Ackerman: State Dept Project Signals Foreign Policy Shift

Spencer Ackerman has an article at The Washington Independent on the forthcoming Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) based on his interview of Anne-Marie Slaughter, the State Department's influential Director of Policy Planning. The QDDR is the State Department's initial foray into strategic planning. According to State's website, the QDDR

will provide the short-, medium-, and long-term blueprint for our diplomatic and development efforts. Our goal is to use this process to guide us to agile, responsive, and effective institutions of diplomacy and development, including how to transition from approaches no longer commensurate with current challenges. It will offer guidance on how we develop policies; how we allocate our resources; how we deploy our staff; and how we exercise our authorities.

Anne-Marie says this exercise is "not an abstract planning exercise" and that the "implications go far beyond the budget." According to Anne-Marie, the QDDR will result in institutional changes, but what remains unknown except that USAID will not be completely absorbed by State.

Anne-Marie put forward three operating themes for the QDDR. First, "U.S. foreign policy is beset with "collective problems" -- from terrorism to climate change to pandemic disease -- that require joint international action." Second, is "how State and USAID work with the military to address "the question of civilian operational capacity to crisis." And third, is the "space between what AID or DIFD [the U.K.'s foreign-assistance agency] or UNDP [the United Nation Development Program] does and what peacekeepers and international armies do."

Spencer's interview unveiled who is working on the QDDR. Anne-Marie is overseeing five working groups of senior officials from both State and USAID.

  • Kurt Campbell, the assistant secretary of State for East Asia, and Karen Turner, director of USAID's office of development partners, head the group responsible for "Building a Global Architecture of Cooperation."
  • Maria Otero, the undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs, and Gloria Steele, USAID's global-health chief, work on whole-of-government solutions.
  • Johnnie Carson, State's top African-affairs official, and George Laudato, USAID's Mideast chief, handle "Investing in the Building Blocks of Stronger Societies."
  • Conflict prevention and response is under Eric Schwartz, State's assistant secretary for population, migration and refugees.
  • Susan Reichle, USAID's senior democracy and humanitarian assistance official.
  • Ruth Whiteside of State's Foreign Service Institute and JeanMarie Smith, Lew's special assistant, are in charge of "Building Operational and Resource Platforms for Success."

It seems to me, as Spencer wrote from our interview, that the QDDR is focusing on interagency processes rather than intra-agency barriers and friction. In this case, it may be safe to say that the interagency process is the "low hanging fruit" that is easier for the picking.

We will see what, if any, real change the QDDR will bring. As I said in the article, the "QDDR will ultimately be just a document. What it spurs will be the real test."

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