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The U.S. Establishing the Fight Against Corruption as a Core U.S. National Security Interest

The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to tackling corruption as an economic and national security priority and has pledged to lead international efforts to bring transparency to the global financial system and close loopholes that undermine democracy.


As the Interim National Security Strategic Guidance states:

We will take special aim at confronting corruption, which rots democracy from the inside and is increasingly weaponized by authoritarian states to undermine democratic institutions…We will crackdown on tax havens and illicit financing that contribute to income inequality, fund terrorism, and generate pernicious foreign influence.

Towards commitment, President Biden is releasing a National Security Study Memorandum (NSSM) that establishes the fight against corruption as a core national security interest of the United States. The NSSM directs a 200-day interagency review that will culminate in a report and recommendations on how the U.S. government and its partners can:


Modernize, Coordinate, and Resource Efforts to Better Fight Corruption. Corruption threatens U.S. national security by eroding citizens’ faith in government, distorting economies, and enabling authoritarians to weaken democratic institutions. The NSSM, therefore, directs departments and agencies to identify and where appropriate establish new structures and staffing, improve intelligence collection and analysis, and increase resources aimed at confronting corruption at home and abroad.


Curb Illicit Finance. The Biden-Harris Administration has pledged to lead efforts internationally to bring transparency to the U.S. and international financial systems, including by reducing offshore financial secrecy, seizing stolen assets, and making it more difficult for those who steal to hide behind anonymity. The NSSM, therefore, directs departments and agencies to combat all forms of illicit finance, including through accelerating ongoing efforts to establish a “beneficial ownership” registry, so that illicit actors can’t hide the proceeds of corruption behind anonymous shell companies; limiting the ability of illicit actors to hide behind anonymity to buy residential real estate; and closing loopholes in existing regulatory regimes.


Hold Corrupt Actors Accountable. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to taking new steps to hold accountable corrupt individuals, transnational criminal organizations, and other actors engaged in illicit activity. This includes strengthening and building upon targeted anti-corruption sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Act and similar authorities; and bolstering criminal or civil enforcement actions, such as under the Department of Justice’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. It also means increasing support to grow the capacity of civil society, the media, state and local bodies, international partners, and other oversight and accountability actors.


Build International Partnerships. As part of its commitment to strengthening America’s alliances and partnerships, the NSSM directs departments and agencies to work with like-minded international partners through the UN, G7, Financial Action Task Force (FATF), and similar bodies to counteract strategic corruption emanating from autocratic and kleptocratic governments, foreign state-owned or affiliated enterprises, and transnational criminal organizations. This work will include closing loopholes exploited by those actors in order to mask the proceeds of corruption or interfere in democratic processes.


Improve Foreign Assistance. The United States partners with foreign governments and civil society to enhance the capacity of their domestic institutions to implement transparency, oversight, and accountability measures. The NSSM, therefore, directs departments and agencies to focus on anticorruption best practices and improve enforcement measures in the implementation of foreign assistance programs and security cooperation.


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