blog logo image

Posts Tagged ‘White House’

CAP Proposes Way Forward on Aid Reform in the New Congress

Thursday, December 2nd, 2010
Bookmark and Share


In a new report called “U.S. Foreign Aid Reform Meets the Tea Party,” MFAN Principal and Executive Director of the Sustainable Security and Peacebuilding Initiative at the Center for American Progress John Norris explores how foreign assistance reform can succeed in the new-look 112th Congress.

“While many have been quick to suggest that the November 2010 midterm elections will result in gridlock in Washington, there are good reasons why foreign aid reform can continue to gain traction,” Norris writes.  He goes on to make concrete recommendations on how to effectively implement the aspirations of President Obama’s global development policy, which was announced in September and is the first of its kind in the history of the U.S. government.  “This new U.S. foreign aid policy framework was well received by a wide spectrum of organizations and commentators, ranging from some traditional aid critics to major groups, such as the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, that have long supported reform efforts,” Norris notes.  “All welcomed an effort to bring greater clarity, discipline, effectiveness, and simplicity to our aid programs.  Articulating a new policy direction, however, is different from making it happen.”

John_NorrisNorris also discusses the role of the soon-to-be-released Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and how it might – or might not – clarify the relationship between the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department.  “It is also noteworthy that neither the new policy directive nor the likely results of Secretary Clinton’s first Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR, have fully resolved a long-simmering tug of war between the State Department and USAID,” he comments.  “Instead, under its current review, the administration revived or partially revived some important policy and budget functions within USAID, leaving the agency with a degree of autonomy. Yet the administration also made it abundantly clear that the agency still operates under the broad policy guidance of the secretary of state, and that State Department officials will remain deeply engaged in decision-making on many key aspects of development while taking an even more prominent role in managing complex crises.”

Specifically, Norris proposes the following actions for partnering with Congress to implement the President’s vision and strategy for U.S. engagement in the developing world:

  • Focusing on countries where assistance will make a real difference;
  • Walking away from partner governments that are not committed to reform;
  • Curbing the tendency to use foreign aid to secure short-term political gains rather than achieving long-term development goals;
  • Bringing far greater clarity and direction to the maze of different government entities conducting assistance through specific regulatory and legislative fixes; and
  • Making a better case as to why foreign aid reform is the right thing to do, both in terms of our national interest and our basic values as Americans.

“For the president’s new policy directive to be effective soon and over the long term, then the administration must work with Congress in a bipartisan fashion to overhaul our foreign aid programs so that they all adhere to the new strategy.  This will require making some difficult choices and then sticking with them.”

To read the report, click here.

MFAN Co-Chairs: It’s Time to Finish the Job on Foreign Aid Reform

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

In a new op-ed for Devex, MFAN’s Co-Chairs David Beckmann and George Ingram make the case to keep up the momentum for foreign aid reform, underscoring that reform is a bipartisan issue with support from both sides of Pennsylvania Avenue. The full op-ed is posted below. To comment on the piece, please email Rolf Rosenkranz at or Jenni Rothenberg at Devex members can also sign in to post a comment by clicking here.

George Ingram1David Beckmann1

It’s Time to Finish the Job on Foreign Aid Reform

By the Rev. David Beckmann and George Ingram

With the leak of a summary of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review last week – and President Obama’s announcement of America’s first-ever government-wide global development policy in September – the Obama administration has moved another step closer to an overhaul of the U.S. approach to global development, something no administration has been able to accomplish in the last 50 years.

The fact that we have come this far shows there is a broad, bipartisan consensus in Washington on the need to make U.S. foreign aid more effective, particularly because it is so critical to ongoing national security efforts, but also because we need our development dollars to go further in a time of tight budgets. The administration and Congress now must work together to finish the job, and turn these bold proposals into lasting policies and structures.


Poll: Top Vacancies at USAID

Monday, November 15th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

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

Clinton Gives Preview of QDDR

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

Clinton-CGDIn an article titled “Leading Through Civilian Power—Redefining American Diplomacy and Development” that will be published in the Nov/Dec edition of Foreign Affairs, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton lays out the contours of the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which was launched by the State Department in the summer of 2009 and is set to be finalized and made public by the end of the year.

