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Coming soon: early details on Clinton’s strategy review

Coming soon: early details on Clinton’s strategy review

The State Department is getting ready to release some of the results of its grand organizational and policy review, which will reveal key details about how Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to integrate American diplomacy with international development.

The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) has been ongoing for about a year, with a massive organizational structure that includes committees, working groups, and buy-in from stakeholders throughout the bureaucratic community. Led by Policy Planning chief Anne-Marie Slaughter and Deputy Secretary Jack Lew, it overlaps with the National Security Council’s Presidential Study Directive on Global Development (PSD-7), which is also underway.

Community leaders, State Department sources, and Hill staffers are telling The Cable that State is expected to release an interim report on the QDDR this week or next, with some major decisions about the fate of the U.S. Agency for International Development to be announced at that time as well.

House Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, pressed USAID administrator Rajiv Shah for details about the QDDR at a hearing last week.

"The QDDR has completed now its first phase of work," Shah told Berman, saying that "a broad set of exploratory conversations" had completed and more operational decisions would be made in April or May. The full QDDR release is not expected until this fall.

Shah is also heavily involved in the PSD, stating that it was also "now transitioning into also a more operational focus to come up with specific constructs that will define the development strategy of this administration going forward."

The QDDR will call for USAID to have its own policy-planning staff, said Shah, and in fact the rebuilding of that staff, which was taken away during the Bush administration, is already underway. On the other main question about USAID, will it control its own budget, Shah was more guarded.

He said USAID would partner with the "F Bureau" at State to develop a new and improved budget process. But he didn’t say who would actually hold the money, State or USAID.

"We will get to a place where we have the opportunity to develop a budget, working in partnership with others. But we clearly need to be able to make strategic resource trade-offs in order to be held accountable for the performance of the agency," said Shah.

Outside experts close to the process had more specific ideas of how the QDDR budget debates were shaping up inside the system. Brian Atwood, a former USAID administrator, told The Cable that the decision has already been made to keep the money at State, but negotiations were still underway to see how USAID could have more of a role.

"It’s clear that the secretary of state is going to control the budget," Atwood said, referencing what he is hearing about the QDDR. "The question is whether or not there will be a firewall around the development assistance budget so people at lower levels at the State Department can’t raid it, use it for political purposes, or short-term objectives."

How exactly USAID and the F Bureau will coexist going forward remains unclear.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, there are foreign-aid reform bills cooking in both chambers but neither of those is expected to move before the administration has a chance to lay out some of its own agenda first. Foreign-aid reform provisions will be left out of this month’s markup of the State Department authorization bill, a senior Senate staffer said.

Congress has some divergent views from the administration regarding foreign-aid reform and a draft Senate report goes further in calling for USAID’s independence than what is expected in the administration review. On the budget question, lawmakers want to know how much actual authority USAID leadership will have.

But the back and forth between Foggy Bottom and Capitol Hill seems to have tapered off, partly because the administration was getting bogged down by having too many voices in the discussion at one time, the staffer said.

"Initially the process was created to be done in a consultative manner…. That stopped and there hasn’t been a formal meeting on this since early December. So from a Hill perspective we’re very much in the dark at this point."