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Why Conservatives Should Care About Foreign Assistance Reform

Thursday, May 27th, 2010
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By Mark Green, Managing Director of the Malaria Policy Center

Ambassador and Congressman (ret.)

Reason #1 Why Conservatives Should Support Foreign Assistance Reform

Last week I wrote that I would post a series of pieces designed to lay out the Conservative case for foreign assistance reform.  I had a lot positive feedback – and also some negative. Some Conservative writers indicated they thought that we should simply end foreign assistance once and for all. But that’s not a reason to oppose efforts at reform – opposing reform just ensures the continuation of the status quo . . . the continuation of a flawed system. As a Conservative (please check out my lifetime American Conservative Union ratings and you’ll see that I more than qualify), I believe the status quo simply doesn’t work – at least not as it should.

So here go the first couple of my reasons:

Number 1: Our current foreign aid system is organizationally incoherent.

Over the last four decades, our foreign aid programs have become fragmented across more than 20 different agencies and over 50 separate offices.  This has led to an administrative maze where programs are administered by offices with overlapping jurisdictions, conflicting rules, and differing cultures.  More importantly, it has given rise to a system where little comprehensive strategic planning is done . . . which means that our development professionals are often working without a clear sense of how program objectives and measurements.

Conservatives have an opportunity, maybe a once-in-a-generation opportunity, to help scrutinize our foreign assistance policies and programs, and make them more effective and productive.

Just as our military underwent a major organizational overhaul twenty-five years ago with the Goldwater-Nichols legislation and the Quadrennial Defense Reviews that followed, so should our development system.  We should work to make it more transparent and more accountable with a clear chain of command.  We should create a clear national strategy on global development (which the recently leaked Presidential Study Directive calls for) that firmly and clearly lays out foreign assistance objectives, and outlines the roles and responsibilities of various offices.

Sounds like a good job for Conservatives — taking sound principles of business administration and applying them to bureaucracy in need of reform.

Reason #2:  We need to reform the system to make our precious taxpayer dollars go much further.

Some observers have said that it’s a difficult time to take up foreign aid reform when we’re facing such obvious fiscal challenges. But I’d argue that this is the VERY time to take this issue on.  The rising deficit should be a wake up call to all of us – with Conservatives in the lead – that we need to scrub every program and every structure to make sure that it is as efficient and cost-effective as possible.

Foreign aid reform is an opportunity for us to push for strong new tools in monitoring and evaluation.   It’s an opportunity to lock in procedures for periodic review of our assistance programs, and require program advocates to re-justify programs and structures with each review.

Where redundancies exist, they should be eliminated.  Where efficiencies can be found, they should be implemented.  And where programs no longer meet our objectives, they should be ended.

One of the reasons that there are more Conservatives running for office – from Reagan Republicans to Blue Dog Democrats – is that our citizens are angry over government waste.  Foreign aid reform gives us a chance to put that sentiment to work.

Foreign Assistance Reform – of PSDs, QDDRs, and legislative action: The time is right to speak up and move forward

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010
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By Mark Green, Managing Director of the Malaria Policy Center

Ambassador and Congressman (ret.)

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In coming weeks, I’ll be writing about why I am part of the growing movement to modernize our foreign assistance framework and to elevate development in our foreign policy strategy. I’m a Republican, and a conservative one at that, and I believe that conservatives should embrace this opportunity for reform.  I’ll try to explain why with these postings.

Why am I writing about this now? Well, for one thing, as I hope to explain, these days of challenge – fiscal, political, security-related and diplomatic – are precisely the right time to address the role development can play in reinforcing American leadership.  For another, the broad outline of the Obama Administration’s approach is beginning to come into focus.  A couple of weeks back, a copy of the Obama Administration’s “Presidential Study Directive on Global Development” (PSD) quietly made its way into public view.  It’s time for those of us who want to make our assistance policies even more effective to speak up.

As to the PSD itself . . . there is no one approach to elevating development that will satisfy all observers –  the blogosphere’s discussion around the PSD makes that clear.  However, it’s also clear that the PSD is an important step forward.

Among other things, it calls for crafting a coherent, government-wide National Strategy for Global Development. In other words, it directs policymakers to consider our development and assistance programs “in toto,” and creates a process for strategic planning and review. Imagine that . . . .planning!

It calls for bringing the USAID Administrator – the head of our nation’s (if not the world’s) premiere development agency — into relevant NSC sessions.  While, of course, that doesn’t guarantee the ascendancy of development principles in crucial foreign policy discussions, it does publicly recognize the importance of development as a matter of foreign policy and national security . . . and reinforces the role and authority of the Administrator.

It calls for emphasizing accountability and results in the evaluation of development initiatives.  Now, every public official talks about accountability when referring to public programs . . . they wouldn’t last long if they didn’t. Still, the emphasis the PSD puts on monitoring and evaluation is striking.

