Gates Forum Paper

(Re)invigorating U.S. Development Assistance: Alternative Models and Options

Date Published

Dec 11, 2023


Samantha Custer



Custer, S. 2023. (Re)invigorating U.S. Development Assistance: Alternative Models and Options. Williamsburg, VA: AidData at William & Mary.


In partnership with William & Mary’s Global Research Institute (GRI) and the Gates Global Policy Center (GGPC) led by William & Mary's Chancellor and Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, this research paper was produced by AidData to accompany the second Gates Forum, held in December 2023 at William & Mary on the role of U.S. development assistance in an era of intensifying great power competition.

This research effort sought to answer a single overarching question: How might we reinvigorate development assistance to better advance America’s varied national interests? This paper surfaces fifteen policy options to reinvigorate U.S. development assistance to better advance America’s varied national interests. Ten policy options address strategic or structural pain points related to strategic ambiguity, operational incoherence, and a mismatch with market demand. The paper proposes two different reform paths that U.S. policymakers might consider: one to reduce the number of existing players, and the other to refocus, de-conflict, and coordinate existing players’ mandates in ways that improve coordination and coherence. Finally, the paper proposes five additional opportunities for less dramatic but consequential reforms to overcome operational-level pain points.

For the complete research volume, please see [Combined Report] The Imperative to Reinvigorate U.S. Development Assistance Capabilities to Better Advance America’s National Interests.

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