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Putting Smart Power to Work: Speeches and Reports March 4, 2009

Posted by Molly in Briefing.
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The Center for US Global Engagement’s launched its “Report on Reports” at a major event with Deputy Secretary Jack Lew, General Colin Powell and other prominent speakers today.  The report identifies the major points of consensus across over 20 other reports, focusing on the issue of strengthening America’s civilian capacity for global engagement. They highlight the following seven actions the US should take to address this strategic challenge:

  1. Formulate a comprehensive national security strategy that integrates the three Ds
  2. Increase funding and resources for civilian-led agencies and programs
  3. Streamline the U.S. foreign assistance apparatus to improve policy coherence
  4. Reform Congressional oversight, including revamping the Foreign Assistance Act
  5. Integrate civilian and military instruments to deal with weak and fragile states
  6. Move authority for DOD-led foreign assistance activities to civilian agencies
  7. Strengthen U.S. support for international organizations

Keep reading for the highlights from today’s event.

Speakers at today’s event included Deputy Secretary Jack Lew; General Colin Powell; Senator Robert Menendez; former Representative Jim Leach; and Wendy Sherman of The Albright Group.   They covered a wide but rather non-controversial range of topics:

Shift of authorities and funds from State to Defense

  • Powell wants to talk about “smart influence” instead of “smart power”, because it’s not about forcing our views and policies overseas but projecting our leadership to the world

Coordination among the aid diaspora

  • Lew: There’s a pressing need for better coordination across the different programs in the foreign aid apparatus. “We need to be able to look at a country or function and have a horizontal view of all that’s going on.” We need to coordinate agencies better – “doesn’t mean that we merge them into one.” He compares them to the army, navy and air force working conjointly

State HR reform

  • Sherman: State FSOs are operating in PRTs in Iraq, bearing responsibility for reconstruction activities when they never even learned program management skills – ambassadors and FSOs should have that funding and that flexibility

Dealing with Congress

  • Powell: “I’m telling you, it comes down to trench warfare with the Congress” for funds. Powell complained about growth in earmarks in the State budget, up from a few thousand to 14,000 a few years ago

Foreign Assistance Act

  • Menendez: Not the right time to rewrite the Foreign Assistance Act. We’re dealing with too many other critical issues in foreign assistance and foreign policy to allocate the time and resources necessary to do a good job on reform
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