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Archive for the ‘White House’ Category

USAID Administrator Should be Given Seat on NSC

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013
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Last week, Foreign Policy’s “Best Defense” blog had a guest post from Major Jaron Wharton, U.S. Army. In the piece, Maj. Wharton makes a compelling case for the USAID Administrator to be granted a seat on the National Security Council given the increased role development plays in our national security. MFAN has long held the position that the USAID Administrator should hold a seat on the National Security Council, especially with the emphasis on smart power seen during the Obama Administration. Read the full piece here and see key excerpts below:

“Because we are living in times that require a fully integrated national security approach, the USAID administrator should become the president’s principal advisor for development and assistance (akin to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff role and associated linkage to the secretary of defense, but concomitant to the secretary of state) and a permanent member on the National Security Council. This elevated position will provide the president with unfettered development advice, while codifying the position that development is on par with defense and diplomacy. Maintaining USAID’s intimate relationship with State recognizes the inherent ties of development assistance to foreign policy.”

[ ... ]

“USAID should take internal steps to reinforce its relevance and further professionalize its engagement in the national security apparatus. However, as in Goldwater-Nichols, where the ramifications for the professionalization of the Joint Staff were extreme, USAID is already fully-capable of the increased level of responsibility. There is no longer a dichotomy within USAID between those focused on altruistic development and assistance and those who understand the necessity, practicality, and Hill-emphasized need for more targeted work to support national security objectives.

Indeed, the development portfolio is now facing critical challenges and is at significantly increased risk given growing fiscal constraints. Despite being elevated by the Global Development Policy to be on par with defense and diplomacy, elements of any effort by the agency to demonstrate true relevancy in national security must include improved and sustained engagement in the NSS. This inherently makes the case USAID’s activities are considered in the national interest. Elevation of the administrator as a permanent member on the NSC provides an additional forcing function on the broader USG to recognize this point. At a minimum, the USAID administrator should be elevated and maintain his presence at the principals’ committee level beyond an “informal member as appropriate.”

Who Do YOU Think Should Serve on the Global Development Council?

Monday, January 7th, 2013
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Just before the holidays, the White House announced nominations for nine of the twelve seats on the President’s Global Development Council. As you recall, the Council—established by executive order last February—was originally called for in the 2010 Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development (PPD-6).

Click here to see the nine individuals appointed to the Council so far.

As MFAN Principal Sarah Jane Staats, director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Project at the Center for Global Development, writes, “The line-up so far pulls in research, private sector and philanthropic expertise and does not include operational or advocacy organizations (which may be a smart move to avoid conflict of interest with organizations who receive federal dollars for aid programs).”

Though the President is not obligated to fill all twelve slots, we’re interested to hear who you think should fill the remaining three seats.

Who else should be on the Global Development Council? Let us know by:

Send us your suggestions by January 14.

Once we’ve gotten enough suggestions, we will ask you to take our poll and vote on who you think should be on the Council. The names of the three individuals with the most votes will then be shared with the White House.

We look forward to collecting your nominations!


MFAN Statement: Dr. Eric Goosby’s Appointment as Global Health Ambassador

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012
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December 18, 2012 (WASHINGTON)This statement is delivered on behalf of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network (MFAN) by Co-Chairs David Beckmann, George Ingram, and Jim Kolbe:

We congratulate Ambassador Eric Goosby on his appointment to lead the State Department’s new Office of Global Health Diplomacy. He has proven to be a strong public health advocate for poor and minority populations, and his successful stewardship of the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator prepares him well for the task ahead.

We are concerned, however, that the continued consolidation of power over health and development programs in the State Department threatens to undermine our overall efforts to achieve greater impact in alleviating poverty, eradicating disease, and fostering inclusive economic growth. MFAN’s position has been, and remains, that the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) should be the lead agency on global health policy and implementation in the field when the programs being implemented have a significant development impact.  This view is echoed in President Obama’s landmark Policy Directive on Development (PPD), which seeks to “Reestablish the United States as the global leader on international development.  This entails a long-term commitment to rebuilding USAID as the U.S. Government’s lead development agency—and as the world’s premier development agency.” Ambassador Goosby’s description of the new office’s mandate would appear to contradict the PPD, because he indicates that it will play a broad internal U.S. government coordination role in addition to external coordination and diplomatic support—in essence, it will replace the former Global Health Initiative Secretariat with a new secretariat, also based at the State Department.

We welcome the State Department’s commitment to elevate global health as a diplomatic priority, but we believe it is the wrong approach to embed health and development programs so heavily in a diplomatic power structure. The risk is that decisions about these programs will, in some cases, be driven by the short-term politics, instead of by the long-term focus that is needed to drive sustainable health and development results. We also remain puzzled that the State Department has not done more to recognize and enhance the role of USAID as the U.S. government’s lead policy and implementing agency on all development issues, including global health, as laid out in the PPD. We encourage Ambassador Goosby and his team to fully integrate the expertise of development professionals into their activities as the office begins its work.


