Briefing on Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review

Special Briefing
Jacob J. Lew
   Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources 
Anne-Marie Slaughter
   Director, Policy Planning Staff
Washington, DC
July 10, 2009

MR. CROWLEY: Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to the State Department. To lead off our briefing, we have Deputy Secretary Jack Lew and head of Policy Planning Anne-Marie Slaughter to talk about the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the QDDR that Secretary Clinton announced this morning. I think Secretary Lew is going to start.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Thanks, P.J., and thank you all for being here. I will speak very briefly at the outset because the Secretary addressed this initiative in the town hall, and I think you all had the ability to either be there or listen in.


But I want to start by saying how excited we are about this undertaking. We think it’s very important. We think in some ways, it pulls together an awful lot of the things that we have been thinking about and talking about from the very first days we’ve been here in terms of how do we take a strategic look at everything that we do in the diplomacy and development to be able to order our resources, our people, our programs, so that they’re in service of our highest priorities.


I would say that we began the process as an outgrowth of reviewing foreign assistance programs. I think everyone knows that we’ve been in the process of looking hard at our foreign assistance programs. And it quickly became apparent to us that one couldn’t really just look at development in the absence of looking at development and diplomacy, that one has to inform the other and it has to go in both directions; that our development strategy has to tie into what our foreign policy objectives are, and frankly, our foreign policy objectives have to reflect our development strategies.


We’re putting together an effort that will reach across the entirety of the State Department and USAID. It will involve the participation of the senior leadership in both organizations. As the Secretary mentioned this morning, there will be a – the leadership group, in addition to myself and Anne-Marie, will include the Acting Administrator of USAID, Alonzo Fulgham. He would have been here with us here today, except he is doing today what we all should do as good parents; he’s on a college tour with his daughter. And we’re going to be at USAID for a town hall on Monday. I spoke with the senior leadership at USAID yesterday. We had the town hall today, the town hall on Monday, and that’s kind of the plan for how we announce it.


Let me talk a little bit about the expectations and the timetable. We are very aware that what we announced is a big undertaking. We don’t have the luxury of undertaking it in an academic way where we have years to complete it. We’re in a world where, as early as the middle of September, we have to have our budget proposals in at the White House for next year, for 2011. At the end of the year, beginning of next year, it has to be locked up so that our proposals for 2011 are set.


So we’re undertaking this process in parallel to the normal budget processes. So we’ve started our senior reviews on the budget process. They will be structured around strategic issues. They will inform the QDDR, and the QDDR will inform them.


Frankly, the QDDR will have a longer time frame. I don’t think we’re going to be done with an undertaking as expansive as the QDDR by the middle of September, but we will have some initial thoughts. Those initial thoughts will inform the budget process. As we get towards the end of the year, we will be almost six months into the QDDR. Before we finalize our budget, we’ll have the opportunity to have that process of checking in take place again.


The question of – that I’m sure many have is, when will there be a report, what will it look like? We’re shooting to have our first round to look at in the beginning of next year. Since it’s the beginning of a new process, I’m reluctant to set a date, we’re reluctant to say it will be on X date, but we’re not looking at having this take multiple years. What we do know is that after we’ve done it, we want to keep it going and have it be a quadrennial process, so that every four years, it’s updated, and there’s, frankly, a longer period of time to do it on an ongoing basis.


I think if you look at the initiatives that we’ve undertaken in the area of development and foreign assistance, you can already see the seeds of some of the things that we’re thinking about. The food security initiative, the global health initiative – they’ve got a lot of things in common in terms of strategic direction. They’re the result of asking questions about how do you have sustainable results, how do you tie what you’re doing in so that your diplomatic and your development efforts support one another, and how do you reach out across not just U.S. Government agencies but other partners to have bigger results than we could have by ourselves? Those are the kinds of questions that we’ll be asking in the QDDR on a much broader basis. And I’m quite certain that when we get through the process, we will have a set of reorganized and reprioritized objectives because that’s why you go through a process like this. It’s to ask the fundamental questions, to make sure that we’ve identified the right strategic objectives, to make sure that our diplomatic effort is geared as best it can be to meet the needs that we see today and in coming years, and to ask the question about how the development and diplomatic efforts complement one another.


