U.S. Aid Policy Needs to Take Risks and Reward Big Ideas

By Andrew Natsios

Andrew S. Natsios is an executive professor at the Bush School and director of the Scowcroft Institute of International Affairs. Natsios was most recently a Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at the Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University and former administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID). As USAID administrator from 2001-2006, Natsios managed reconstruction programs in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Sudan. He also served as US special envoy to Sudan in 2006-2007. Retired from the US Army Reserves at the rank of lieutenant colonel after twenty-three years, Natsios is a veteran of the Gulf War. From 1993 to 1998, he was vice president of World Vision US, the largest faith-based nongovernmental organization in the world, with programs in 103 countries. Earlier in his career, Natsios served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives for twelve years and as the chief financial and administrative officer of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. He also served as the CEO of Boston's Big Dig, the largest construction project in American history, after a cost overrun scandal.

President Trump’s proposed budget looks to slash almost $26 billion from diplomacy and foreign aid programs next year. Those in favor of such a move argue that U.S. foreign aid and economic development spending is an inefficient and wasteful use of taxpayer money. However, in June, 16 retired generals and admirals testified to the Senate Armed Services Committee that international economic development assistance “is not charity – it is an essential, modern tool of U.S. national security.” The Cipher Brief’s Fritz Lodge spoke with former Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Andrew Natsios about the value of foreign economic development, what role it has played in U.S. foreign policy, and the dangers of walking it back.

The Cipher Brief: In your mind, how does international economic development affect U.S. national security and what policies has the U.S. historically pursued to promote that development?

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