July 31, 2017

Senator Young Helps Launch Bipartisan CSIS Task Force Report on Development Assistance Reform

Senator Todd Young (R-IN) delivered a keynote speech announcing the release of a Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Bipartisan Task Force report focused on reforming and reorganizing U.S. development assistance in order to achieve increased efficiency and effectiveness. 

Senator Young and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, served as the Task Force’s Co-Chairs. 

You can find the full report, video of Senator Young’s keynote speech announcing the report’s introduction, and an expert panel here.

Senators Young and Shaheen joined CSIS to convene the Bipartisan Task Force in response to the March executive order asking all federal departments and agencies to submit reorganization plans that will “improve efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.”

The Task Force’s findings and recommendations reflect broad consensus by distinguished experts who have worked in the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Agency for International Development, Treasury, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, and the Department of State.  The Task Force considered not just the structure required to achieve responsible savings and efficiencies, but the metrics and performance-based approaches that will ensure the U.S. continues to play a leading role in today’s developing world.  The Task Force report represents a collective long view of what has worked, what has not worked, and how we can succeed.

Here are Senator Young’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

Thank you for that introduction.  It is an honor to be here this afternoon to discuss our Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Bipartisan Task Force on the Reform and Reorganization of U.S. Development Assistance and the report we have produced. 

Dan, I want to start by thanking you for your extraordinary work as the Project Director.  Under a very tight timeline, I believe we have produced a serious and substantive report worthy of consideration—and I don’t believe that would have been possible without your leadership. 

I want to thank your two deputies, Erol Yayboke and Conor Savoy—who also played indispensable roles, especially in drafting the report.    

I also want to recognize my fellow co-chair Senator Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire who unfortunately had flight troubles and won’t be able to make it.  She is a thoughtful and effective legislator, and I am pleased that we have been able to team-up in a bipartisan manner on this task force and in other areas as well.

Finally, I want to thank the task force members who contributed their time and expertise over the past few months.  We were able to pull together an impressive bipartisan group, consisting of some of our nation’s leading development experts, and I think the report reflects their depth of knowledge and experience.     

The report we are launching today is entitled “Reforming and Reorganizing U.S. Foreign Assistance:  Increased Efficiency and Effectiveness”. 

In my brief introductory remarks this afternoon, I would like to highlight three central assertions of the report we are unveiling today:  First, this report unambiguously, unabashedly—and I hope persuasively—argues that U.S. development assistance is in our national security interest.  Second, the report argues that reform of our nation’s development assistance is overdue and necessary.  And third, in addition to several specific action steps, this report lays out a few key principles that should guide this reform effort.

Let me briefly touch on these three points. 

As I said, this report argues that development is a vital tool in our national toolkit to promote American security and prosperity. 

Truly strategic thinking is characterized by an ‘ends, ways, means’ analysis.  In other words, you start with what you are trying to accomplish, you examine the tools available, and then you develop a plan to utilize those tools as effectively as possible to protect and promote our most important interests and objectives in light of the leading threats and challenges. 

When I survey the tools at our disposal, like others before me, I see three primary legs to our national security stool:  diplomacy, development, and defense. 

As someone who served in the Marine Corps, I recognize that sometimes there is a tendency to focus on the defense element—neglecting, under-appreciating, and under-funding the development leg of our national security stool.

However, as the report we are introducing today demonstrates, that would be shortsighted, unwise, and even dangerous. 

If we want to send our brave troops to war less often and we want to bring them home sooner, then we should not starve our development efforts of the resources they need. 

Given the diverse and growing array of threats and challenges we confront, we need to ensure all available tools are optimized and employed as effectively as possible.  That includes development.

I recognize that our nation’s development enterprise is in dire need of reform and improvement.  I will discuss that in a moment.

I also recognize that development investments are sometimes long-term investments that take years or decades to come to fruition. 

But, consider this analogy. 

Prudent moms and dads invest what they can toward their children’s college and toward their own retirements—even though those investments will not bear fruit for years or decades.

Prudent nations do the same thing when it comes to national security. 

While it may take a long time to see the benefits, well-implemented and monitored development can effectively promote our national security, create economic opportunities for Americans, and respond to humanitarian crises that can undermine both security and prosperity.

Don’t take my word for it.  Look at the facts.  Look at the investments we made 70 years ago with the Marshall Plan after World War II.  Those investments helped our allies rise out of the rubble of the world’s most devastating war.  The Marshall Plan helped transform vulnerable partners into valuable military allies and trading partners—improving the security and prosperity of Americans at home. 

Those Marshall Plan investments created able partners who could carry more of the national security burden—taking some of that burden off of American shoulders.

Admittedly, I am sometimes as frustrated as anyone with our European allies.  But remember, when our country was attacked on 9/11, our European allies (along with other allies) were there for us.

Our NATO allies in Europe stepped forward and declared that an attack on the United States was an attack on them.