Clinton has been a strong proponent of a “smart power” approach for U.S. foreign policy, which leverages the “three Ds” of defense, diplomacy, and development.  Since becoming secretary of state, she has sought to elevate and bolster the civilian components of diplomacy and development within that framework, and the QDDR is a tool to operationalize and hopefully optimize the relationship between the two, using the Defense Department’s existing Quadrennial Defense Review as a model. “During my years on the Senate Armed Services Committee, I saw how the Department of Defense used its Quadrennial Defense Review to align its resources, policies, and strategies for the present — and the future,” Clinton writes. “No similar mechanism existed for modernizing the State Department or USAID.”

In making the case for the value of this exercise, Clinton states, “The QDDR is not simply a review. It defines how to make diplomacy and development coordinated, complementary, and mutually reinforcing. It assesses what has worked in the past and what has not. And it forecasts future strategic choices and resource needs.”

Clinton goes on to highlight Congress’ continued support for the hiring of additional Foreign Service Officers at State and USAID, including the doubling of development staff  “with the specific skills and experience required for evolving development challenges.” This in turn will help make USAID “the world’s premier development organization, one that fosters long-term growth and democratic governance, includes its own research arm, shapes policy and innovation, and uses metrics to ensure that our investments are cost-effective and sound.”

But she asserts very clearly that diplomacy and development must work in close concert.  “Although the State Department and USAID have distinct roles and missions, diplomacy and development often overlap and must work in tandem,” she writes. “Increasingly, global challenges call for a mix of both, requiring a more holistic approach to civilian power… While USAID leads U.S. development work overseas, State Department employees today — from ambassadors to Civil Service experts — must be better versed and more engaged in development issues… The QDDR also focuses on the diplomatic side of effective development policy, arguing for building much stronger and more systematic links between the State Department and USAID both in Washington and in the field.”

The inaugural QDDR will focus on three areas:

  • modernizing and coordinating diplomacy across U.S. government agencies;
  • ensuring that U.S. development efforts produce a lasting and sustainable impact; and
  • creating a stronger nexus between diplomacy and development, as well as better coordination with partners in the military, in conflict zones and fragile states.

As part of the Obama Administration’s broader focus on development, Clinton references President Obama’s new development policy that was released last month, which “emphasizes the importance of targeting countries with responsible governments and favorable conditions for development and working in a smaller number of targeted sectors in each country for maximum impact.”

She also points to ongoing reforms at USAID led by Administrator Raj Shah, which are designed to make the agency “more effective, accountable, and transparent.” The reforms, called “USAID Forward,” include: changes in procurement reform that will build local capacity; evidence-based development spearheaded by USAID’s new Bureau of Policy, Planning and Learning; and a greater emphasis on science and technology to help fuel innovation.

Clinton underscores the importance of countries leading their own development, saying that the QDDR “embraces development as a process of assisted self-help in the furtherance of American interests and values.” “A developing country must be in charge and set its own goals for meeting the needs of its people,” she continues. “The U.S. government comes to the table as a partner, not a patron, lending resources and expertise and, eventually, putting itself out of business when a host country is self-sustaining.”

She goes on to talk about how development – and foreign aid dollars needed to help catalyze development – are critical to U.S. foreign policy, saying, “As counterintuitive as it may seem, the answer is that development, when done effectively, is one of the best tools to enhance the United States’ stability and prosperity.”

“It is time to move beyond the past and to recognize diplomacy and development as national security priorities and smart investments in the United States’ future stability and security… The two Ds in the QDDR reflect the world as the State Department sees it today and as it envisions it in the future.”

Partisan Politics and Foreign Aid

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
Bookmark and Share

With the midterm election just a week away, we are beginning to see the challenges of a new, partisan environment–particularly for foreign assistance spending and programs.  Just yesterday, minority whip Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) called for cutting funds to countries who don’t share US interests, with the exception of Israel. In his interview with the Jewish Telegraph Agency, Cantor pressed this decision might mean rejecting the State and Foreign Operations bill altogether.  State and Foreign Operations appropriations subcommittee chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) responded in force, saying in a statement: “The foreign aid bill funds U.S. diplomatic efforts at the State Department, including diplomacy related to peace in the Middle East.  It aids other countries in the region to help defeat al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations and includes non-proliferation initiatives. In addition, the bill addresses moral imperatives that are also destabilizing factors, like hunger, poverty, and disease, which too often create a fertile environment for terror recruitment.”