Why don’t I stop there in terms of opening, and Anne-Marie and I are happy to answer any questions that you have.


QUESTION: Yeah. I’m having a hard time getting my head around exactly what this is supposed to do. I mean, hasn’t the U.S. Government or the State Department and AID since their inception been trying to streamline, make more efficient, development and diplomacy? And if they haven’t, I mean, I think that the taxpayers would kind of, you know, like to know why that is. I can’t imagine that this is the first time that the State Department, under any administration, has started to look at these questions.


And then the second thing is, what exactly is the report going to say when it comes out, and why is it going to be different than any of the myriad or similar reports done by – in the private sector by think tanks, which we’re all aware of? There are floods of them. I mean 10, 15 a year, maybe, about how State and USAID can do a better job. What’s going to be different about this?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, on the first question, even if we were doing everything well, it would still be our job to ask the question: How could we do it better? And we’ve been very candid about the fact that we don’t think we’re doing everything as well as we should, that there are areas of our program that we need to change; some -- in cases, how we do business, in some cases, how we define the objectives.


The Pentagon had a very serious program to defend the United States and have an armed forces before they had a QDR process. But I think they learned that by going through a disciplined, systematic process, they could look down the road and envision what the future challenges would look like in a way that better informed the decisions that they make. There’s no agency that freezes in place its plans for four years or five years at a time. So it’s an organic process that’s ongoing.


But there ought to be a long review where you ask the question: What do we think our objective is? And when you make changes along the way, do it self-consciously so that there’s an analytic, systematic approach.


I think that there have been a lot of efforts in the past. There are many reports out there that were put together by governmental and nongovernmental organizations. There are a lot of ideas out there. The process of pulling those ideas together, having been informed by the experience of the professionals at State, USAID, and the other agencies that will be involved, and framing it for strategic choices by the current leadership are what we’re talking about. None of those other reports were prepared by leaders responsible for putting forward budgets that were budgets for the President to present to Congress. None of those other reports were put together by people responsible for implementing our foreign policy or development program.


QUESTION: Well, in many cases, they were put together by people who had been previously –




QUESTION: -- and given the revolving door nature of this town, will be coming back in to these positions.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Having been in –


QUESTION: So why is it going to get – why is this thing not going to get put up on a shelf – when it’s done, the report is going to be put up on a shelf and forgotten about by – why is that not going to happen?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I would just underscore the way it’s connected to the real business on a day-to-day basis. We will have a budget proposal that goes to OMB in mid-September. That will be informed by the quality of work done in this QDDR up till that point. We will have a budget that the President sends to the Congress at the beginning of next year. It will be informed by the work that we do in this process.


Having been in government and out of government, it’s very different to have ideas when you’re giving suggestions than it is to make decisions when you’re responsible for them.


DR. SLAUGHTER: Can I add something? I think the other big difference is this is the first time ever we’ve done something that brings development and diplomacy together. There are the embassies of the future, there are those kinds of reports, and then there are lots of reports on how you can do development assistance better. But Secretary Clinton has said one of her primary goals is that development and diplomacy are going to be equal pillars of foreign policy, and this is the process that is going to do that from the bottom up, that is not just going to talk about it, but it’s actually going to integrate it with AID and State and all the other agencies that do development and diplomacy, working together for a combined plan.


QUESTION: May I follow up? Just two things. One, you know, DOD is a much more generously resourced place than State.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: We hadn’t noticed. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: Yeah. I’m glad you now know. (Laughter.) So do you have any concern that pulling people – you know, you obviously presumably want smart people to work on this. Do you feel like you have the bandwidth to do this, or is it going to suck, you know, smart people away from other perhaps more pressing needs?


And then the other thing is a perennial problem that many of us in this room have associated with the budget process, is that when we ask, as we did, for example, recently about Honduras, well, how much money does the U.S. Government give Honduras, then it took 48 hours to get that question answered. And you know, one of the reasons it’s so hard to do that, of course, is that money that goes to different countries gets split up, as you know better than anybody, in lots of different accounts of the government.


