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Groundwork for Change at State August 28, 2009

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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Source: State Department

Source: State Department

The Washington Post this past week featured an interesting piece on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the emerging changes at the State Department. It mostly praised the Secretary, relatively uncritically, and pretty superficially.  Behind the changes now underway, we at BFAD just wanted to underline a couple, only mentioned in passing in the piece, that could lay the groundwork for a major long-term change in the civilian toolkit of American statecraft.

Secretary Clinton’s decision to fill the long-unfilled second Deputy Secretary of State position (for Management and Resources) was a significant step forward at Foggy Bottom. For the first time in its history, State has one official and one office responsible for coordinating management and budget in the Department.  The entire State budgeting process has essentially been centralized within Lew’s office, which is now responsible for foreign assistance, State operations budgets, State Department management, all budget documents, strategic planning, and all Director of Foreign Assistance (S/F) responsibilities.

The Deputy Secretary, Jack Lew (former OMB director) has an enormous opportunity to bring discipline and coordination to State Department operations and budgeting, which the Department has needed for decades. A long history of neglect with respect to management issues, and, above all, the absence of any centralized budgeting office may be about to end.

Second, Clinton has launched the Department on its first-ever strategic planning process, the newly-announced Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).  Mirroring DOD’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the QDDR will be co-chaired by Lew, Anne-Marie Slaughter (the Director of Policy Planning) and Alonzo Fulgham (Acting Administrator of USAID).  Here, too, for the first time, State will examine the threats and opportunities the US faces in the world, define US foreign policy and development objectives, recommend strategies to meet those objectives, shape the tools and budgets needed to get there, and set out measures for assessing the performance of the foreign policy institutions.

Together, these two completely new management/planning/budgeting changes at State could lead to a dramatic change in the way the Department does business, integrate and focus the goals and resources of the civilian foreign policy toolkit, and play an important role in re-balancing the State/DOD relationship, which has leaned heavily toward DOD.

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