Including Cantor, Foreign Policy’s Josh Rogin has created a list of ten Republicans who could play an influential role post elections in affecting the implementation of the Obama administration’s foreign policy agenda. See below for Rogin’s complete list of top GOP actors, with excerpts:

Eric CantorRep. Eric Cantor (R-VA) – “Cantor, who is particularly active on foreign-policy issues involving Iran and Israel, could see his role expand significantly if he is given the power to set the House floor agenda and therefore determine which bills are considered, in what form, and when. That could spell trouble for the administration’s foreign operations budget, which funds the State Department and sets levels for U.S. non-military assistance around the world.”Jon Kyl

Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) – “Kyl has also been involved in the ongoing GOP effort to hold up the confirmation of several nominees for ambassadorships, such as Robert Ford and Frank Ricciardone. Increased GOP numbers could force the administration to take more seriously Kyl’s demands for more access to State Department communications and more explicit statements on the administration’s foreign-policy positions if it wants to see these ambassadors confirmed.”

Jim DeMintSenator Jim DeMint (R-SC) – “Most incoming Tea Party candidates don’t focus on foreign policy, but many will owe allegiance to DeMint because he has been filling their campaign coffers. They could be inclined to follow suit with his unilateralist, militaristic worldview, which many see as based on his neoconservative ideology rather than a realistic pursuit of U.S. interests in multipolar world order.”John McCain

Senator John McCain (R-AZ) – “But more broadly, he is poised to lead the Republican opposition to Obama’s attempts to significantly reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan, starting in July 2011…In short, he could close off the Senate Armed Services Committee as a reliable tool through which the White House could execute its foreign-policy aims.”

HONDURAS/Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) – “If Republicans take the House, Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) is poised to take over the House Foreign Affairs Committee and could drastically alter the committee’s agenda and priorities…Her ascendancy could also spell doom for Berman’s bill on foreign-aid reform. She argues often for more vetting of foreign aid in the hope of finding cuts, and she has also introduced legislation to cut U.S. funding for the United Nations and the Palestinian Authority.”Richard Lugar

Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) – “The ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lugar will see his foreign-policy role increase not because he stands opposed to the Obama administration’s policies, but rather because he will be needed to defend them…His ability to serve as a bridge between the administration and the increasingly conservative Republican rank-and-file will be crucial as the White House continues to push its foreign-policy agenda next year. Another scarce GOP Senate ally for the administration will be Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) who, like Lugar, supports new START and robust foreign-aid budgets.”

Kay GrangerRep. Kay Granger (R-TX) – “Although not certain, it’s likely that Granger, a Texas Republican, would take over the chairmanship of the House Appropriations subcommittee for State Department and foreign operations if the GOP wins the House. That would give her a large role in writing significant sections of the State Department’s funding bill. Although she supported the bill put forth this year by current chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), she criticized the increases for the foreign-ops budget, saying, “We also face the continued concern in our own country about our economy and the devastating effects of skyrocketing deficits and debt.” She’s a strong supporter of a balanced budget amendment, which doesn’t bode well for foreign-aid funding in this dismal fiscal environment…Granger is also on board with efforts to eliminate aid to countries that are not performing on internal reform, as she explained when expressing opposition to funding of the Senegalese government through the State Department’s Millennium Challenge Corporation. “We can’t just give out money and say we will put up with whatever you are doing,” she said.”Thad Cochran

Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) – “There’s no budget resolution for fiscal 2011 and there’s no assurance that State and foreign ops funding will be completed during this congressional session, so Cochran and the new subcommittee members he chooses will be in the position to either defend or attack the version of the bill that’s already on the table…New subcommittee members will have less experience with this funding so will be in a less advantageous position to defend it in the near term. And, after February, they will already face the job of vetting the administration’s foreign-ops funding request for 2012, which is when big debates over foreign-aid funding, the civilian role in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the role of the U.S. government in international fora will all come to a head.”

Olympia SnoweSenator Olympia Snowe (R-ME) – “Snowe is being courted heavily by the administration to make the difference on several other issues facing the Senate, including lifting the military’s ban on openly gay service members and New START, which she has not yet indicated whether she will support. If Snowe gets the committee chairmanship, she will be one lawmaker that both Democratic and Republican leadership will be eager to woo.”Ed Royce

Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) – “Royce is symbolic of Republican House members who are active on foreign policy and could change the tone of the foreign-policy discussion if the GOP takes over the House. He very well could become chairman again of the House Foreign Affairs Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade Subcommittee, where his staff could hold hearings on the Middle East, Africa, the war on terror, Afghanistan, and any other region sensitive to the administration’s national security goals.”