And I wonder if, as part of this, you guys are trying to get a better feel for not just how much money State and AID spend on country X, but how much money the government as a whole does, so that as you’re thinking about diplomacy and development, you actually have a sense of, well, the U.S. Government invests X hundred million dollars in country Y, maybe we should adjust it in the following ways. Because every time it’s like reinventing the wheel to try to figure out where the money goes and what it’s used for.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I must say, I do have the advantage or disadvantage of having from a different vantage point earlier in my career said that’s what we needed, we needed to have it all come together so we could see what we’re doing in each country and each region in a systemic way.


Now being in an agency that’s responsible for a big piece of it, I can tell you that the systems are far from perfect. I mean, it’s not like we inherited a system where the numbers tie together easily, you push a button and you can get report. There’s lots of reasons for that. Some of it has to do with the history of separateness of the programs, some of it has to do with the systems that support them, some of it has to do with the attitude of whether or not we view what we’re doing as a whole-of-government effort or not. I think this process will be imbued by a sense that we, certainly within all the agencies that State has any responsibility for, have to look at it holistically. To the extent that we’re able to reach out and work across government, that certainly will be an objective.


And I should note, this is not something that will be confined strictly to the State Department. There are other agencies of government that have significant roles in the international arena. We are very conscious of the fact that international financial institutions, trade policy, law enforcement policy, a host of areas have enormous impact on what the total presence of the United States Government is.


Our QDDR will feed into a review process where the NSC is going to try to pull together across government a view of this. It’s a big undertaking. I don’t think that anyone should expect that in 12 months we will have it down perfect, and that we’ll be able to after decades of all of those things being separate, have them seamlessly integrated so that you can sit at a computer and get the answer to your Honduras question in five minutes. I think we can do a lot better than we’re doing now, and we can do it so that it can inform strategic judgments in a real-time basis.


And as I talk to my colleagues, our colleagues in other agencies, I think this Administration is focused on doing it that way. There’s not a lot of patience for jurisdictional answers to what should be policy answers.


QUESTION: Sure. Just for what it’s worth, I mean, it’s more than eight years now since you were at OMB. And if – you know, Secretary Rice talked about how she asked this question when she came in as Secretary of State and she never was able to get good or quick answers – how much money do we spend on country X. And I just fear that eight years from now, it will be the same thing and nobody – and if you can’t actually figure out easily the money you’re spending in a place, it’s very hard to see how you can properly integrate your development and diplomatic efforts.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I think in fairness, the systems are better developed today than they were eight years ago. There is more of an ability to look at the different organizations that State has responsibility for. And I think if one asks the question what are the biggest pieces that one has to get their hands around, as opposed to how do you get every single source coordinated, you can make significant progress more quickly.


I don’t want to go beyond the boundaries of what is our process. Our QDDR is going to be aimed at the institutions that we’re responsible for, but it will be in consultation with other agencies and hopefully pull together in a process where there’s a shared objective to get closer to that point.


QUESTION: It’s all difficult to follow because it is abstract. But maybe if you took the example of the Middle East, how would you match development and diplomacy better? I mean, we already have examples where Egypt, of course, has a big program, and the Palestinians. How would it be really different from what it is today?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, rather than use the Middle East as an example, I think the history of the different streams of support for the Middle East are so unique that it’s hard to generalize from it.


Let me use an example that covers many countries and many regions – the PEPFAR program coordination with other programs. PEPFAR is an enormously effective program. It has covered two million people for treatment for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis. When I was OMB director, if you had told me that that level of commitment would have been made, you know, it was beyond imagination.


But we know we have a challenge. The challenge is how do you have a sustainable program where the country owns it, where you add treatment as well – prevention to the treatment, and where there’s a system in place so that fewer people get sick in the future. That’s not something you can do through the boundaries of a PEPFAR program alone. It involves USAID because there are health programs and economic development programs that are highly relevant. It involves the MCC because some of those PEPFAR focus countries are also MCC eligible. It involves diplomatic relations in order to for us to have a PEPFAR focus country understand how important it is in terms of our support to have a sustainable government approach. It involves the ambassador and the leadership of the Department engaging with the leadership of a country at the presidential, prime minister, and finance minister level, as well as the health minister level.


