and effective foreign assistance programs pays outsize dividends in terms of our security, prosperity and global leadership,” Beckmann, Ingram and Kolbe say.

In terms of security, the U.S. Agency for International Development complements the work of the State Department and the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Pakistan and other front-line states by supporting the training of security forces and improving the lives of people, among others. At the same time, development programs help stabilize communities overseas and transform them into potential markets for U.S. businesses. Foreign assistance also helps the U.S. maintain its lead role in the international community, the three say.

“The Obama administration and Congress need to support these programs and work together to make them more effective and accountable,” they write. “And the American public deserves an honest debate about the importance of our foreign assistance.”

Read more about U.S.development aid.

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.