MFAN Principal: Without Leader at USAID, Development Work Being Farmed Out to Other Agencies

Sheila HerrlingIn a recent piece on the Center for Global Development’s “Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance” blog, CGD Senior Policy Analyst and MFAN Principal Sheila Herrling comments on the growing trend of work-arounds of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) as the agency lingers in its ninth month without an Administrator appointed by President Obama.  Herrling points to a host of other actors currently taking a bite out of USAID’s development portfolio.

On the State Department: “Of course we can technically say the global development perspective has a leader in the Secretary of State, as she has responsibility for bringing the diplomatic and development voices, policies and programs to bear on meeting U.S. foreign policy objectives… But there are important development policies and programs outside of her jurisdiction – trade, investment, the multilateral development banks, etc.”

On the Defense Department: “In many respects, the Defense Department has become a leader on the development agenda… Attention, funding and human resources (military, diplomatic and development alike) are heavily focused on wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and stability operations in Pakistan, under the control of military commanders and senior diplomatic envoys… In the need to respond to immediate threats, investments in long-term growth and institution building will be trumped by short-term imperatives.”

On the Agriculture Department: “Its point of entrée is Afghanistan, where Secretary Vilsack, apparently at the urging of envoy Holbrooke, has asked Secretary Clinton to transfer $170 million to USDA to play a more significant role in agricultural and economic development.  Note that it (just as USAID is doing) would have to hire the expertise to both send to Afghanistan and manage the program here in DC to be able to meet the terms of that request.”

In conclusion, Herrling writes, “…what I fear we are witnessing is a decapitation and slow amputation of every limb of what once was a powerful, respected, mission-focused agency… Why, in the midst of two important development policy and structural reviews – the State Department Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and the White House Presidential Study Directive, would further fragmentation and confusion be the way to go?  Why, when today’s challenges are increasingly global in dimension and increasingly linked to global economic stability and development would the U.S. not be prioritizing an elevated, unified development-focused voice with the policy and budgetary means to credibly represent U.S. global development interests in the world?”

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