And those weren’t just fine words.  They backed up those words with action.

Our European allies—who decades before we had helped with the Marshall Plan—deployed thousands of their citizens to Afghanistan.

They could have said the U.S. was attacked.  Not us.  Let the Americans handle it alone.  But they didn’t. 

Not only did our European allies step forward and fight at our side in Afghanistan.  Many of them have paid the ultimate price.  In fact, more than a thousand of our NATO allies laid down their lives in Afghanistan. 

Thank goodness that the great American leaders after World War II understood that some investments are necessary even if they take time to yield fruit. 

In other words, the Marshall Plan was a good investment.

Consider that 11 of our top 15 trade partners are former recipients of U.S. foreign assistance.  Those were good investments.

Consider that roughly 95 percent of the world’s consumers live outside of the United States.  Efforts to develop economies overseas create American jobs here at home. 

That is a good investment. 

Consider that our foreign assistance makes up no more than 1 percent of our federal budget.

Now, that is a good investment. 

In short, development is one of the three essential legs of our national security stool, and now more than ever, we need to ensure our nation’s development enterprise is as effective and efficient as possible.      

That brings me to a second central assertion of our report. 

Reform and reorganization of our nation’s development assistance is overdue and necessary.

We have a responsibility to the American taxpayers to periodically scrutinize government departments and agencies to ensure they are operating as efficiently as possible and serving as responsible stewards of the funds the American people provide. 

But it is more than that. 

There has not been a major ‘relook’ of our development assistance since the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.  Can you imagine what an organization or company would look like that has not conducted a major review or reorganization in more than 55 years?  I think we can say with confidence that it would be an inefficient and outdated organization or company at best and probably more likely a failing one.      

That is not to say there have been no changes in the decades since 1961.  There have been incremental changes, but those changes have resulted in a fragmented system.  In fact, as our report highlights, there are over 20 federal agencies engaged in assistance overseas.  That has resulted in a disjointed and inefficient system ripe for improvement.

So for these reasons, reform and reorganization is overdue and necessary, and the Trump administration is right to call for improved efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability in our nation’s foreign assistance programs. 

The question is how best to achieve that improved efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.

As the administration and Congress consider the reform and reorganization of our nation’s development enterprise, I would like to underscore two principles that should guide our efforts.

First, we should start with a clear-eyed understanding for how the developing world has changed.  As we undertake reform and reorganization, we need to design our institutions and programs to reflect the realities of the developing world today and tomorrow—not the way it was decades ago. 

Let me highlight just one example.

On May 3, I chaired a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on Global Philanthropy and Remittances and International Development.  As that hearing underscored, and as our report highlights, “In the 1960s, foreign assistance represented 70 percent of all financial flows to developing countries; today, that number is just 13 percent.”  In the United States, foreign assistance represents only 9 percent.  The remainder is private: foreign direct investment, philanthropy, and remittances. 

Given that reality, if we are going to maximize the benefits of the tax dollars we devote to development assistance, we need to harness the ingenuity, best practices, and innovation of our private sector. 

There is no doubt that foreign assistance will continue to play a vital role.  But this new reality means we should seek to optimize the ability of our official assistance to serve as a catalyst and connector to private philanthropy, foreign direct investment, and remittances when those forces of good align with our interests and principles. 

Second, we need to proceed with reform deliberately and strategically.  That means not proceeding with hasty and arbitrary cuts to development assistance when we haven’t conducted the kind of strategic analysis I discussed earlier.

That is why I introduced, along with Senator Shaheen, the National Diplomacy and Development Strategy Act of 2017.   Such a strategy would 1) support the National Security Strategy; 2) integrate and coordinate with the National Defense Strategy; 3) identify and prioritize interests, threats, and opportunities; 4) break down stovepipes between departments and agencies; and 5) guide reform efforts and the allocation of finite resources.

To strengthen the development leg of our national security stool and inform this necessary and overdue reform, we convened this task force composed of a bipartisan coalition of former Republican and Democratic officials, as well as retired senior Foreign Service Officers and civil servants.

These distinguished experts have worked in the U.S. Congress, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of Treasury, Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), National Security Council, Department of Defense, and Department of State. 

Based on this depth and breadth of experience, the task force report launched today represents a collective long view of what has worked, what has not worked, and how we can succeed.

This report presents a strong bipartisan agenda for assistance reform, reflecting the realities and challenges in developing countries.

It argues for greater cohesion among agencies and presents thoughtful and actionable recommendations that, if implemented, would lead to improved efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability.

For these reasons, I am glad that so many of you are here today and watching online.  I’m proud to have had the opportunity to co-chair this task force that has produced such a strong report.  

I hope that our colleagues in Congress and the administration can rally behind this vision for our nation’s development enterprise.

Thank you again to CSIS for your leadership role on development and for allowing me to partner with you in this important endeavor. 

Thank you again.