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The Battle of the Logos

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010
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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
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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.

Conservatives have long history of standing up for EFFECTIVE foreign assistance

Monday, June 21st, 2010
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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 three 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. 

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

I served in Congress from 1999 to 2007, and was a proud member of the unprecedented bipartisan coalition which launched foreign assistance initiatives that have lifted America’s role in the developing world.  From President Bush’s HIV/AIDS initiative (PEPFAR) to the Millennium Challenge Act (MCA) to the President’s Malaria Initiative (PMI), these historic programs have changed the course of human history in some of the world’s most impoverished lands.20100618Gender_248_1

None of these would have been possible without the leadership of conservative members of Congress and the George W. Bush Administration.

For example, the late Sen. Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, who was once Congress’ most strident anti-foreign-aid voices, actually co-sponsored a bill providing $200 million to help fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. He joined other staunch conservatives, including the late Congressman Henry Hyde and former Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, in passing landmark programs such as African debt relief, the MCA and our HIV/AIDS and malaria initiatives. Sen. Helms and other Conservatives helped craft these initiatives because they believed that effective foreign assistance programs can show the world American values in action.

Bush, Helms and Frist were hardly alone in their leadership.  While it’s certainly true that some Conservatives have consistently opposed foreign aid, others have realized that there IS a role for America to play in development, and that Conservatives can and should fight to make it as effective as possible.

As far back as 1969, Republicans like President Richard Nixon recognized the importance of making foreign assistance as effective as possible:

“I agree with the conclusion of the Peterson Task Force that the downward trend of U.S. contributions to the development process should be reversed. I also agree with the Peterson Report that the level of foreign assistance ‘is only one side of the coin.’ The other side is a convincing determination that these resources can and will be used effectively.”

President Ronald Reagan insisted that our system of foreign assistance be scrutinized and reformed. But he also saw assistance as an important part of American policy.

“Foreign aid suffers from a lack of domestic constituency, in large part because the results of the programs are not often immediately visible and self-evident….It has been a major objective of this administration to subject all Federal programs to continuous and rigorous scrutiny to ensure that they directly serve United States interests and that each dollar is effectively used. My administration undertook a thorough and careful review of foreign assistance when we assumed office. We have worked closely with the Congress on this legislation. It reflects the considered judgment of both branches that our national interests are inextricably tied to the security and development of our friends and allies.”  (1981)

Reagan’s Secretary of State, George Schultz, also spoke of how effective foreign assistance was in America’s best interests:

“Our assistance program is not an end in itself. Yes, we seek to help people build better lives economically and across the whole spectrum of human needs and aspirations. . . . Economic and security assistance are not just a moral duty; they also serve our national interests. When conceived and administered well, assistance programs strengthen our foreign policy and enhance the security of our nation. By promoting economic development in needy countries, we bolster the vitality and security of the free world.” (1984)

In more recent times, Senator Jesse Helms spoke out strongly about the inefficiencies he saw in the patchwork of programs and fragmented authorities in the foreign assistance system.

“I pledge that for every dollar we take out of bureaucratic overhead, I will support a matching dollar increase in US assistance delivered through these private and faith-based charities. In other words, every one dollar that is cut from bureaucracy will translate into two dollars in real relief for the world’s neediest people” (2001)


Critics often lampooned President George W. Bush’s syntax and “bushisms.” In fact, he often made fun of himself in this regard. However, no American leader has offered a more eloquent description of what America’s role should be in helping the world’s downtrodden.

“Many here today have devoted their lives to the fight against global poverty, and you know the stakes. We fight against poverty because hope is an answer to terror. We fight against poverty because opportunity is a fundamental right to human dignity. We fight against poverty because faith requires it and conscience demands it. And we fight against poverty with a growing conviction that major progress is within our reach.”(2002)

But “Bush 43” was also clear that foreign assistance should be a hand up, not a hand out – that just as wealthy nations have an obligation to help, recipient nations must also help themselves. He argued that aid should be tied to reform and self-improvementgwb.hyde.

“The goal of our development aid will be for nations to grow and prosper beyond the need for any aid. When nations adopt reforms, each dollar of aid attracts $2 of private investments. When aid is linked to good policy, four times as many people are lifted out of poverty compared to old aid practices.” (2002)

In other words, when today’s Conservative leaders take up the call to help reform our foreign assistance system, they will be joining a line of proud Conservatives, from President Reagan and Senator Jesse Helms to President George W. Bush and Congressman Henry Hyde.  These men understand why foreign assistance is important and, just as importantly, why it must be made better. And they understood that it can only reach its potential if Conservatives help it get there.

Mark Green is currently the Managing Director of the Malaria Policy Center in Washington.

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.)


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.