Washington, D.C. — The U.S. security assistance system that provides billions of dollars in arms, training, and military support to foreign partners is not fit for today’s global challenges, according to a new report from the Center for American Progress that urges the Biden administration to reform the system to ensure that it better supports overall U.S. goals.
These reforms include placing the U.S. Department of State back in charge of security assistance by ending the U.S. Department of Defense’s (DOD) duplicative assistance programs. A new security assistance system—centralized and coordinated within the State Department—would allow the United States to wield its security assistance more effectively and responsibly in today’s competitive geopolitical environment, the report says.
Under the current security assistance system, there are essentially two duplicative bureaucracies coordinating U.S. security assistance, one at the State Department and one at DOD. As a result, the returns on America’s security investments are limited, inconsistent, and not strategic. Today, the system relies increasingly on the military to solve foreign policy challenges, provides assistance to nondemocratic partners or those who commit human rights abuses, and has become an ineffective and unwieldy tool.
“We need a dramatic realignment of U.S. security assistance,” said Max Bergmann, a senior fellow at CAP and co-author of the report. “The key to putting diplomacy back in the lead on U.S. foreign policy is restoring the State Department’s role as the overseer of all U.S. foreign assistance.”
Moving resources to the State Department to conduct security assistance would result in more effective aid that is less likely to be wasted or flow to abusive partners, the report says. It would also reduce unnecessary bureaucracy from the current system. This would be an important step toward undoing the militarization of U.S. foreign policy and would give an important foreign policy tool back to American diplomats.
Read the report: “A Plan to Reform U.S. Security Assistance” by Max Bergmann and Alexandra Schmitt
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