blog logo image

Archive for the ‘State Department’ Category

CQ Article Quotes MFAN Co-Chairs, Highlights Hill Aid Reform Leadership

Monday, July 19th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

Howard Bermanart.kerry.lugar.giA CQ article (full text below) published today, which quotes MFAN Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram, gives a rundown of how the leadership of Congressional leaders Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA) and Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Dick Lugar (R-IN) has helped drive unprecedented progress on foreign assistance reform.  The missing ingredient that could push reform efforts over the top, according to the article?  Presidential leadership.

To join MFAN’s effort to urge President Obama to show leadership on foreign assistance reform and strengthen the U.S. commitment to development, please sign our Open Letter to the President, which has already been endorsed by more than 70 organizations and prominent individuals.

July 19, 2010

Backers Say Time Is Ripe For Foreign Aid Overhaul

By Emily Cadei, CQ Staff

The earthquake that slammed Haiti in January also rocked the U.S. Agency for International Development and its brand-new administrator, Rajiv Shah, who were promptly assigned to head up the civilian U.S. response to the disaster. The experience of the next several months afterward was eye-opening and “helped me shape my agenda for reform for the agency writ large,” Shah said in a speech last month.


Washington Post Columnist: President Has Hard Choices to Make on Development

Friday, July 9th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

In today’s “In the Loop,” Washington Post columnist Al Kamen lays out the turf battle over who has authority for U.S. development programs.   Kamen cites House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Howard Berman’s (D-CA) recently released working draft of a new Foreign Assistance Act — known as the Preambles — and notes a reaction from the State Department.  Read the full piece here and read an excerpt below on the tough choice President Obama faces:

“The Pentagon says it wants out of the development business because that’s not what it does. So the question, which apparently the White House will resolve, is whether development is going to be a distinct, though coordinated, function. That is, who’s going to be in charge of development out in the field.”

Former USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios calls Bureaucracy an Obstacle to Development Practices

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

“Relieving the tension between the counter-bureaucracy and development practice would require implementing new measurement systems, conducting more research on overregulation and its effects, reducing the layers of oversight and regulation, and aligning programmatic goals with organizational incentives.”

According to Andrew Natsios, visiting fellow at the Center for Global Development and former Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) from 2001 to 2006, obstructive layers of bureaucracy pose the largest challenge to delivering effective foreign assistance for agencies such as USAID. In his essay, “The Clash of the Counter-bureaucracy and Development,” Natsios relates how bureaucratic obstacles hinder USAID development practices and even damage U.S. national security objectives. Follow the link below to read the full paper:

Clash of Counter-bureaucracy and Development – Natsios

Read another piece authored by Andrew Natsios and MFAN Principals J. Brian Atwood and M. Peter McPherson regarding the problems with the U.S. foreign assistance system titled “Arrested Development Making Foreign Aid a More Effective Tool” (Foreign Affairs, Nov/Dec 2008).

The Battle of the Logos

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

By Mark Green, Ambassador and Congressman (ret.)

I recently began posting a series of pieces with some of the reasons why I believe (a) America needs foreign assistance reform and (b) Conservatives should take up the cause.  Done right, foreign assistance can play a crucial role in our foreign policy. Unfortunately, the status quo isn’t “done right” or, at least, done as well as it could be.

Here are my first four reasons:

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

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

Reason 3: Foreign assistance reform is a great opportunity for Conservatives to reaffirm values and initiatives we care about. 

Reason 4: Simply put, Conservatives (and Republicans) have a long history of standing up for EFFECTIVE foreign assistance.

And now . . . Reason 5: The combination of fragmented authorities and overlapping bureaucracies in our current assistance framework is watering down public diplomacy efforts.

Foreign assistance is a crucial part of public diplomacy.  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton speaks eloquently about the need for “smart power” in these challenging times. Her predecessor, Condoleezza Rice, emphasized the ability for “diplomacy by deeds” to shape our image in far off lands. Whatever the terminology, the concept is straightforward: America enhances its image, and its prospects, when it is seen to be helping those in need.  Words are the currency of traditional diplomacy, but tangible deeds can be more eloquent than any cable or speech or public statement.

Here’s another way of looking at it: the late Jack Kemp, a Conservative hero to many (myself included), liked to say that “people need to know that you care before they care what you know.” Foreign assistance projects do just that, opening hearts and ears to the American message.

However, the deeds-based approach is only as effective as the messaging effort that follows it. We must make sure that people know the good work that is being done and that it ultimately comes from the American people. Unfortunately, our archaic patchwork of fragmented authorities and bureaucratic structures often undermines that effort.

These days, there are approximately 12 departments, 25 agencies and 60 separate government offices involved in administering foreign assistance.  With overlapping jurisdictions, conflicting rules and procedures, and differing organizational cultures, they often confuse those they mean to serve.  They may even unintentionally mislead the public into thinking that one or more of them are independent or even non-governmental. After all, what logical government would use handfuls of different agencies to work in a single country . . .perhaps even on a single project?

One symptom of this bureaucratic labyrinth is what I refer to as the “battle of the logos.” And it’s one of the many annoyances that Conservatives can fix when they take up foreign assistance reform.

The Battle of the Logos

In my first weeks at post as Ambassador to Tanzania, I attended numerous ribbon-cuttings for U.S.-funded health clinics, Malaria Logos 1school dormitories and other projects only to see banners with countless logos and acronyms plastered all over.  Some of the acronyms were alien to me – from organizations I hadn’t heard of before.  As a group, they were sometimes so large and colorful that they took up more space and attention than the actual “message” – something noticed by many of the Tanzanian officials in attendance.  Even if it meant distracting from that message, the organizations involved apparently wanted to make sure that their “brands” were noticeably on display.

