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State keeping key development report under wraps

Hey, development community readers, have you been wondering what ever happened to the QDDR interim report, which was supposedly being released in March? As it turns out, the interim report was finished, but is not going to be publicly released at all. Administration sources confirmed to The Cable that the State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy ...

Hey, development community readers, have you been wondering what ever happened to the QDDR interim report, which was supposedly being released in March? As it turns out, the interim report was finished, but is not going to be publicly released at all.

Administration sources confirmed to The Cable that the State Department's first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Defense Review is chugging along toward its target completion date in September. The review will set policy for all sorts of important issues relating to the way that the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) operate.

But although State repeatedly promised outside groups interested in the QDDR that they would get a public report halfway through the process, back in April the decision was made not to release an interim report at all. Here's what went down.

Hey, development community readers, have you been wondering what ever happened to the QDDR interim report, which was supposedly being released in March? As it turns out, the interim report was finished, but is not going to be publicly released at all.

Administration sources confirmed to The Cable that the State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Defense Review is chugging along toward its target completion date in September. The review will set policy for all sorts of important issues relating to the way that the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) operate.

But although State repeatedly promised outside groups interested in the QDDR that they would get a public report halfway through the process, back in April the decision was made not to release an interim report at all. Here’s what went down.

The interim report was originally scheduled for release in January. But as it made its way through the interagency process, it got bogged down because various stakeholders wanted various changes. The date got pushed back again and again until early April.

At that point, the White House was finishing up its own overall development policy review, the Presidential Study Directive on Global Development (PSD-7), and getting into the final stages of the writing of the National Security Strategy (NSS), another huge interagency process. (A draft version of the PSD-7 was published exclusively on The Cable here and the NSS was also published first on The Cable here.)

According to administration sources, at an April deputies committee meeting, it was decided that the sequencing for the documents should be NSS first, PSD-7 next, and QDDR interim report after that. The NSS was released in late May. The final version of PSD-7 is also missing in action, but could be released anytime, although not necessarily to the public.

Given all that, by the time State would be able to release the QDDR interim report, it wouldn’t really represent the current state of play, sources explained. Moreover, the time and effort required to roll out the thing would have taken the whole schedule off course.

The interim report covered "Phase 1," which is all about identifying the problem, not specifying solutions. Today is actually the due date for reports on "Phase 2," and now State has added "Phase 3," or the wrap-up phase, which will commence shortly. The interim report is now only being used internally to inform the other phases, officials say.

There’s also been a drop-off since April in consultations with Capitol Hill, and some staffers reported that they hadn’t heard anything from State about the QDDR in weeks. Administration sources said that consultations with select staffers were ongoing and would pick up again when they process got a little further along.

Meanwhile, not everybody outside the administration is thrilled that they won’t actually see the interim report as promised. "They hyped the interim report and now they’re saying it’s worthless so we shouldn’t care," said one slightly bitter development leader. "Nice."

"Our sense is that the lack of communication regarding the QDDR is due to the fact that the administration continues to lack consensus at higher policy levels about what it intends to achieve both with the White House-led PSD process and with State/AID’s QDDR," said one congressional aide. "We had hoped that at this juncture we would receive a clearer signal about the direction and shape of foreign aid reform, but clearly there continues to be much disagreement and discussion over in the executive just what the best path forward is."

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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