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Congress weighs in on foreign-aid reform

As officials at the State Department and USAID continue to wrangle over what to do with America’s top development agency, lawmakers are pushing their own ideas for reform. Soon, the State Department could have its first authorization bill since 2002, a policy blueprint that could include significant input from Capitol Hill. Senate Foreign Relations Committee ...

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Getty Images
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As officials at the State Department and USAID continue to wrangle over what to do with America's top development agency, lawmakers are pushing their own ideas for reform. Soon, the State Department could have its first authorization bill since 2002, a policy blueprint that could include significant input from Capitol Hill.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders John Kerry, D-MA, and Richard Lugar, R-IN, introduced a State Department policy bill for both fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 today. The introduction comes just days before the release of the administration's fiscal 2011 State Department budget request and in the middle of important foreign operations policy reviews both at State and in the White House.

"This is the first time in eight years that the Foreign Relations Committee will pass a State Department authorization bill, and we do so at a critical moment," Kerry said in a statement. "This is precisely the moment when our investment in diplomacy is most needed and this bill provides our diplomatic corps with essential tools, authorities and resources to succeed in the tough jobs we continually require of them."

As officials at the State Department and USAID continue to wrangle over what to do with America’s top development agency, lawmakers are pushing their own ideas for reform. Soon, the State Department could have its first authorization bill since 2002, a policy blueprint that could include significant input from Capitol Hill.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee leaders John Kerry, D-MA, and Richard Lugar, R-IN, introduced a State Department policy bill for both fiscal 2010 and fiscal 2011 today. The introduction comes just days before the release of the administration’s fiscal 2011 State Department budget request and in the middle of important foreign operations policy reviews both at State and in the White House.

"This is the first time in eight years that the Foreign Relations Committee will pass a State Department authorization bill, and we do so at a critical moment," Kerry said in a statement. "This is precisely the moment when our investment in diplomacy is most needed and this bill provides our diplomatic corps with essential tools, authorities and resources to succeed in the tough jobs we continually require of them."

Here is the text of the bill and a fact sheet put out by the committee.

The question remains whether or not this authorization bill will become the vehicle for the Kerry-Lugar foreign aid reform bill that their committee marked up in November. That legislation has very different ideas of how to structure USAID than what’s expected to come out of the two main reviews related to U.S. development policy, State’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and the NSC’s Presidential Study Directive on Global Development.

Lugar gave a major speech on the Senate’s ideas about foreign aid reform at last night’s gala event hosted by the Society for International Development, where he emphasized the Senate’s view that development and diplomacy should be distinct and separate.

"Differences of opinion exist with regard to who should be performing development functions and how these activities should be integrated into our broader foreign policy efforts. We have not reached a consensus within our government on who should be doing what, where, when and why," Lugar said.

"As we debate these issues, we should keep in mind that diplomacy and development are two distinct disciplines. Although diplomacy and development often can be mutually reinforcing, at their core, they have different priorities, resource requirements, and time horizons."

Lugar’s message was basically directed at State Department officials who have been talking about the "integration" of development and diplomacy, an idea that the development community is resisting. Lugar also said USAID must have control over its own budget and policy formations, both functions that were stripped from the agency during the Bush administration.

State’s Policy Planning chief Anne-Marie Slaughter tried to allay the fears in the development community about the upcoming QDDR in remarks at an event Thursday hosted by the U.N. Development Programme.

"Integrating is not the bad word that many people fear it is. It doesn’t at all mean collapsing development and diplomacy into one another or subsuming one to the other," she said.

But she would not say whether she supported USAID having the authority to made budget or policy decisions on its own.

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 josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

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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