It’s not something that one can accomplish, no matter how good the head of PEPFAR is – and I think we have an outstanding new head of OGAC in Dr. Eric Goosby. It’s not within the boundaries of PEPFAR to achieve sustainability. It’s going to an all – literally an all-government effort, but it’s going to have to be driven by development and diplomacy being brought together.


Now we’re doing that review in parallel to this, but as part of it. We have a report due to Congress in September on a strategic review of PEPFAR. It’s informed by the kinds of questions that are informing the whole QDDR. I use that as an example because I think it cuts across as many lines of the programs that are in our – that we’re responsible for as anything does. And I hope that we come up with answers that are different, because we’re asking the question the way we are in the QDDR.


QUESTION: I think it’s interesting that the two examples you just mentioned there are both Bush Administration initiatives. You’re saying that you’re going to take these good programs that the former administration put into place and make them better?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I actually mentioned quite a few programs. USAID going back to the 1960s, so --


QUESTION: PEPFAR – PEPFAR and the MCC is what I’m – PEPFAR and the MCC --


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Look, there’s no question that there is a big growth in foreign assistance in the areas of PEPFAR and MCC. It will be the focus of a lot of review of how we coordinate our foreign assistance programs. And when we announced the Global Health Initiative, we went out of our way to complement the efforts of the past administration to say we want to build on it. Our goal is – we don’t think it’s on a sustainable path, and the question is: How do you pivot to get it to a place where it’s sustainable?


QUESTION: Sir, there was some accountability problem in the past. Are you going to fix it as far as these programs are concerned?




QUESTION: Accountability problem.


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Accountability in terms of the way the funds are handled by the countries we make foreign assistance grants to. Well, I think at the core of a lot of issues are capacity of governments that we provide assistance to. The capacity question comes in many forms. It comes in the form of the democratic institutions. It comes in the form of the transparency. It comes in the form of questions related to corruption. I think that we have to be focused on capacity building, and if one really hopes to get to sustainable results, that has to be one of the things that we’re aiming for.


It has been a challenge in the past and will be a challenge in the future. I think we’ve learned lessons from the past, and it’s certainly one of the things that we will be looking at in this review.


MR. CROWLEY: Jack, you’ve got a briefing upstairs. Anne-Marie can stay, but --


QUESTION: One more?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Why don’t I take one more and then we’ll switch off.


QUESTION: I have a budget-related question.




QUESTION: Does this come under your budget? Is all this being done under ordinary funding for your offices now? Are you requesting more money to do this?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: It is within the boundaries of what the policy staffs here do, to ask questions like this. So we’re pulling people from different places. I frankly haven’t looked to see whether, in the aggregate, it stresses any of our office budgets. We’re not talking about hundreds of people. There are other agencies that do this with hundreds of people. We will be doing it with less than a dozen people. (Laughter.) So I hope that we can handle that.


QUESTION: Is this created or is this ensconced in statute in any way? In other words, the next administration that isn’t led by President Obama, will they be obligated to perform --


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: The Secretary addressed that this morning in the town hall. We know that there have been proposals in Congress to require a process like this. Our view has been we wanted a little bit of time to think it through and structure it in a way that we think makes sense. We believe it does make sense, ultimately, to take the process and regularize it. The real value comes from repetition. You get immediate results the first time you do it.


But I’ve talked to my colleagues in the Defense Department. They know a lot more now than they did the first time they did a QDR. They know about problems to avoid, they know about ways to get value out of it. We’re going to try to learn from the experience of others, but once we’ve established the process here, we think it makes sense to carry it forward.


QUESTION: And do you think that this exercise will have any impact on the approaches that we take toward those countries with whom we don’t have any diplomatic relations?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: I’m not sure exactly how to answer that question because it’s – as we think about the challenges of the future, and I think as the President and the Secretary have made clear, one of the things we have to think about is how do we have relations with countries to move towards progress in areas where progress has been difficult to achieve, in part because we don’t talk to each other. I suspect that questions like that will come up in the diplomacy part of this QDDR. We’re just at the beginning. I can’t give you the answers.


