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Archive for November, 2010

Poll: Top Vacancies at USAID

Monday, November 15th, 2010
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Below is a guest post from MFAN member Alex Denny, Research Assistant of the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Assistance Reform Project, taking a closer look at the remaining vacancies at USAID. To see exactly where things stand with Assistant Administrators, please see the Center for Global Development’s USAID Staff Tracker and be sure to lets us know which vacancy is your top priority based on the tracker below:

Which AA Vacancy Would You Fill Today?

Alex Denny

Almost two years into the administration, USAID still suffers from incomplete staffing in its influential upper ranks.  Of the ten Assistant Administrator positions, only three have been confirmed, and only one other AA has even been nominated. As a matter of coherent and effective leadership, President Obama’s policy intends for USAID to be “the U.S. Government’s lead development agency” and the world’s premier development agency, but these gaps in appointed and Senate-confirmed leadership have real, deleterious effects on the agency’s ability to fulfill that role and to act as a strong pillar of foreign policy.  Can you imagine the reactions if DoD was this understaffed?

The different gaps in USAID’s leadership have different consequences for the Agency’s clout in Washington and for offices in the field. Within our own conversations, we’ve heard reasons for why certain AA positions are more critical to fill than others; the health community, for example, has a valid point when it says that the missing AA for Global Health means that the Agency lacks the ability to coordinate strategy with the President’s new Global Health Initiative. But does that make it the most important AA position to fill? Or should the priority be on a particular regional bureau, on Legislative and Public Affairs or on something else?

While we look forward to all of the positions being filled, we’re curious to know what you think.  If you could pick just one of these vacant positions to be filled today, which would you pick and why?

USAID Staff Tracker 11_15

MFAN Partner on the G20 and the Future of Aid

Friday, November 12th, 2010
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GMFMFAN Partner the German Marshall Fund US recently posted a piece on the G20’s role in redefining development.  Authors Jonathan White, MFAN member and Senior Program Officer, and Asha Davis, Program Associate—both with the Economic Policy Program—argue that including new voices like China, India, and Brazil into the development discussion will have a positive impact on the future of aid delivery and the donor-recipient relationship. Moreover, White and Davis assert that sustainable growth will be best achieved if the G20 continues to consult and support Least Developed Countries (LDC) on development plans and delivers results. Read the full piece here or see key excerpts below:


Wartime Interagency Collaboration: A Tale of Two Articles

Thursday, November 11th, 2010
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US soldiers in AfghanistanIn a new post on the Stimson Center’s blog the Will and the Wallet, Matthew Hoh – director of the Afghanistan Study Group and a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy – talks about his time served as a junior Marine office on the personal staff of the Secretary of Navy. From 2002 to 2004 he was part of the Secretary’s Action Team (SAT), which he compares to an “internal think tank.” He describes his experience, as part of his service, drafting an article that went largely ignored, but that acknowledged how the lack of coordination and clear lines of authority could contribute to the overall success of a mission. Hoh writes, “Looking back at my involvement in both Afghanistan and Iraq, both in those countries and in Washington DC, the absence of formalized relationships and structures for both planning and operational purposes across agency lines has been a constant inhibitor of success.” He goes on to describe the fractured system he witnessed while serving at the embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s clear from this guest blog post is that the need to establish clear lines of authority and provide for greater interagency coordination is a point of reform across the US government.

Read the full piece here and see excerpts below:

“The second SAT article was to have addressed the lack of unity of command and unity of effort among U.S. government agencies at strategic, operational, and tactical levels worldwide (to include the lack of an effective inter-agency planning process in Washington).  This article was clearly not in the spirit of Pentagon leadership.  To the contrary, many defense leaders noted that the seeming triumph in 2003 had been achieved without interagency cooperation.  This article, therefore, was not pursued.

Yet the lack of coordination and cooperation among U.S. government agencies has arguably contributed as much to the dysfunction, myopia, and counterproductive nature of our strategies and policies in Afghanistan and Iraq as any other single factor.”

“This lack of cooperation and coordination is especially prominent in DC, which I observed while serving as a consultant on Iraq policy at the State Department (2005-6) and then with DOD (2008-9).  It occurs at all levels and is endemic to the point of being cancerous.  Petty political and bureaucratic concerns preclude the sharing of information or resources, limit effective decision making by senior leaders and, in turn, prohibit the creation of sound policy and strategy.  In some cases, this can prohibit decision making altogether.”

“Currently, there is little formal or legislative requirement to integrate and assimilate US government foreign policy planning and implementation across agency lines from top to bottom.  Until such a requirement becomes law, something akin to the Goldwater-Nichols Act that forced cooperation and coordination within the Department of Defense in the 1980s, the U.S. will continue to plan and conduct foreign policy in a manner that provides short-term accomplishment to individual agencies, but hinders long term benefit to the U.S.’ overall interest.”

