Last Wednesday, the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, an MFAN partner organization, launched its “Putting Smart Power to Work” campaign by hosting Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Jack Lew, State Department Director of Policy and Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator Alonzo Fulgham for the first public dialogue on the State Department’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). The event featured the three principal architects of the QDDR for a panel discussion of the review process.
Lew kicked off the morning’s events with a keynote address. After thanking everyone in the room for being strong voices supporting foreign assistance, Lew noted the “urgency to rebuild foreign policy tools.” He spoke of the “chronic underfunding” of diplomacy and development for the past few decades and how this has created a “serious imbalance, leaving the military but not civilian agencies with the resources to support expanded international roles.”
When speaking to the QDDR process, Lew said, “The world has changed and we at State and USAID have not done enough to change with it.” Later he continued: “The recognition that we are simply not designed optimally for success in today’s world was the impetus for Secretary Clinton to launch the QDDR to develop the updated tools and institutional capabilities that we need to elevate diplomacy and development and for both to work more efficiently and more effectively. Like the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the QDDR will help us to align policy, strategy, authorities, and resources. We’ll produce a blueprint for reorganization and provide Congress and the public with the clarity about what resources we need and why.”
The Q&A that followed was full of provocative questions, particularly from the audience, that pushed Lew, Slaughter, and Fulgham to dive into the details and expectations of the QDDR. The biggest topic of discussion was the fate of USAID, which still lacks an appointment from the Obama administration for Administrator. Despite rumors that a nominee will be announced imminently, the future of the agency is still in question given the increasing absorption of its funds and programs under the State Department. While Lew said the line between development and diplomacy was being blurred for the better, Slaughter said “the vision that the Secretary has coming out of the QDDR is of a much stronger, much better-resourced USAID.” Below are some excerpts from the panel in response to the role of the QDDR in reforming U.S. development efforts:
Lew on working with Congress: “We’ve worked closely with both Senators Kerry and Lugar and with Congressman Berman and we very much appreciate that as they are going through the process of working on this important legislation, they are trying very hard to be sensitive to the schedule of the new administration putting together a review like the QDDR…It’s actually quite a helpful incentive for us to keep the QDDR process moving quickly because we very much would like to be partners with the congressional leadership as they write this important legislation.”
Fulgham on why QDDR is important to USAID: “I think that for the first time, we have a review process that gives us an opportunity to address the stove piping and redundancy that we’re currently going through within our agency…I firmly believe that from a USAID perspective that the QDDR will allow for us to really plan and move forward.”
Slaughter on the roles of development and diplomacy: “We see good foreign policy in the 21st century as requiring equal input from both sides. That’s going to be decades long in the making. It’s going to require big culture changes on the diplomatic side as well as the development side, but this is not about absorbing AID.”
Fulgham on reaching out to the community: “I think that when you look at the five working groups, I think it’s pretty clear that we are pulling together the most senior individuals within the U.S. government, and I think Deputy Secretary Lew spoke eloquently about the fact of bringing others in from the private sector, from NGOs and others. We clearly don’t have all of the answers, and I think we recognize that and this event today is part of the process to reach out… And I think this process gives us an opportunity to get at that, but we are going to need your help to do that.”
Slaughter on how this review is different: “This one is connected to the money. We are going to have results by January that will be used already for the 2012 budget guidance. Second, we have all these working groups being run by assistant secretaries and undersecretaries. This is not something being done by an office on the seventh floor or an office on the second floor. This engages everybody across the building. And third, this will be quadrennial. You can’t put this up on a shelf, for if you do, you’re going to have to revisit it two or three years later. It’s going to be legislated ultimately. It will be an ongoing process and people will then have to take account of the guidance in how they budget and in the priorities that they ask the Secretary to support.”
Overall, the event communicated a desire to take action around the rhetoric espoused by President Obama, Defense Secretary Gates, and Secretary Clinton. Only time will tell whether or not the first QDDR will take on these ambitious tasks and set the U.S. on a new path to leadership in development.