letter to Senators regarding USIP defunding

UPDATE: A petition is available online: link.

Dear Senator __________,

The House has voted to cut funding for the United States Institute of Peace. I write to urge you not to make the same error.

What USIP provides is a means by which the government ensures itself access to a diverse, independent, and up-to-date pool of expert knowledge on conflicts around the world. The current events in the Arab world should make it clear how important it is to have such a resource.

USIP supports independent researchers who help our government to navigate adeptly a turbulent and complex world. Adept management of Americans’ foreign affairs, like clean air, is a classic “public good.” Thus, it requires government support. It is a basic economic principle that private market forces will fail in providing these kinds of goods. No private market actor is capable of internalizing all of the relevant costs and benefits. Therefore, no private market actor will find it in their interest to look after the national interest in an efficient and effective manner. USIP is an important means by which our government looks after Americans’ well-being.

The internal mechanisms for knowledge creation in the government are inadequate on their own and cannot substitute for the diverse network of researchers that USIP brings together.

The gap left by the potential removal of USIP, a nonpartisan agency that helps guide research in a direction serving our country’s goals overseas, will most certainly be filled by considerably less reliable partisan voices and business interests. This would handicap our government’s foreign policy.

USIP’s budget is a minuscule fraction of overall spending, but its impact is great. The cost benefit equation is clearly on the side of sustaining USIP support, especially when considered relative to other items that draw on considerably more government funds with considerably less reward.

I hope you will make the wise decision and reject any move to defund USIP.

Sincerely,

Cyrus D. Samii
Fellow, MacMillan Center, Yale University
Assistant Professor (as of July 2011), Politics Department, New York University

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