Under the Influence: Finding a Voice for Foreign Aid

Under the Influence: Finding a Voice for Foreign Aid

Among the more than 20 top posts at the State Department that have yet to be filled is the director of foreign assistance. Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice created the post in 2006 to consolidate responsibility for the country's nearly $30 billion foreign aid budget. What follows is a letter to the still-to-be-named nominee.

To the incoming director of foreign assistance,

As you well know, for more than six decades, foreign aid has played an indispensable role in the conduct of the United States' foreign affairs. Today, 154 countries benefit from some kind of financial assistance. Along with defense and diplomacy, foreign aid is a massively influential foreign policy tool. A recent government report (.pdf) put it well: "Foreign aid is probably the most flexible tool -- it can act as both a carrot and a stick, and is a means of influencing events, solving specific problems, and projecting U.S. values." Yet, in contrast to the hugely powerful and lavishly funded military or the esteemed diplomatic corps, the foreign aid apparatus at times lacks the coherence and institutional weight relative to the essential role it plays.

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