If President Donald Trumpâs administration undertakes a good-faith effort to improve United States foreign assistance programs, there will be plenty of advice on how best to do it.
Already this month, three leading development think tanks have released detailed, thoroughly-argued blueprints for U.S. aid reform, covering issues ranging from hiring and personnel management, to contracting and procurement, to changing the way America delivers humanitarian assistance. They are hoping to find a receptive audience in a White House that has sent shockwaves through the State Department and U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentÂ by signaling it plans to carry out a heavy-handed reform.
The proposals represent a stark contrast to the âcut first, ask questions laterâ approach the White House has taken so far. The president directed all federal agencies to undergo organizational and staffing reviews to find programs and people they can cut â but before that process even started, Trump proposed slashing the U.S. foreign affairs budget by more than 30 percent. The administration has also reportedly explored merging USAID into the State Department in an effort to achieve greater efficiency, though that idea has met criticism from multiple directions.
While the White Houseâs skepticism of U.S. foreign aid programs has caused many in the development community to hope for the best and plan for the worst, some policy thinkers are trying to use the presidentâs rejection of the status quo as a lever to pry open a window for genuine reform.Â Some of them see the Trump teamâs willingness to challenge existing structures as an opportunity.