Foreign Aid Ranks Among the President’s Foreign Policy Headaches

Thursday, November 11th, 2010
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USAID in Pakistan-AFP MehriIn a recent post, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin reported on the top ten policy areas where President Obama will potentially face Republican opposition. Chief among them is foreign aid. Rogin speculates that the White House may turn to foreign policy as the Republican-controlled House pushes back on the President’s domestic agenda. Still, he notes that victories abroad are a sign of cooperation – and the Obama administration has a history of finding key support from Republicans in Congress (e.g. Afghanistan surge). Rogin’s list of foreign policy “headaches” includes: Afghanistan, the new START treaty, containing Iran, defense budget reform, civilian nuclear agreements, Syria, Cuba, free trade, and State Department nominations.  See below for some excerpts:

On Afghanistan: “On the civilian side, new prospective State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-Texas) is poised to use her control over civilian aid to press the case for taking a tougher line on Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as her predecessor Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) did in 2010.”

On foreign aid: “As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama promised to double the foreign aid budget within five years. Likewise, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has promised to elevate development alongside defense and diplomacy as a key pillar of U.S. national security policy. Both those promises face increased resistance in Congress next year, as lawmakers look to make budget cuts in programs that lack strong domestic constituencies. “One of the main issue voters are talking about is out-of-control spending, and foreign aid won’t be exempt from cuts,” one GOP aide told The Cable.”

“The congressional drive to pass a wholesale reform of foreign-aid distribution has also been dealt a blow due to the GOP takeover of the House. The most comprehensive bill on this front was written by outgoing House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman (D-Calif.) — but his bill failed to move out of committee, and it’s unlikely that his successor, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), will take up the cause. Expect congressional Republicans to also resist large increases in the budget for the State Department, which is taking on increased roles all over the world, including in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Sudan. The State Department’s budget for fiscal 2011 is still under consideration.”

On State Department nominations: “Senate Republicans have been holding up the nominations of scores of administration officials. The most visible holds are several U.S. ambassadorial nominees, such as Robert Ford to Syria, Frank Ricciardone to Turkey, Matthew Bryza to Azerbaijan, and Norm Eisen to the Czech Republic.”

“The nominations are held up by different senators for different reasons, some personal, some political. The increased GOP presence in the Senate won’t directly affect these nominations, but the Senate Foreign Relations Committee will have to approve the nominations again if they are not acted on this year.”

2010 Commitment to Development Index

Thursday, November 11th, 2010
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cgd_logoMFAN partner the Center for Global Development has just released its 2010 Commitment to Development Index (CDI).  Each year, the CDI rates 22 rich-country governments on how much they are helping poor countries via seven key policy linkages: aid, trade, investment, migration, environment, security, and technology. The CDI then takes the average for an overall score. Scoring is adjusted for size to see how well countries live up to their potential to help. What does this year’s index deduce? “The Center’s 2010 Commitment to Development Index shows most wealthy nations have modified their policies since 2005 in ways that make them more supportive of sustained growth and poverty reduction in the developing world. But the CDI found overall improvement has been slight, and the seven major industrialized countries, in particular, could do far better.” To view the 2010 Index, click here.

The aid component of the CDI measures both the quantity and quality of aid each government gives. It penalizes donors for giving aid to rich or corrupt governments, for overburdening recipients with lots of small aid projects, or for “tying” aid, which forces recipients to spend aid monies on the donor country’s own goods rather than on the lowest price goods available. The component also rewards tax deductions that support private charity.

From a statement by CGD: “The CDI contributes to this discussion by measuring whether the rhetoric of the high-income countries, including the richer G20 members, is matched by their policies.  There are many connections between industrialized countries and developing ones, not just aid but also trade, investment, environmental policy and other linkages. The failure to use these channels to their full potential is a blow to the goal of shared global prosperity.”

Sweden comes in first on the 2010 CDI, followed closely by Denmark, the Netherlands, and Norway – all generous aid donors.  New Zealand and Spain, generally low aid donors, make it into the top half of the CDI with strength in trade, investment, migration, and security. Japan and South Korea rank low on the CDI because, like the U.S., they have small aid programs for their size. They also engage less with the developing world with tight restrictions on the entry of goods and people and limited involvement in peacekeeping. See below for more on the US ranking:

“Along with Portugal, the United States recorded the largest one-year gain in the Index, up 0.7 points from its 4.7 score in 2009. Much of that gain was due to the increase in U.S. troops to the U.N.-mandated military force in Afghanistan because the Index gives countries credit for contributing to internationally sanctioned security operations. As in past years, the United States also scored well in the trade component of the Index but lagged behind in aid and environment. U.S. foreign aid is small as a share of its income, and it ties a large share of this aid to the purchase of U.S. goods and services.”

cdi 2010