This emphasis includes increased country accountability.  President Obama has made the principle of “country ownership” a central theme in his administration’s message to Africa.  You see it in the documents laying out his Global Health Initiative.  You hear it in his speeches. (“We must start from the simple premise that Africa’s future is up to Africans,” he said in Accra).  The PSD makes it clear that country ownership also means greater responsibility. (“The U.S. will make hard choices . . . [and] prioritize those countries, regions and sectors that allow us to achieve sufficient scale. . . and reallocate resources to those efforts and programs that yield the greatest impact.”)

The word is that the PSD draft we’ve seen has already gone through a few revisions . . . hopefully that doesn’t mean watering down some of its strongest reform principles.  We also know that the State Department will soon be releasing its own development policy review, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). While it’s natural for there to be differences in emphasis, let’s hope that the core remains strong – the elevation of development to a place where it’s “equal to diplomacy and defense” (in the words of the PSD), establishment of a National Strategy for Global Development, and increased accountability of programs and recipients.

Another reason why it’s time to speak out on the importance of foreign assistance reform is that Congress is seeking counseMNM Logol and input from the development community.  A bipartisan coalition of Senators (led by Kerry and Lugar) and House Members (led by Berman and Kirk) has introduced reform proposals that will enable Congress to put its own stamp on the subject.  It will also enable the community and the broader public to weigh in on what policymakers should emphasize and push for.

Again, no one approach to development reform is perfect. However, the fact that both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue are reaching out means that we have an opportunity (and I would argue, an obligation) to respond.

Relying on the Kindness of Others: A Risky Partner-Building Strategy

Thursday, May 13th, 2010
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In a recent Stimson Center blog post on national security spending, Laura A. Hall and Gordon Adams examine military and civilian roles in a variety of areas such as post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction and conflict prevention.

GAdams_Portait_5164Below are some highlights from the post. Please click here to read the entire entry.clip_image002

“Temporary authorities in the last few years (1206, 1207, CERP) have been devised and implemented, driven by two wars and a global counter-terrorism strategy.  DoD’s ability to get funding for these efforts on a large enough scale trumped concerns about the appropriate roles of State and USAID.  These short-term authorities should not be the long-term pattern.”

“In a world of limited budgets, continuing to concentrate funding at DoD risks crowding out the development of civilian capabilities.  Once created, DoD programs and missions are nearly impossible to downsize.  The lack of civilian resources begets lack of management capacity and predictably undermines the requests for resources.  This vicious cycle ultimately precludes the development of capabilities that are needed far beyond the scope of DoD’s areas of operation.”

“DoD should be continuing efforts to build civilian capacity and supporting increases in the international affairs budget instead of continuing to creep into mission areas for which it claims to have no interest or expertise.  Greater civilian capacity is the best way to mitigate the risk that DoD will be called to respond to a conflict that threatens us.”

Sec. Clinton Speaks at CARE National Conference

Tuesday, May 11th, 2010
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MFAN Partner CARE, a leading humanitarian organization fighting poverty worldwide, is holding its National Conference and Celebration today and tomorrow in Washington, DC.  The conference is an opportunity for CARE supporters to meet and discuss issues affecting global poverty, as well as a call to action for Congress and the Obama Administration to prioritize these issues and help create a better future.  Today, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton keynoted the conference.  Watch the video below for her full remarks:

Patrick Cronin on How to Rebuild USAID

Thursday, May 6th, 2010
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Patrick CroninPatrick Cronin, Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), published an op-ed in the Daily Caller in response to Monday’s leaked Presidential Study Directive (PSD-7) draft, “A New Way Forward on Global Development.”  Cronin acknowledges the many positive reforms in the draft, but points to the challenges that lie in implementation.  See excepts from his piece below and read the full oped here:

“The restoration of USAID will take herculean reform and uncommon patience, if it is even possible at all. No doubt leaking the Presidential Study Directive this week, in advance of the National Security Strategy and months before the completion of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, was deliberate. The Obama administration (or at least a portion of it) figures it can stake out its agenda (and perhaps claim on resources) before the rest of the interagency consumes all of the policy and budget oxygen inside the Beltway. As with development itself, however, this directive will only be as good or bad as its implementation, and on that score there are many questions that will need to be addressed.”

“All of this is exemplary. The hard bits are its agenda are embedded in the rest of the directive, which calls for a deliberate development policy, a new business model, a new architecture, and a new compact with Congress.”

“The directive assumes the acquiescence of the State Department, which hitherto has made clear that development programs must be conducted within the context of policy made at Foggy Bottom. Will State loosen its reins over policy, including development policy, in order to give USAID the autonomy to work effectively and make America a global leader in development? There are sound reasons for letting development work free from much of the short-term thinking of foreign policy. At the same time, will the State Department and the White House, for that matter, really have confidence that USAID will be there when it is needed to stabilize conflict and post-conflict states or when development is a useful part of a whole-of-government response? The directive includes paragraphs on each of these two points. The forthcoming QDDR report in September will be telling, as least with respect to how far President Obama will go in making USAID more independent once again.”