Home The Washington Diplomat March 2011 QDDR: Review and Revamp, But Save

QDDR: Review and Revamp, But Save


Each penny America puts toward vaccinating poor children from malaria boosts morale. Every time a U.S. diplomat connects an American business to a new market in another country, it makes a new ally. Each U.S.-funded irrigation system installed in sub-Sahara Africa brings communities one step closer to stability.

And the U.S. military — already stretched thin — cannot do it all. Nor should American outreach to the world come in the form of a gun-toting soldier — it must have a civilian face.

That’s the premise of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), a directive of goals set by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to “elevate American civilian power” by making diplomacy and development central pillars in U.S. foreign policy.

Modeled after the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, the 200-page assessment, titled “Leading through Civilian Power,” was released in December 2010. It calls for greater coordination and shared projects between the State Department and USAID, boosting resources, and improving the agencies’ ability to resolve conflicts and promote peace — all with an eye on results, transparency and making the most of taxpayer money.

“The QDDR is a blueprint for how we can make the State Department and USAID more nimble, more effective, and more accountable, a blueprint for how our country can lead in a changing world through the use of what I call civilian power — the combined force of all of the civilians across the United States government who practice diplomacy, carry out development projects, and act to prevent and respond to crisis and conflict,” Clinton said at a town hall meeting on the QDDR in December. “Many different agencies contribute to these efforts today. But their work can be more unified, more focused, and more efficient.”

“It says up front that the first face of American power has to be our diplomats and our development professionals, supported by and often in partnership with our military, but nevertheless, the first face has to be civilian,” explained Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of policy planning for the State Department, to students at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies — one in a series of events Slaughter and other State officials have held since rolling out the long-awaited review.

Among its goals, the QDDR — which took 18 months to develop — calls for increasing the number of Foreign Service personnel at both State and USAID, creating new bureaus dedicated to stabilizing conflicts, implementing counterterrorism initiatives and overseeing arms control.

It also proposes to beef up USAID, whose staff shrank nearly 40 percent from 1990 to 2007. Slaughter said the goals require giving the long-neglected development agency more responsibility over the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative and eventually the Global Health Initiative, as well as control over its own budget.

The report also pitches the idea of a new “Development Lab” at USAID that would contract 20 to 25 of the top development experts to brainstorm new approaches.

In addition, it calls for the designation of “chiefs of missions” to oversee U.S. programs in other countries. The diplomatic leaders would “act as CEO” of interagency actions not only between State and USAID, but also coordinate with the departments of Defense, Labor and Justice in an effort to decrease overlap and hold each agency accountable.

The ultimate aim is to also harness the breadth of civilian knowledge that’s spread out over the U.S. government.

“For example, professionals at the Department of Agriculture know how to boost crop yields and irrigate fields in Kansas and in Kandahar. Justice Department experts are adept at strengthening rule of law in countries whose democracies are young and vulnerable,” Clinton said. “To achieve our goals, such as tipping a fragile state away from conflict and towards stability, all elements of American civilian power must be prepared and empowered to work together.”

The report makes a special mention of empowering girls and women in diplomacy, conflict prevention and conflict resolution — an issue Clinton has strived to highlight — by bringing them to negotiating tables where they’re frequently missing.

It also, not coincidentally, emphasizes making improvements without spending a lot of money. “And in a time of tight budgets and greater scrutiny, that is one of my highest priorities,” Clinton said, “so that we clearly can make the case for everything we do to any taxpayer in America.”

— Rachael Bade