Republicans seek to revive Trump policy of branding foreign aid with US flag

A group of House Republicans is introducing an amendment to require U.S. foreign assistance to display the American flag, which would revive a Trump-era policy that was revoked by President Biden.

The amendment is being led by GOP members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: Reps. Brian Mast (Fla.), Maria Elvira Salazar (Fla.), Mike Lawler (N.Y.) and Jim Baird (Ind.).

The draft text is an amendment to the USAID Branding Modernization Act, a law that passed in 2019 to more fully encourage the use of American flags as logos on foreign assistance, though it gave discretion to the USAID director on which logo to use.

The amendment seeks to insert in the text the requirement that the USAID director use the American flag to “appropriately identify … overseas programs administered by USAID.”

The amendment leaves in text that allows the USAID director discretion if certain images representing the United States would be a safety or security concern for implementing partners and beneficiaries.

USAID’s current logo is the agency’s name in block letters with the tagline, “From the American people,” underneath. A smaller logo on the right of the agency’s name includes clasping hands and American flag bunting.

The GOP amendment echoes efforts by former President Trump to standardize logos on U.S. foreign assistance, reportedly favoring an American flag as the single logo. Trump issued an executive order in December 2020 that gave him the power to select a logo for use across agencies providing U.S. assistance. The executive order was revoked by Biden in May 2021.

“President Trump understood better than anyone how important the American Flag is as a symbol of freedom around the globe,” Mast wrote to The Hill in a statement.

“It’s one of our best tools for building good will abroad. President Trump’s efforts to put America First serve as an inspiration for a strong majority of Republicans in Congress, including myself.”

Mast said the timing of the introduction of the amendment is related to the recently passed foreign aid package that spurred months of controversy in the House. While the House passed four individual bills, a vote on aid for Ukraine divided Republicans, with the majority of the House GOP opposing assistance for Kyiv.

“The recently passed foreign aid package has put the issue front and center and we’re looking at avenues to advance this legislation in the coming weeks and months,” Mast said.

The amendment would only require the use of the American flag on aid distributed by USAID, which is primarily civilian assistance and economic development.

USAID has long been required to have branding noting that its assistance is from the American people, under provisions in the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act.

And Pew research polling has found positive attitudes about the U.S. have increased when foreign countries recognize that America is providing assistance.

“The American flag is a symbol of freedom for millions of people around the world,” Rep. Salazar said in a statement to The Hill. “We should display the stars and stripes proudly at every possible opportunity.”

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