Senators Young and Shaheen to Cochair CSIS Congressional Task Force on Reform and Reorganization of U.S. Development Assistance

WASHINGTON, May 30, 2017: The Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) is proud to announce the formation of a Congressional Task Force on Reform and Reorganization of U.S. Development Assistance. Senators Todd Young (R-IN) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), both members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, will cochair the task force.

The task force is bipartisan and consists of former Bush administration and Obama administration officials, as well as retired senior Foreign Service officers of the U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department, former ambassadors, and former members of the National Security Council staff.

The task force will identify actionable steps that the Trump administration and the U.S. Congress can take to improve efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability. The Trump administration has asked the executive branch agencies to provide reform and reorganization ideas by September 2017.

The CSIS Congressional Task Force will meet three times in the month of June and will produce a consensus report by mid-July 2017.

Senator Young said, “Major reform and reorganization of U.S. government development assistance is both necessary and overdue, and the Trump administration is wise to make this a priority. However, for these efforts to be successful, reform and reorganization should follow—not precede—the development of a bipartisan national strategy grounded in accumulated experience and research. Along with Senator Shaheen, I look forward to working with CSIS and some of our nation’s leading development experts to produce a report that provides serious and substantive development recommendations.”

“Investing in global development is critical to the United States’ national security strategy, and it’s important that our agencies effectively leverage U.S. taxpayer dollars in our foreign assistance programs,” said Senator Shaheen. “However, I am concerned that the Trump administration’s stated interest in reorganizing and reforming the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] is an effort to provide cover for the deep cuts to the respective agencies’ budgets proposed by the administration. This bipartisan task force, which I’m proud to lead with Sen. Young, can help to ensure that any significant changes to our diplomacy and development structures are guided by thoughtful analysis.”

Daniel Runde, CSIS’s William A. Schreyer Chair and the task force director said, “The Trump administration is right to be taking stock of how our foreign assistance assets are organized and how they can be improved. At the same time, an ill-thought-out reform could do great damage. Exhibit A is the misguided merger between the U.S. Information Agency [USIA] and the State Department in the 1990s. Some fixes to U.S. development assistance can be done via executive action, and other fixes including a significant reorganization or merger will require working closely with the U.S. Congress.”

In order to help guide its work, the CSIS Task Force will operate under the following principles:

  1. Investments in development and diplomacy are as important as defense investments for securing America’s future.
  2. Doing nothing is not an option: reform and reorganization of U.S. development agencies are necessary.
  3. U.S. development is fractured across 19 agencies and departments; consolidation and greater coordination is necessary to produce efficiencies and savings.
  4. Any effort around reform and reorganization should follow the idea that form follows function: do not do reorganization for the sake of reorganization, but link to a broader national strategy.
  5. Any reorganization should carefully examine the business system needs of our aid programs to ensure these needs are met: in personnel, accounting, management information, grant making and contracting, and monitoring and evaluation.
  6. Do not discard 15 years of bipartisan efforts to strengthen U.S. development institutions within the U.S. government that have helped to achieve measurable results.
  7. Ensure that at least in the interagency process and on the Deputy’s Committee, there is a specific development seat separate from the diplomatic seat of the State Department to raise the development implications of national security decisions.
  8. The development discipline is a distinct profession.

The Congressional Task Force will release a report of its findings by mid-July 2017.