Meet the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009 at 1:33 pm

Record another data point for the Obama administration’s military-civilian resource shift. In a speech yesterday to the still-leaderless USAID, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton explained that she’ll be launching an effort, run by Deputy Secretary Jack Lew, to study the mission, posture and resourcing of the State Department and USAID every four years, called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. (Clinton unveiled the effort on Friday at State and I missed that.) The effort is directly modeled on the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the biggest-picture report the Defense Department produces to rethink the country’s defense needs and make decisions about, like, stuff to buy accordingly. Clinton:

For the State Department and USAID to have the greatest impact, we cannot simply strengthen each agency on its own. We need to maximize the collaboration between us. We want to build on the existing partnerships and find new opportunities, to share knowledge, tackle common problems, and align our programs around the world.

The QDDR will help us create short-term and long-term blueprints for advancing our foreign policy objectives and enhancing coordination between USAID and State, a crucial element of exercising smart power.

Much as people have criticized Clinton’s ‘smart power’ formulation, this is really, well, smart. It’s an innovative way to set a direction for what American diplomatic and development strategy ought to be, in a big picture sense, and identify resourcing shortfalls. Lots of angst has been spilled over the years about how the State Department just doesn’t shoulder its end of the national-security burden. Here’s an effort at quantifying the discrepancy between administration aims and State/USAID capabilities. Clinton on Friday:

To sum it up, we are working for a world in which more people in more places can live in freedom, can enjoy the fruits of democracy and economic opportunity and have a chance to live up to their own God-given potential. But having said that, I think it’s only fair to add we face an unprecedented set of challenges. And in the face of those challenges, the State Department and USAID are frequently having to just work overtime to try to catch up, because too often, our policy structures, our staffing patterns, our standard operating procedures are insufficient to meet the Administration’s and the country’s priorities and challenges.

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