Development community sees Clinton consolidating power over USAID
Yesterday, The Cable brought you details of the coming fight between the administration and Congress over the future of USAID and the development mission. Today, development professionals are telling The Cable privately they see increasing signs that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is moving to consolidate development power and decision-making in her own shop, not ...
Yesterday, The Cable brought you details of the coming fight between the administration and Congress over the future of USAID and the development mission. Today, development professionals are telling The Cable privately they see increasing signs that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is moving to consolidate development power and decision-making in her own shop, not at USAID.
Clinton has often remarked about the need to "elevate" the development mission, which may well be another way of saying it needs to "integrate" into the State Department. But some key lawmakers and development community representatives would rather have USAID more independent of State in order to protect their interests, which don’t always line up with the diplomatic missions in Foggy Bottom.
Clinton has acknowledged the fears in the development community that the development mission will fall victim to diplomacy goals if State has too much control over USAID, but several influential sources told The Cable they see signs in the secretary’s recent actions that she is all about establishing State’s control over USAID toward just that result. "She’s saying one thing but everyone else is seeing signs that things are moving the other way," said one development professional. "Every single message that’s being telegraphed about development from Clinton’s shop is ‘this is our baby to deal with.’"
As the debate takes shape, newly installed USAID administrator Rajiv Shah will play a key role. Taking over just days before the Haiti earthquake, he was prominently featured as the government’s point man on the crisis, speaking on all the news shows the first day, but Clinton took over when she got back to Washington on the second day. At the Haiti press conferences, he spoke after State Department Counselor Cheryl Mills (who also has a history with the Haiti issue). And at a press event last week on agriculture aid to Afghanistan, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack took the lead.
Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew still controls the USAID budget and multiple sources say he will retain that control when State’s Quadrennial Defense and Diplomacy Review comes out. Meanwhile, State Department Policy Planning Chief Anne-Marie Slaughter continues to be the public face of the State Department when talking about development in policy circles. Slaughter will give another talk on development Jan. 28 to the UN Development Program. One close observer called Slaughter "the nation’s chief development strategist," in Clinton’s view, with Shah relegated to the role of "the Secretary’s chief development staffer."
Clinton is further beefing up her development credentials by bringing in a new senior advisor for such matters. Her impending appointment, first reported by Politico, of Steve Radelet, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, to a new position in the Secretary’s office to advise on all things development and coordinate efforts across the community, is being taken as a major signal by development watchers. "It would have been great to have Steve over at USAID to give some heft to that agency, but that’s not where the policy center of gravity seems to be forming," one development source said.
It’s hard not to notice that Shah is relatively young and inexperienced when it comes to bureaucratic battles and that he owes his appointment to Clinton, who said at Shah’s swearing-in that she had called Vilsack (whom Shah was then working for) to ask permission to appoint him to USAID. "She thinks it’s her role to appoint him, isn’t that the president’s job?" another development source remarked.
The irony is that Clinton, while First Lady, was a key defender of the independence of USAID, and nobody doubts her heartfelt commitment to the issue. But if she gets her way and control over development is cemented in the Secretary’s office, what happens when the next administration comes along with a different view?
"She could be setting up a situation where it’s so personality driven and based on what her priority is, that the next Secretary could just knock it down," another development community professional worried.
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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