Introduction: The Heritage Foundation is conservative think tank that does research and analysis of several policy issues in order to market their findings to policymakers in the Legislative and Executive branch, as well as the media and the academic community. On August 4, 2009, the Heritage Foundation published an analysis of the US foreign aid policy called Foreign Aid: Congress Should Shift USAID Funds to the Millennium Challenge Account.
This article describes the flaws and weaknesses of the traditional aid model as implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and proposes that all US foreign aid policy be implemented following the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) approach. In this critique, I will analyze the method used by the Heritage Foundation to analyze US foreign aid policy and determine whether or not it followed the policy analysis process as described by the literature.
Problem definition: This article clearly identifies and defines the problem. For the Heritage Foundation the problem lies on the USAID’s approach to foreign aid. They describe this approach as ineffective and costly because it is a top-down, fragmented, and does not require accountability system, which encourages dependency on aid. As a conservative think tank, a major concern is that USAID promotes a statist and entitlement mentality and has a poor record promoting economic growth. Another dimension of the problem is that Congress continues to increase USAID’s budget with funds that expire encouraging reckless spending. Finally, the Heritage Foundation sees this problem as a waste of taxpayers’ money.
As Bardach (2009) mentions, any problem definition should include quantitative measures in order to determine the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore, Guess and Farnham (2000) emphasize the need of empirical evidence. The Heritage Foundation’s policy analysis doesn’t include evidence to back up the problem as they have identified it. The only figure that they mention comprises the entire OECD’s aid to developing nations since 1960 with no specification of USAID’s portion. There is no data on the performance of USAID, or the results that its programs have accomplished, or a study that proofs the positive correlation between USAID’s aid and a statist and entitlement mentality. USAID’s approach to development is defined as ineffective and costly to taxpayers but the lack of evidence presented in the study leads me to conclude that the foundation was using conservative “issue rhetoric” (Bardach, 2009, 4) but failed to go beyond it and use this rhetoric as an introduction to a policy problem.