Foreign aid serves U.S. interests

October 23, 2011

The recent Republican presidential candidate debate in Las Vegas put a new spotlight on the issue of U.S. spending on foreign aid, although it may have escaped the notice of many ("Republicans take off gloves in Vegas debate," Oct. 19). Times are tough and Americans need to understand why it is vital that we continue to send development aid overseas: It increases jobs here in the U.S. and keeps our homeland safer.

My firm is an international development company that employs American workers (and local partners as well) on projects overseas, often in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development. Our projects not only deepen our friendships with democratic allies, they frequently strengthen and grow new markets for U.S. goods and services, creating jobs here at home. In fact, 11 of America's top 15 trading partners are graduates of U.S. foreign assistance programs including South Korea, Brazil and Singapore.

By fostering prosperity, these programs also promote stability overseas and contribute to our own national security. As former defense secretary Robert Gates said last year, "Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers."

Kathleen L. Flanagan, Bethesda

The writer is president and CEO of Abt Associates, Inc.

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