U.S. foreign assistance—the rationale behind it, the amount we give, its orientation and organization—has changed dramatically in the last decade. These changes have challenged its efficacy but have also created new opportunities to modernize U.S. foreign assistance. The importance of supporting development and reducing poverty abroad are understood now as never before to be both moral imperatives and prerequisites for sustained U.S. national security.
Since its origins after World War II, U.S. foreign assistance has served our national interests in three fundamental ways: enhancing national security, expanding global economic opportunities, and promoting American values. These interests are mutually reinforcing, and when the U.S. pursues them each strategically and in tandem it positions itself as a pragmatic and principled world leader.
The international and domestic challenges of the 21st century— including transnational threats such as economic instability, terrorism, climate change, and disease—cannot be met with a foreign assistance apparatus created to confront the challenges of the 20th century. America’s reputation abroad cannot be restored without a fresh, smart approach to U.S. foreign policy and engagement in the world. Our defense and diplomatic tools must be strengthened and modernized, and they must be complemented by equally robust tools for development. U.S. global leadership is based not only on our military clout or economic power, but on our moral stature, which derives from helping others improve their lives and those of their communities and societies.