Delivering Foreign Assistance (1 of 2)

Foreign assistance is a key soft power tool used by the United States to achieve its policy objectives, and further its national values. The goal of US foreign assistance is to help build and sustain democratic, well-governed states that respond to the needs of their people, reduce widespread poverty and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. Foreign assistance is provided for a wide variety of purposes, ranging from the amelioration of humanitarian crises, to the advancement of economic growth, to the strengthening allied and partner military and police forces, to the encouragement of free elections and open political systems. Assistance can be used to achieve short term needs, such as the prevention of famine, or long term objectives, such as the elimination of HIV/AIDS or the democratization of closed polities. Currently, the US organizes its assistance into five categories, named for the objectives that they pursue: peace and security, governing justly and democratically, investing in people, economic growth, and humanitarian assistance. These categories cover the broad spectrum of US foreign assistance and its objectives. The Foreign Assistance framework articulates these objectives. View more information.

The U.S. government provides assistance to foreign countries in the form of grants, loans, debt forgiveness, commodities, and technical assistance on a wide range of issues. Assistance is most commonly implemented through nongovernmental organizations and private companies, though it can also be executed directly by a U.S. government agency, an international organization (such as the World Food Program), or through a direct cash transfer to a recipient country (e.g. Israel). Given the wide array of official and non-official sources of assistance, significant coordination is necessary to utilize scarce resources efficiently. Within the U.S. government alone, there are 50 separate organizations that contribute expertise and carry out assistance overseas. Further, many non-government U.S. sources, including foundations, corporations, private and voluntary organizations, colleges and universities, religious organizations, and individuals, also contribute direct assistance. The additional number of other donors, i.e., foreign countries, individuals, and international organizations, that provide assistance results in a very complicated environment that necessitates coordination. The World Bank or the United Nations often lead donor coordination efforts within developing countries.

Within the US government, the coordination of key bilateral foreign assistance policies, strategic goals, and resource allocation occurs through the NSC interagency coordination system, in concert with the Office of Management and Budget. The Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance exercises leadership of foreign assistance planning, budgeting, and performance management. Chiefs of Mission are responsible for the coordination of assistance within their assigned countries, while combatant commanders lead the execution of military assistance programs within their area of responsibility. Missions produce annual assistance plans for funds allocated to them by the Office of the Director of US Foreign Assistance. These plans are reviewed and approved by the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance on behalf of the Secretary of State. Similar processes are used to approve plans and allocate resources for assistance programs managed by other departments and agencies.