QUESTION: In other words, does this have the potential, this exercise, to basically become a policymaking exercise as opposed to just a review of some kind?


DEPUTY SECRETARY LEW: Well, I think it is inherently a policymaking process. I mean, I may have a bit of a bias, but I think that even the resource allocation decisions that will be informed by it are policy. Where we put our people and where we put our program dollars is policy. The diplomatic piece of this – and Anne-Marie can address this in more detail after I leave – it’s going to have a lot of bearing of how we present the U.S. presence in countries where we are and perhaps in countries where we’re not. We’re going to be asking questions about what is the right way for the U.S. diplomatic presence to be managed.


So there’s a lot of policy in what we’re doing. It’s not – there’s not a procedural exercise. There may be organizational decisions that come out of it. There may not be. I mean, we’re not going in with the notion that at the other end of this is a certain organizational chart for all of development and diplomacy. If, at the end of this review, that’s what we think we need to do to get results, that’s what one of the recommendations will be. It’s all about how do we achieve results, and that’s all about policy.


I apologize. I’m going to have to run, but Anne-Marie will stay. Thanks.


QUESTION: I have a question over here.


DR. SLAUGHTER: I just – can I just say one thing following up on that?




DR. SLAUGHTER: You’ll hear the Secretary next week talking about broad strategic objectives and broad strategic approaches. This process takes that very broad view down to the more operational level and says, all right, how do we actually achieve those objectives. And that clearly is establishing resource allocation, but also it is defining policy in specific areas. But as we said from the beginning, from the bottom-up. It’s not an outside report saying this is what the State Department and AID should do. It’s people in AID and the State Department consulting on what do we need to do to accomplish those objectives.




QUESTION: Traditionally, humanitarian aid has been kind of walled off from the diplomatic objectives of the United States. Should this be seen in some way as a blurring of that bright line?


DR. SLAUGHTER: I don’t think so. That’s one of the questions we’re constantly engaging when we talk about diplomacy and development and how they work together. And sometimes, one is clearly a tool of another. When we have a peace settlement and we need to pour in development money to stabilize it, well, there you’ve got development serving a security objective.


But the Secretary has made clear that as far as she sees our objectives, they include women’s education, education broadly, health, reduction of poverty. Those are foreign policy objectives. And I would include as one of that, clearly, providing humanitarian assistance in extreme crises. So to the extent that is a foreign policy objective, it’s not going to subordinate it to something else, and it’s certainly not going to interfere with our ability to supply it. I would say it’s more likely to leverage our humanitarian assistance dollars by thinking about how we connect other governments and international and regional organizations.




QUESTION: The Secretary touched on this this morning, but maybe you can shed some more light on when we could expect the naming of the USAID Director. I’d imagine that would be somebody who would have a lot to do with this report. Can you explain why there hasn’t been one named already?


DR. SLAUGHTER: I can’t explain. All I can say is what the Secretary said, which is we are very anxious to have the AID Administrator on board. The Acting AID Administrator will be working with us until the AID Administrator is named, and he or she will be a full part of the process. No one will be happier than we are to stand up and make that announcement.




QUESTION: One of the things the Secretary said this morning is that there’s been a dearth of information for the American public as to where all the money goes, and that this QDDR is part of a function of telling the American public, some of whom have lost jobs, many of whom are having economic problems, here’s where your money is being spent and why. Is it going to be like a corporate annual report where there’s a lot of flag-waving and, gee, aren’t we great, we spent this money on this project?


DR. SLAUGHTER: Well, it’ll be quadrennial, to begin with, so not annual. I emphasize that. And we hope there’s going to be a break between the end of this and the beginning of the next, so it’s not a four-year process.


But absolutely, the idea that part of what we’re doing in reviewing how we’re spending the money and are we spending the money as effectively as we can in support of a defined set of objectives, that’s an internal narrative, but it also has to be an external story that we can defend on the Hill, that we can defend when the Secretary gives speeches and press briefings. It’s a large part of the way she thinks of our mission, which is we’re out in the world, we’re engaging other countries, but we are also spending taxpayer dollars, and we need to account for that.