New ONE Campaign Takes on Malnutrition

Monday, September 17th, 2012
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On September 13, ONE kicked off a new campaign aimed at reducing chronic childhood malnutrition. The campaign—which will run through World Food Day in 2013—calls on world leaders to agree to a commitment that would reduce malnutrition for 25 million children by 2016. It is estimated that a billion people suffer from chronic malnutrition and more than three and a half million children will die this year as a result.

The star of ONE’s campaign is the sweet potato. Why? As Roxane Philson, ONE’s global creative director, explains, sweet potatoes “have the power (or shall we say “superpower” since we’re talking about heroes, here) to provide much-needed nutrients like vitamins C, A and B6 to undernourished children, helping to avert stunting and ensuring proper growth. On top of that, sweet potatoes are relatively cheap to produce and easy to grow in uncertain conditions, perfect for regions prone to drought and famine.”

Here is how you can get involved:

The first major day of action is World Food Day, October 16, 2012. Stay tuned as the campaign unfolds!


President Obama’s Economic Strategy for Africa: Aid-Plus but Will It Last?

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012
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See below for a guest post from MFAN partner Sarah Jane Staats, director of the Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Project at the Center for Global Development. This post originally appeared on the CGD blog.


The United States’ strategy towards Africa has shifted from “how much aid” to how to attract trade and investment, said White House Deputy National Security Advisor Michael Froman in a major speech (see video below) at the Center for Global Development this week. The standing-room only crowd seemed to welcome the emphasis on aid-plus, or more than aid approaches in Sub-Saharan Africa. CGD President Nancy Birdsall praised the administration’s “excellent vision” around the tough issues of economic growth and equal opportunity. The strategy does a great job of capturing the Obama administration’s efforts over the last three and a half years. But forecasting whether more of the vision (and which parts) can become reality in the remainder of this US presidential term and beyond will be difficult.

Froman, just back from leading a ten-day trip to Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Nigeria began his CGD remarks with a refresher on the Obama administration’s efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa: President Obama’s 2009 speech in Ghana, food security and child survival commitments, the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, and the White House-led Partnership for Growth effort in Ghana and Tanzania.

In his remarks, Froman focused on economic growth, trade and investment (one of four pillars in the administration’s new strategy towards Africa and the result of a presidential policy directive that presumably replaces National Security Presidential Directive 50 signed in 2006 by President Bush). Froman spoke of the difference in the US government’s approach to the region from when he traveled to Africa as a Treasury official nearly fifteen years ago. “If there is one way to summarize the change, it is that the focus has shifted from how much aid will be provided to how best to create the enabling environment for the trade and investment necessary to drive broad-based economic growth—the only true path toward development,” he argued.

CGD President Nancy Birdsall encouraged event attendees to disseminate the “really good vision” embodied in Froman’s remarks, “that development is about more than assistance, it includes assistance of course, but fundamentally it’s about growth, equal opportunity, governance—the tough issues.”  She added her hope that members of the development community will follow the implementation of that vision “independent of what happens in our own elections this fall.” (Birdsall also encouraged Froman to consider two additional development approaches: payments for measured progress against reductions in transit times akin to the Cash on Delivery Aid idea, or direct cash payments–from developing country governments to their citizens–for oil revenues as explained in CGD’s Oil2Cash initiative.)

It’s great to hear more about the Obama administration’s aid-plus efforts towards Africa from a senior White House official, especially given the expectations that a President Obama would do much in the region. And while the move beyond just aid has been a long time coming, it’s good to see it still going in that direction.  I agree with Nancy Birdsall that the focus now shifts to implementation. But I am perhaps a bit more worried about how much time is left in this presidential term to make the good vision a reality, and what happens next.

Here are a few bright spots:

  • The FY13 budget reflects the strategy’s food security and child survival priorities.
  • The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, led by USAID, brokers regulatory and policy reforms to attract private investment.
  • The House and Senate passed versions of a bill (HR 5986 and S 3326) yesterday that extend some African trade preferences under the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (and adds South Sudan to the list of countries eligible for AGOA).

But there are some clouds:

  • The House and Senate have already passed a six-month continuing resolution, acknowledging that they won’t make any real progress on the FY13 budget before the fiscal year begins on October 1st.  (For more on the budget, check out USGLC’s excellent new Budget Watch.)
  • We’re still waiting for evidence that the policy and regulatory reforms in the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition take place and that the private sector investments follow. (I’m hoping if I’ve missed something, readers will point me to evidence this is underway!)
  • The good vision isn’t codified or supported by a bipartisan Congress in contrast, for example, to the Millennium Challenge Corporation and President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief created during the Bush administration. (And while it’s a good thing this administration hasn’t set up new agencies–like the MCC and PEPFAR–that would add to the fragmentation and proliferation of aid agencies, the good vision without a clear home can more easily be washed away.)

My hope is that the bright spots and work underway will keep moving the good vision to reality, and that the reality of US politics won’t get in the way. Ideally, the good vision is strong enough to outlive a change in personnel (which will happen even in a second Obama administration) or a total change in administration.