Support for the idea that private capital and the business sector are key ingredients to reducing poverty, promoting global growth, and also good for U.S. companies, has been growing since the early 2000s. Yet, the U.S., with its unparalleled private sector capacity and ingenuity, is far behind in bringing those assets to the development arena. The tools to enhance this capability exist and can be deployed with only modest additional resources. The capabilities of the main U.S. instruments of development finance – the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), the US Trade and Development Agency (USTDA), US Agency for International Development’s Development Credit Authority (DCA) – are ripe for expansion at a reasonable cost. In addition, the private sector has demonstrated its willingness and ability to engage in the development space, if only the U.S. government will make itself a better, more open partner through a one-stop-shop and a more strategic use of public-private partnerships (PPP)s.
U.S. international interests rest on a triad of three Ds—Defense, Diplomacy, and Development. They are co-equal in policy statements, not in practice. Defense dominates in the budget arena. Diplomacy dominates at the policy level. Development too often has been the afterthought and not preeminent even in its own space. If it is to fulfill its role in advancing U.S. international interests, the American approach to development needs an upgrade in structure and resources.