QUESTION: I think the success of the approach to – the strategic approach to the U.S. diplomacy doesn’t depend only on the money and how much budget you all, you know, put forward and give these countries in there. But especially in the Middle East, people after the great speech of President Obama, after what Secretary Clinton has mentioned this morning about the engaging other countries that don’t agree with you, that the success of this diplomacy would depend a lot on how much the U.S. Administration is going to depend on the values of America and the principles of America and the international legitimacy.


So how much that is going to be part of the new strategic approach of diplomacy of the United States when it comes to implementing these principles and values in the United – in the Middle East, and not the dependence on only the alliances with Israel that is bothering and igniting the trend of violence in the Middle East?


DR. SLAUGHTER: Well, I think the question of how we integrate the values we embrace and we champion and what we do in concrete policies, both diplomatically and in development policies, is exactly what we hope to get at in this review. And it isn’t all about money. Part of the review is, well, if these are our objectives and these are our values, are these policies serving those objectives and those values? And you can sometimes conclude no and don’t have to spend any more money.


But in other cases, you want to integrate what we’re doing better. Let me give you an example. One of our values is to strengthen civil society across the Middle East in many countries. One of the things that development policy can do better is to leverage the work of nongovernmental organizations on the ground, also from abroad, in ways that do strengthen civil society. So there’s a diplomatic objective there. There’s also a development set of objectives. There are ways to save some money by leveraging what people are already doing and simultaneously have our development objectives and our diplomatic objectives work together.


QUESTION: So do you – are you trying to say that the new strategy of diplomatic approach of the United States is going to adopt totally the values and the principles of the country of America in implementing its policies, and not only the alliances that, you know, has been taking more importance in the previous administration when it deals with the Arab, you know, grievances against what Israel has been doing, you know, on their territories?


DR. SLAUGHTER: I think President Obama made very clear what values we want to stand on in his Cairo speech, and I would definitely stand by that.


QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Is this part of the U.S. influence around the globe about this new strategy coming out?


DR. SLAUGHTER: Well, I think the idea that we’re reviewing our objectives and trying to align the way we spend our money with our values with our stated diplomatic objectives is part of what this Administration wants to be doing. And we’re at the outset. That goes back to the first question: Why are we doing this now? We’re at the outset of a new Administration, and we want to make sure we set those objectives and that we resource them as effectively as possible.


QUESTION: Do you envision this being an elaborate interview process, or do you envision conducting a lot of this business by conference calls or travel? I mean, how exactly do you physically see this review being conducted out with the various agency and department heads and so forth?


DR. SLAUGHTER: Well, there will be a lot of working groups, and within the government, but also cables out to posts asking for input. You heard the Secretary this morning essentially say to all the employees of the State Department: Send us your ideas. We’ll be doing that more systematically. I would imagine we’ll try to use – being resource-savvy, we’ll use electronic and video means rather than sending teams out. But it will really be an effort to canvass the people who are out there, and to build on previous reviews, to the extent those are helpful. We don’t want to reinvent things.


QUESTION: But it’ll be done green?


DR. SLAUGHTER: It’ll be done green. (Laughter.)


QUESTION: So there won’t be a 500-page paper report at the end of the process?


DR. SLAUGHTER: There’ll certainly be a report. I can’t say how long it’ll be. It’ll be electronically available, I would imagine.


QUESTION: Do you know just – can I ask you a quick question?




QUESTION: Do you know if the Administration has talked this over with Chairman Berman, who, as you know, proposed the language that has been passed by the House? And if you did discuss it with him, are you – it wasn’t clear to me from Secretary Lew’s comments whether you’d actually like to see his language become law, which would then make this mandatory and under, you know, particular terms.


DR. SLAUGHTER: Secretary Clinton has consulted closely with Chairman Berman and Deputy Secretary Lew also, and I think the Secretary said we’d like to see this made regular. We want – we’re introducing it as a quadrennial review. The exact terms of how that’s ultimately put into legislation, obviously, that’ll be worked out. Part of what we wanted to do was to do one before we found ourselves under a mandate.


QUESTION: Thank you.


QUESTION: Thank you very much.


DR. SLAUGHTER: You’re welcome.


QUESTION: Thank you.


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