Because corruption is a direct threat to the national security of the United States, fighting this global scourge is a key domestic and foreign policy priority of the Biden-Harris administration. Therefore, on June 3, President Joe Biden issued a National Security Study Memorandum on the Fight Against Corruption, thus establishing the fight against corruption as a core U.S. national security interest. The Memorandum directed senior government officials to develop a whole-of government strategy to take on this scourge.
Corruption is a universal plague that siphons between 2 and 5 percent from global gross domestic product. And although no country in the world is free of corruption, the costs of corruption are the heaviest on the world’s most vulnerable populations. Too often, the cost is highest in countries that can afford it the least, denying critical resources in areas like public services or healthcare. As noted by USAID Administrator Samantha Power “corruption robs developing countries of an estimated $1.26 trillion annually.”
“Strengthening the resilience of rights-respecting democracies is one of the defining challenges of our era,” wrote President Biden in a statement that accompanied the release of the National Security Study Memorandum on the Fight Against Corruption.
“Corruption eats away at the foundations of democratic societies. It makes government less effective, wastes public resources, and exacerbates inequalities in access to services, making it harder for families to provide for their loved ones. Corruption attacks the foundations of democratic institutions, drives and intensifies extremism, and makes it easier for authoritarian regimes to corrode democratic governance.”
“The United States will lead by example and in partnership with allies, civil society, and the private sector to fight the scourge of corruption. But this is a mission for the entire world. And, we must all stand in support of courageous citizens around the globe who are demanding honest, transparent governance,” wrote President Biden.
Indeed, the Memorandum indicates that the private sector has important roles to play in this fight. The U.S. Government will raise the legal bar for U.S. companies, requiring them to improve the transparency of their offshore financial activities, do a better job sharing information with the government, and report to the Department of the Treasury their beneficial owners—that is, those who reap the benefits of ownership even if the legal title of the property belongs to someone else.
“Fighting corruption is not just good governance. It is self-defense. It is patriotism, and it’s essential to the preservation of our democracy and our future.”