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A fresh look for international engagement

Many of my former colleagues on Capitol Hill will be pleasantly surprised to learn that much needed reforms are actually underway. Under President Bush, Secretary of State Rice initiated the Transformational Diplomacy initiative to bring greater focus to the role of our diplomats and development experts our play. Building on these efforts, Secretary Clinton recently completed a Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review to better coordinate how we allocate all of our civilian-led tools of foreign policy across the government. 

As one of the original legislative authors of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and as Ambassador to the nation with the largest-ever Millennium Challenge Corporation compact, I know that we can implement International Affairs programs with good governance principles and a focus on better results. We can create high standards for our partner nations, set benchmarks and demanded accountability for every dollar of our investment.

If you invest in a corporation, you expect to see how the business is performing. International Affairs programs should be no different. At the U.S. Agency for International Development, they are taking this to heart and are beginning a monumental effort to better monitor and evaluate all of USAID’s programs and allow the American taxpayers to see exactly where their hard-earned dollars are going. For example, with the new foreign assistance dashboard, USAID projects can be tracked and measured to ensure their effectiveness and whether or not they are achieving their goals and objectives—online for all to see. 

The reforms USAID is undertaking are just the beginning, and much more work will need to be done if we’re going to ensure that it’s no longer “your father’s USAID.” But we must give these reforms every chance to succeed, and this cannot happen without the right resources. Drastic cuts to the International Affairs Budget, as some have proposed, would cut reform off at the knees, and tie us down to the old way of doing business.

Too many people see development and diplomacy programs as merely helping other nations. In fact, done right, these programs are strongly in our interest. International Affairs programs aren’t just the right thing to do – they are also the smart thing to do. They can help to build stability in some of the most dangerous parts of the world, helping to reduce the use of our precious (and more costly) military resources. They can also open up new markets for American goods and services, paving the way for billions of dollars in exports and new job creation right here at home.

There is broad consensus that in today’s complex and interconnected world, we have to use both our civilian and military tools to keep our nation safe. As my former colleague Senator Lindsey Graham said recently, “We live in a dangerous world, and foreign aid is in our national security interests.” 

It’s crucial that we make these tools as effective and efficient as possible. Reforms underway will help us get there, but they need the opportunity – and the resources – to succeed.

Mark Green served four terms as a member of Congress from Wisconsin’s 8th District. He was named ambassador to Tanzania during the George W. Bush Administration. He is currently senior director for the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign.

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