The Cable

USAID awaits its fate

As the long wait for an appointment of an administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development continues, the development community in Washington is looking at the State Department’s once-in-four-years policy review for clues about the fate of the agency. The future of USAID was the main topic of interest at Wednesday’s conference put on ...

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As the long wait for an appointment of an administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development continues, the development community in Washington is looking at the State Department’s once-in-four-years policy review for clues about the fate of the agency.

The future of USAID was the main topic of interest at Wednesday’s conference put on by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition and featuring a panel with Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew, Director of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter (above left), and acting USAID Administrator Alonzo Fulgham.

Development-community sources said that the administration has its pick for USAID administrator in mind, but that person has told the White House he won’t accept the job until questions about his role and authorities are settled.

More generally, the independency of the agency, its ability to have an intellectual identity, and its control over its own funding are all at stake in State’s ongoing review, which is called the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR.

Lew gave only hints about how the QDDR would settle these questions, but he seemed clear that USAID was on its way to becoming a more, not less, integrated part of the State Department.

“We’re seeing a lot of the development versus diplomacy line starting to disappear … and I think that’s ultimately going to be the path to success,” he said.

Slaughter struck a slightly different tone. “The vision that the secretary has coming out of the QDDR is of a much stronger, much better-resourced USAID … and better integrated in the counsels of decision in every country,” she said. “What we want to make sure is that we’ve got equal strength on the diplomacy side and the development side.”

Many attendees lamented that USAID had lost its policy-planning staff and budget power under former Secretary Condoleezza Rice.

“An immediate action that can be taken, you don’t need the QDDR or anything else … is to recreate the policy-planning office in USAID and its budget function so they can give guidance to Alonzo when he meets people on other sides of the agency,” said Irving Rosenthal, a former USAID official.

“I couldn’t agree more,” said Fulgham, adding, “We‘ve got to get our house in order.”

Lew also said the administration could not comment yet on the many USAID-related bills sitting in Congress until the QDDR was complete. Senate Foreign Relations Committee heads John Kerry, D-MA, and Richard Lugar, D-IN, have a bill aimed at rebuilding the agency, increasing funding, and updating the authorizations established over 20 years ago.

House Foreign Affairs Committee chairman Howard Berman, D-CA, has a bill in his chamber that would call on the administration to put forth a comprehensive global development policy. And Senators Chris Dodd (D-CT), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Ben Cardin, D-MD introduced a resolution Tuesday aimed at strengthening the agency and its future leader.





“What’s a little bit difficult is to take positions while you’re still reviewing, before you’ve reached your own conclusions,” he said.

Lew warned that State wouldn't try to solve every problem in this, its first attempt at a comprehensive review, saying, "Don't think that the first QDDR will answer all the questions."

FILE; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News

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