Remarks Announcing the Release of the 2015 QDDR Report

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Briefing Room
Washington, DC
April 28, 2015

MR PERRIELLO: Good afternoon. I’m Tom Perriello, the Special Representative for the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, and I’m excited to welcome you to the launch of this report.

A year ago the Secretary charged our team, under the leadership of the QDDR co-chairs, to pull no punches about how State and USAID operate, how we need to operate, and to identify threats and also opportunities for America today. We were to provide a product to help guide the next generation of diplomacy and development. It has been an honor and even a bit fun to be part of such a participatory process and come to work every day with public servants who not only believe a more secure, dare I say, peaceful, and prosperous world is possible, but have devoted their lives to making it so. Many who work here make sacrifices every day, as we have seen in recent days from our chief of mission and staff in Nepal, who not only lived through a disaster but, as we speak, are showing American leadership and partnership through their relief efforts.

We had tremendous input from all levels of our institutions, State and AID, as well as from foreign policy experts, advocates, and those who represent the American people on Capitol Hill. We’ve worn through more than a few whiteboards and flipcharts, answering the Secretary’s call to engage all in drafting a blueprint for America to do exceptional things within exceptional institutions. Many of these stakeholders will be hosting meetings on implementation as we roll this out throughout May in a series of internal, Hill, and public events over the coming weeks.

This would not have happened without a great working relationship between State and USAID, represented by the tremendous leadership of our co-chairs, Deputy Secretary Higginbottom, who has been a tireless force for improving the efficiency and impact of U.S. diplomacy in a very new information environment. Raj Shah before and now Acting Administrator Lenhardt have helped spearhead greater accountability and innovation, as well as elevating diplomacy as central to U.S. foreign policy.

And finally, none of this would have been possible without Secretary Kerry’s leadership. Secretary Kerry has personally embodied and animated the very notion of diplomacy. His tireless dedication to peace and security inspires so many, including younger officers here, that sometimes the greatest courage is to dare to think peace is possible. Secretary Kerry understands that serving the American people is an honor and thus demands excellence, innovation, and results from all of us who serve here. He applied that same standard to his QDDR, not just the report, but the important work that will follow. I’m honored he asked me to serve, inspired by his leadership and example every day, and excited to introduce you to the Secretary of State John Kerry.

SECRETARY KERRY: Tom, thank you very much for a very generous introduction. And I’m very appreciative not only for the introduction, but more importantly for the extraordinary work that you have done.

And I think if I could just – I’ll say a couple more words about that in a minute, but I think everybody knows that around here we’re always pretty busy. But the current two-week period, in many ways, just sort of underscores the degree to which the department has to be incredibly active on an unbelievable number of fronts simultaneously. Just in the last couple of weeks, speeches – my speeches and my schedule is focused on meetings and trips that have concerned Latin America, Turkey, Earth Day, Trade Promotion Authority, the future of the Arctic, a terrible earthquake in Nepal, nonproliferation, Iran, the – Egypt, Jordan, our special relationship and our alliance with Japan.

And in two days, I’ll be heading to Sri Lanka and then onto Africa. And I think it’s fair to say – and everybody here will agree – that nowadays this pace is not unusual; it’s the norm. It’s typical and it underscores the need for efficiency, for sound planning, and for an institution that adapts to the times; that recognizes we’re living in a very different world with far more information to manage, information that reaches far more people faster and in many ways challenges governance itself.

So here it is, the QDDR: Enduring Leadership in a Dynamic World. And “dynamic” may even be a soft term for the world we’re living in today. And I want to thank everybody who has had anything to do with this effort. It’s been hard. It’s been a long, intellectually challenging and practically challenging exercise. And the team here has really made it happen, and I’m very proud of them and grateful to them for what they’ve done.

First, a thanks to Deputy Secretary Higginbottom, who has really been the administrative shepherd of this project from start to finish, and she did so with a lot of skill and wisdom and patience.

And thanks especially are due to the person who day-to-day ran all the hoops and did all the hard work of this effort, and that’s Tom Perriello and his staff, who have done a really superb job. Assembling the QDDR – I promise you, when you sit down and begin with it – it’s like putting together one jigsaw puzzle from a box that contains pieces from about six or seven puzzles. And you really have to kind of figure out what fits where and what you eliminate and what you don’t have time for and what doesn’t belong there.

It’s a complex task. And I think we’ve heard a lot in recent years about hard, soft, smart power. But ultimately, the QDDR comes down to brainpower and to our ability to be able to think through sort of where we are today versus where we want to get to and where the world is going. So Tom and his colleagues cast a very wide net in search of those answers, and I applaud him for taking on a very tough mission and seeing it through with outstanding results.

Now as we recall, one of the lasting legacies of the first QDDR was the recognition that development is a co-equal pillar of our foreign policy. And it’s only natural as a result of that that Al, Alfonso Lenhardt and his team have been full and very valuable partner in the development of this QDDR. And I want to thank everybody at USAID, which I know is having a very demanding week this week spearheading our disaster assistance in Kathmandu.

Now as Tom mentioned, this second QDDR builds on the innovations of the first and – excuse me, it is allergy time of year. It builds on the innovations of the first QDDR, but also it is guided by President Obama’s overall National Security Strategy, obviously. Each page incorporates our determination to take his mandate, measure it against what we do and do well, and then make the decision that we want to do it even better. And we’re going to pursue excellence in every way that we can, and that’s what this document tries to lay out.

