Gordon Adams appeared as a panelist this morning at an event hosted by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network to mark the release of a new report, Engagement Amid Austerity: A Bipartisan Approach to Reorienting the International Affairs Budget, which seeks to set foreign assistance priorities in light of inevitable budget cuts. As Gordon pointed out:
We are at an inflection point about the way the US engages the world and how we fund that engagement.
As the US withdraws from Iraq and Afghanistan and the economy diverts public attention from global engagement, international affairs resources are bound to decline after a decade of growth. Hard budget choices are necessary to avoid duplicating the 1990’s drawdown’s harmful effects on diplomatic capabilities.
The relative abundance of funding in DOD will, of course, make it tempting to give DOD more authority over foreign assistance, particularly security assistance. Gordon argued this morning, as he has previously, that concentrating authority in DOD would be a serious error because security assistance can only function properly as part of a broad, long-term approach to establishing effective governance. While strategic planning and performance evaluation for security assistance programs have historically been inadequate, only State and USAID have the proper institutional focus for managing comprehensive governance programs that include security. Leaving security assistance programs largely under DOD’s control and separated from governance efforts will only heighten the risk of repeating past mistakes.