Sen. Todd Young (R., Ind.) called for Congress to reform the way in which the United States provides foreign aid and development assistance to struggling countries, while speaking before a panel of experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies on Monday.
Young proposed the United States focus on maintaining USAID’s ability to provide aid independent from other agencies, reducing the duplication in development assistance programs, and modernizing the personnel systems for more streamlined communication.
"If we want to send our brave troops to war less often, if we want them to come home sooner, then we shouldn't starve our development efforts the attention that they need," he said. "We need to ensure that all available tools are optimized as best as possible and that includes development assistance."
Young advised Congress to make more long-term investments in its development assistance efforts, as it did with the Marshall Plan for European allies following the Allied victory in World War II. According to Young, since the Marshall Plan, the last major reform to development assistance occurred with the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961; reform and reorganization is overdue and necessary.
"We need to design our institutions and programs to reflect the actual realities of the developing world today and tomorrow, not the way it was decades ago," he said.
Along with Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D., N.H.), Young has introduced The National Diplomacy and Development Strategy Act of 2017 bill before the Senate to enact his development assistance reforms.
Former Chief of Staff at USAID Michele Sumilas said the best way to reform development assistance is to make a clear assessment of the country’s interest, the United States' interests, and where the United States can provide assistance in the intersection.
"The way that we should evaluate things is to really make sure that programs in countries are led by country needs and that those needs are translated to the U.S. government through the ambassador," she said. "We need to be very clear about our objectives in the country and if something doesn't fit, we need to say no thank you."
Sumilas also said Congress needs to have clear direction in mind with regard to development assistance, so that decisions will be made without an excess of deliberation.
"At some point we have to decide what is the goal, what is the purpose, and what is effective," she said. "In this time of shrinking budgets, it's so important to make tough choices."
Former U.S. Ambassador to the African Union John Simon said one way to make tough choices with a reduced budget would be to work through private sectors in developing countries to provide aid.
"If we work through the local private sector, we can get things done that could not be achieved working through public institutions," he said.
Former Counselor to USAID Hilda Arrellano said the United States will be unable to provide any meaningful development assistance to the rest of the world until its reforms internally.
"We have got to get our own coordinating structures streamlined and correct," she said.