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Senate Foreign Relations Tired of ‘Development’ Getting Benched September 24, 2009

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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The Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to the President last week voicing concern about the state of US development policy and leadership.  Using baseball as the framework, here is the problem the Senators pointed to:

  • No Manager.  Nine months after the inauguration, USAID –the leading agency responsible for foreign assistance, development, and humanitarian assistance– still does not have an administrator. The lengthy vetting process has eliminated many potential candidates, including, most recently, Dr. Paul Farmer, frustrating many in the development community.  Agency leadership and policy direction remains in limbo.   In their letter, Senators John Kerry and Richard Lugar encourage the President to choose someone who has already gone through the vetting process to expedite confirmation. In the mean time, Alonzo Fulgham continues to hold down the fort as Acting Administrator, a job even he, I’m sure, is surprised to still be holding.
  • No playing time.  For all the talk around DC about the three pillars of foreign policy (defense, diplomacy and development), USAID has continuously found itself on the short end of the participation stick.  Kerry and Lugar warn that USAID and its development perspective are not being incorporated into major policy decisions and the interagency process.  This means that the other two pillars are doing all the talking with regard to US foreign policy decisions, and while development seems to be getting more attention these days, the ability to articulate the development view does not exist.
  • Not enough players. USAID has decreased in capacity since the Cold War ended, and currently lacks the appropriate tools and resources to be an effective first responder in post-conflict and fragile state situations.  Stimson and the American Academy of Diplomacy advocated an increase in both funding and personnel last year and the administration has begun to budget that way, but the process is slow and the need is urgent.  Moreover, there remains substantial confusion about where civilian response should be located in the government.  Afghanistan may answer that question before the manager arrives on the scene.

As the State Department undertakes the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) and the National Security Council tackles the Presidential Study Directive (PSD) on global development policy, these issues become even more pressing.  There is, in effect, no rain delay for USAID.



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