In some cases, the named organizations on display were private ones with whom the U.S. government had contracted to implement or administer programs.  However, the bold banners and shiny plaques made it appear that it was their own money that was building that clinic or paying for those books.  My guess is that a good many of the Tanzanians in attendance had no idea that it was American taxpayers, not the named organization, that had been so generous. In fact, I can recall an event in which a Tanzanian official went to great lengths to thank a university for its great generosity in launching a global health project – even though that university was actually just implementing a grant it had received from the National Institutes of Health.

The Battle of the Government Logos

What was even more frustrating was the hodgepodge of government agency logos that adorned each banner and brochure.  Just as with non-governmental logos, they seemed to take up too much space and distract from any underlying message.  More significantly, some of the logos and acronyms were obscure enough that observers couldn’t have known they were actually referring to the U.S. government. Most Americans don’t know what acronyms like MCC, FSA, PEPFAR, PMI, USADF, USTDA and others stand for.  What are the chances that my Tanzanian friends wouldn’t recognize them?

Like most Conservatives, I believe that while foreign assistance should help those in need, it must also help America’s image and interests on the world stage. We support foreign assistance because it is the right thing to do, but also because – done right – it is the smart thing to do.  But again, how “smart” can a project be if its funding source is hidden by bureaucratic branding and self-promotion?PMI microscope close up

As ambassador, I tried to push back against all of this. First, I issued an embassy-wide directive creating a unified logo — an American flag with the phrase “From the American People” in Kiswahili — and called for it to be on every press statement and event banner.  I asked my team to send that message out to our implementing partners as well, and spoke about my “rule” at a USAID sponsored planning session with those partners. I let everyone know that I wouldn’t attend ribbon cuttings or groundbreakings unless there was a banner behind me with our new logo design.

I also created a business card-sized piece of literature — one that could be folded out into a small “table tent” – which bore the new logo and then summarized, by the numbers, just how much assistance American taxpayers were providing in Tanzania. Every member of my embassy team, American and Tanzanian, was supposed to carry it with him or her so he or she could answer the question, “What is America doing to help?”  Each member was supposed to leave one of these cards at their stops when they traveled in country.

A Good Job for Conservatives

It’s important to realize that our assistance network is made up of lots of good, dedicated professionals who are devoted to lifting lives and building communities in the countries where they serve.  It’s the system that is the problem.tshirt photo

In my battle of the logos example, some of my embassy team pointed out to me that federal offices and agencies often had rules that attempted to govern and even mandate the use of their brands in the field. Many federal agencies had sent out strict guidelines governing the use of their logos in these situations.  In some cases, they sent out “rules” directing not only the  use of their logos, but the size and position of the logos relative to other agencies’ brands.

Policymakers and opinion leaders back here in the States, especially Conservatives, need to get involved because bureaucracies never reform themselves . . . not willingly and not sufficiently.  As Ronald Reagan liked to say: “Bureaucrats do cut red tape – they just do it lengthwise.”

Shah: “Sustainable development is essential to sustainable national security”

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010
Bookmark and Share

Last Friday, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah addressed a crowd at the National Press Club, outlining reforms at the agency and broader, government-wide initiatives that impact development.  When asked whether or not the Presidential Study Directive and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review would be released publicly, Shah answered, “Both will be released to the public, and in both cases, as soon as possible. I believe the Presidential Study Directive which is one of the things to which you referred, will perhaps be public sooner. The QDDR, which is the Quadrennial Development and Diplomacy Review which was launched by Secretary Clinton, will be publicly available this fall.”

Shah used the speech as an opportunity to outline reforms at USAID saying, “My job as administrator is to make good on the President’s promise to revitalize USAID by modernizing the agency” through a “comprehensive set of operational reforms designed to partner and deliver high impact, cost efficient development.”  Below are excerpts from the speech that describe Shah’s reform agenda for the agency:

  • “…we will rebuild USAID’s budget accountability with a strong focus on getting better results for U.S. taxpayers. We will pursue a development strategy that is based on focus, scale, and impact. We will focus in fewer sectors in each of the countries that we work.”
  • “Second, to achieve greater returns from our investments we are readying a package of procurement reforms… We are redoubling our efforts to support local institutions and build local capacity.”
  • “Third, to get the best out of each employee we are reforming our personnel policies. A development entrepreneur needs real flexibility and the ability to take risks.”
  • “Fourth, we need to do a much better job at monitoring and evaluation so we can easily identify what works, what doesn’t work, and why, and implement changes quickly in our programs to optimize against that information.”
  • “Finally, our agency will embrace the concept of extreme transparency. We will meet President Obama’s open government directive and seek to set a standard on transparency for the field of development…We owe American taxpayers hard evidence of the impact their money is making.”

Shah also reinforced the administration’s commitment to reform, despite what the community sees as tension between the State Department and USAID, saying “I actually see all of this coming together as really elevating development, elevating all of the different parts of development policy, and certainly elevating in a very significant and fundamental way USAID.” Shah closed with an urgent call to action: “I think it’s incumbent upon us to get this reform agenda enacted and to make USAID the most effective and strategically significant development enterprise anywhere in the world.”  Watch the speech below.