This afternoon, rather than try to summarize the document, I’m just going to introduce it quickly and then I’m going to leave the team here. Heather and Al will each have a chance to speak, and we’ll take your questions through them. But I want to highlight just a few general points.

First, by design, the QDDR does not attempt to include everything. From day one, I told Tom, “Follow your instincts. Nothing is off limits.” But there is a difference between a blueprint and an encyclopedia. And I wanted the QDDR to suggest real changes in the way that we do business – priority reforms that will make us stronger and more effective for years to come, not every picayune, jot, and tittle that is necessary to look under every bench and every desk.

Second, the QDDR focuses on four strategic priorities for State and USAID. These include the fight against violent extremism, building open societies, promoting shared prosperity, and curbing climate change. And each of these priorities is related to the need for better governance across the globe. They’re all linked. And after – when you think about it, governments are obviously far more likely to help solve problems internationally and be part of the multilateral effort if they’re able to manage their own affairs and do well at home. So it’s in our interest to invest in programs that strengthen democratic institutions, fight corruption, encourage transparency, and help governments with a big boost from civil society to be able to meet the expectations of their people.

Third, in promoting shared prosperity, the QDDR emphasizes a point that I have made often as Secretary, which is the need to integrate economic innovation and development into just about everything that we do. Whether we’re preparing the way for a landmark trade agreement or applying a new model for ending extreme poverty, we have to aim at more than just raising our country’s GDP. So our goal is to foster the kind of sustained and widely shared prosperity that will create new jobs, grow the middle class, reduce income disparities, promote gender equality, and give young people a real stake in building their societies up, not tearing them down.

That’s why I encourage all of the department’s foreign and civil service personnel – each and every one of them – to view themselves as economic officers with a mandate to establish winning connections in their countries that they’re working on, or regions, and to generate bold ideas in order to give people in those countries a stake in their own future.

Fourth, in an era when power dwells increasingly in networks rather than in hierarchies, we have to engage with an ever-expanding array of organizations, groups, and regional and subnational leaders. This is absolutely critical to our strategy for preventing terrorists from using local grievances to recruit new fighters or to establish safe havens from which they can then launch attacks.

Expanding partnerships are also key to our policy – our policies, plural – on energy – clean energy and climate change, which, as I mentioned, is another of the top priorities. So I raise the urgency of this subject constantly with my counterparts, just as our ambassadors are instructed to do with foreign ministers. But action at the national level is only part of the equation. Most people live in cities, which is where the lion’s share of energy is consumed and pollution is generated. That means mayors and governors also have critical roles to play in this here and all across the world, as do, by the way, entrepreneurs, educators, environmentalists, faith-based groups particularly. In the months to come, we’re going to everything that we can to mobilize these networks in support of early and ambitious action on climate change.

Fifth, the QDDR recognizes that in this turbulent period, it’s impossible to conduct diplomacy without some element of risk – risk to physical properties, to the properties of our department, but risk also to our personnel. And we’re all deeply and forever indebted to our armed forces, who are expected to and knowingly go out and accept that risk in uniform with all that is attendant to that responsibility. But the fact is diplomats and development professionals, as we just learned too sadly in the last few days, willingly accept danger in order to serve. Every person who is stationed across the globe as a representative of the United States is regrettably somewhere, somehow possibly a potential target. And by the way, so can be tourists and others, as we have seen in various places. More than a third of the countries where our people work are less than fully stable and no post is completely safe.

So in line with the QDDR, we are going to look at every possible way to maintain security and still perform our key functions. And we’re going to keep improving our risk management policy, while responding to incidents that automatically trigger a very intense security review at the same time. Overall, the QDDR is going to help us strike the right balance between protecting our people and doing our jobs because – make no mistake – we are committed to doing both.

Now finally, we’re going to keep investing in our people’s success in the greater State Department family, USAID family, and we’re going to invest in their capacity to be able to be successful. Better technology, a more advanced approach to managing information, can help us to work more effectively, whether we’re trying to catch bad guys by sharing information with law enforcement or whether we’re attempting to head off the next famine or the next genocide, or looking for ways to help people in remote areas simply connect to the global economy.

As we implement this QDDR and as we go about the daily business of diplomacy and development, we will work to make full use of every instrument in our national security toolbox. And that demands a clear sense of priorities, the wise use of technology, a total commitment to training, the kind of dedicated team members who are continually upgrading what they can do and how well they can do it, who care about their job enough to think about analyzing it for themselves and figuring out how it could work better. Nobody has cornered the market on any procedure or any process, believe me. And I want a department that is open to new and better and different ways of doing things. This QDDR will demand, as well, something that may seem a little bit old-fashioned, and that is the simple ability to forge constructive personal and professional relationships with counterparts across the globe.

Ultimately, diplomacy is about people – the needs that they perceive, the choices they want to make in their lives, the challenges they have in getting along or in making those choices, or in just living day to day. At State and USAID, our own people are in the arena every single day, and they deserve all the support, all the equipment, all the training, and all the backing that we can provide. This QDDR is designed to help ensure that we provide it, and I am confident that it will.

So I’m pleased now to turn the podium over to my colleague, the Acting Administrator of USAID, Al Lenhardt, and I thank you all and I know you will have a lot of questions for the team that will remain with you here. Thank you all.

Al, your podium.