WASHINGTON – The Senate Foreign Relations Committee Democratic Staff today published a new report underscoring the urgent need to address chronic underfunding of U.S. diplomacy and development in the Indo-Pacific region. Commissioned by SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the report calls for full resourcing of the Biden administration’s Indo-Pacific Strategy (IPS) to bolster the United States’ leadership and realize U.S. strategic objectives in the most dynamic region of the 21st century.
Entitled “Strategic Alignment: The Imperative of Resourcing the Indo-Pacific Strategy,” the report follows up on Chairman Menendez’s 2014 Democratic Staff report, which underscored the importance of increasing diplomatic and development resources in the region. Today’s report offers a comprehensive examination of U.S. diplomatic and development agencies’ investment in the Indo-Pacific region since 2014. It also makes a series of recommendations to advance the Administration’s capacity to meet the IPS’ objectives and to enhance U.S. national and economic security.
“In the nine years, two administrations, and numerous strategies since my last report, little progress has been made to advance U.S. diplomacy and development efforts in the Indo-Pacific, all while the PRC continues to expand its influence through aggressive impositions on states’ sovereignty, localized disinformation campaigns, and predatory economic investments,” Chairman Menendez said. “I am publishing today’s report not only to hold up the mirror to our commitments, but to issue a call to action. If we are serious about advancing U.S. interests in Asia and competing with the PRC, we must match ambitious policy with ambitious resourcing. I stand committed to work with my colleagues to meet this moment and encourage the Administration to expend the political capital necessary to end decades of underfunding and staff shortages for diplomacy and development agencies.”
Today’s report finds that, despite successive administrations’ rhetoric about the importance of the Indo-Pacific region, U.S. diplomatic and development agencies remain critically underfunded and understaffed, which has left the U.S. ill-equipped to contend with growing PRC influence and aggression. In response to these deficiencies, the report urges the Administration to actively cultivate Congress as a partner, advance regional economic integration, and deepen cooperation with allies and partners.
The report makes the following recommendations:
- Adequately Resource the Indo-Pacific Strategy:
- The Administration must significantly increase funding for diplomatic and development agencies across the U.S. government and dedicate a larger portion of the Department of State operating budget and U.S. foreign assistance to advance priorities in the Indo-Pacific.
- The Administration must also incentivize U.S. agencies to increase grants, loans, and other financing programs in the Indo-Pacific while more effectively leveraging International Financial Institution (IFI) investments.
- Cultivate Congress as a Key Partner:
- Congress should be made an active partner to ensure sufficient allocation of resources to the Indo-Pacific, to provide new authorities if and when needed, and to engage in effective oversight.
- The Administration should provide Congress with a full, detailed, and prioritized list of its plans for implementing the IPS, updated as necessary, as well as a list of designated officials responsible for implementing the IPS.
- Advance Economic Integration:
- The IPS must include a substantive and action-oriented economic agenda that is commensurate with U.S. interests and responsive to our allies’ and partners’ calls for increased U.S. economic engagement.
- Democracy and Human Rights:
- The Administration should make advancing human rights and democracy, which are vital to long-term stability and prosperity, core tenants of the IPS. The Administration must advance these principles throughout the diverse contexts across the Indo-Pacific and demonstrate U.S. commitment to their future importance in the region.
- Security and Non-Security Efforts:
- The Administration must clarify non-military agencies’ roles in security issues and strengthening our deterrence capabilities. While it is important to maintain and deepen U.S. security ties with regional partners, these security efforts must be balanced with the unique authorities granted to the Department of State, USAID, and our economic agencies, which are vital to advancing our diplomatic and developmental engagement in the region.
- Expand Investment in Public Diplomacy Efforts:
- To advance our values in the Indo-Pacific, the U.S. must leverage its comparative advantage by expanding investment in public diplomacy and people-to-people ties. The U.S. must also improve our ability to counter disinformation, misinformation, and propaganda.
- Prioritize Strategic Investments:
- The U.S. and our partners must strive to provide alternative financing and economic development projects to compete with the PRC’s Belt and Road Initiative and the Digital Silk Road.
- The U.S. should not seek to match every investment by the PRC, but should instead prioritize projects rooted in our interests, taking into account strategic locations and sectors including clean energy, transportation and shipping infrastructure, telecommunications and digital investments.
- Deepen Engagements with Allies and Partners:
- The Administration must deepen engagement with the United States’ network of allies and partners across the region. This includes making the U.S.-Japan-Republic of Korea (ROK) trilateral cooperation more meaningful and resilient; continuing our Pacific Partnership Strategy by prioritizing commitments related to climate change resilience; routinizing the Quad; bolstering U.S.-ASEAN bilateral and institutional ties; advancing AUKUS and the renewal of the Compacts of Free Association (COFA); and encouraging a stronger democratic India.
Find a copy of the report HERE.