Provocative Question: To Eliminate Redundancy, Should We Move USAID from DOS to DOD?

In this era of perceived relative austerity in U.S. public budgeting, there is much discussion about (1) cutting “foreign aid” and (2) addressing redundancy in federal spending. One obvious area of redundancy in terms, at least, of conceptual capacity and planning, is in the foreign assistance area where the lead agency is said to be the State Department in some cases, and in others USAID as a partially independent but intertwined organization funded through the State Department. At the same time, the Department of Defense, as part of military doctrine, aspires to maintain a parallel capacity to conduct reconstruction and development functions–and is often the “go to” agency for aspects of humanitarian/disaster relief in places like Indonesia, Haiti and New Orleans.

The basic doctrine is that the military services need to be ready to step in where civilian capacity is insufficient or simply fails (as in dealing with the situation when the Coalition Provisional Authority closed up shop in Iraq in 2004).

Redundancy has costs and benefits–there is a positive value to having “excess” capacity in terms of risk mitigation. On the other hand, there may be some downside from difficulties in coordination, moral hazard associated with having someone else available to “bail out” failure, etc. On balance, I think it is a net positive to have redundant development/assistance capacity. This is a bit like the much discussed and debated “extra engine” for the military Joint Strike Fighter program–there is some reduction in risk to have two engines in development at the same time to do the same thing. The question is one of efficiency and affordability.

In an era of cuts to assistance, it probably is not efficient enough to warrant duplicate capacity with the U.S. government.  Thus we should chose which basket to put our eggs into.

Personally, I am well persuaded that the national security triad (or “three-legged stool”) of Defense, Development and Diplomacy would be most efficiently and effectively handled through having USAID or a similiar agency operate as an independent “step sister” agency, rather than as a branch off one of the other legs of the stool. If that is not politically feasible, or there is not political will or courage to try it, and we are tasked with eliminating redundancy to maximize effectiveness with more limited dollars, we need to ask whether to continue with the current structure and try to eliminate funding for development within DOD and perhaps shift some of the savings to the DOS complex, or to simply consolidate the work in DOD.

At present we are more than two years into the Obama Administration and there is still no nominee for USAID Assistant Administrator for Africa.  In the meantime, AFRICOM has extensive support from USAID as described by testimony to Congress last summer by a USAID Deputy Assistant Administrator about national security and interagency collaboration:

The Africa Command, or AFRICOM, provides another example of where strong interagency partnership from its inception has advanced U.S. national security interests. Beginning in 2007, USAID staff in Africa was engaged in helping DOD plan U.S. Africa Command. As AFRICOM developed from a concept similar to the SOUTHCOM model to an independent command, USAID was engaged with counterparts in the Defense Department at every step in the process. AFRICOM was intended to bring together U.S. military assets devoted to Africa’s security in one unified command, but the mandate and operation of the command were the subject of lively interagency debate prior to its establishment. Our first senior development advisor, assigned to the European Command, or EUCOM, in 2007, was actively involved in the process. Other USAID officers, including senior career and political leadership, helped General Ward and his staff to define AFRICOM’s mandate, coordination mechanisms, and civilian roles in the Command, as well as shaping the Command to focus on its central priority of building the capacity of African military institutions. This resulted in the establishment of a USAID senior development advisor position at the command as well as detailing two USAID representatives to the command, one to direct the Programs Division and the other to manage their Humanitarian and Civic Assistance programs and funds. Subsequently, a representative of USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance was assigned to the command.

As AFRICOM has stood up and developed its relationships with interagency partners, and senior Command officials have sought to forge strong ties with USAID. Developing capable and rightly-structured militaries in Africa is absolutely essential for Africa’s development and stability and AFRICOM plays an important role in enhancing the capacity of Africa’s military. We support and emphasize this crucial core function of AFRICOM in the interagency and in discussions in Stuttgart. At the same time, there are other areas where USAID and AFRICOM work closely and effectively together.

AFRICOM leadership has pressed for significant participation and officer exchanges with USAID, in general, for more positions than our small agency can provide. USAID officers in AFRICOM — at the level of the Commander, the Plans and Program Directorate, and Disaster Response unit — have both helped “shape” this new Command and improved the Command’s civil affairs and humanitarian programs and their intended audience, and interagency collaboration in strategic, conflict-prone areas, and in disaster response.

Perhaps the best example of USAID’s effect upon the Command has been where AFRICOM’s office overseeing funding for development projects or what the military refers to as “humanitarian assistance,” our representative has repeatedly proven the value of having a development advisor in this position. That officer has reshaped the provision of AFRICOM humanitarian assistance to be more effective and sustainable based on AFRICOM’s expertise in this area. Most recently, her efforts were recognized when she won a “dissent” award from the American Foreign Service Association for her contribution to the dialogue about the Defense Department’s proposed programs in the area of women’s health. USAID also actively participates in logistics cooperation training which illustrates a cohesive approach to coordination at all levels.

Realistically, isn’t it more feasible politically to consolidate the functions in DOD rather than DOS to maintain bi-partisan support for funding?  Isn’t the reality that the DOD function is the stronger bureaucratic player and will find ways to continue its own programs and capacity regardless? For instance, would a key appointment in a military combatant command such as AFRICOM remain unfilled for over two years?

Is it the case, cosmetics of “hard power” and “soft power” aside, that Development has more overlap with Defense than with Diplomacy anyway if it can’t stand on its own?

AFRICOM and the “Whale of Government” Approach

China to send observers to Sudan Referendum–what will they look for? [Updated Jan. 6]

The link to the Reuters report from Beijing is here.

China will send observers to Sudan when the south holds an independence referendum on January 9, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.

“At the invitation of both the north and the south, China will send observers to participate in the referendum,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei told reporters at a regular news conference.

“China is willing, together with the international community, to continue to play a proactive and constructive role for the sake of Sudan’s peace and stability,” Hong said.

Hmm. Will these be people who have observed an election before, much less participated in one? If China is serious about peace and stability within the parameters of a democratic process then great and welcome to the community, but if they are just protecting their own interests irrespective then what are they adding?

This is surely a clear example of a diplomatic observation rather than an assistance effort–no indication that China has an interest in improving democratic elections abroad.

Radio France International has an interesting take on the Chinese diplomatic strategy:

Beshir’s more reconciliatory tone is however a diplomatic advantage for China, which is a long-time ally of Beshir and a major investor in the country’s oil industry, which is mainly based in the south.

“China is working very hard to in effect play both sides of the border,” says David Shinn, the former deputy chief of mission at the US embassy in Khartoum. “It wants to maintain its very close relationship with the Beshir government and it wants to maintain as close a tie as possible to the southerners if they secede.”

China has a consulate in Juba and has been providing some assistance to southerners over the last year, but Shinn says it will still have to work hard to create a good relationship with the south, should it become independent.

“They certainly will have an uphill climb in that they are well known to have been very strong military backers of the northern government and those feelings will not disappear quickly,” says Shinn. “On the other hand, the Chinese have shown great propensity over the years to be able to make the switch to the new rulers in town”.

Chinese financial resources will give it an advantage, especially as it is almost alone in having a state sector that is willing to make investments. The Chinese government also backs several banks in Africa, which able to provide low interest loans fast.

Shinn says China has enough invested in the north to want to maintain a good relationship with the north even though most of Sudan’s resources come from the south. Beshir’s diplomatic approach has given China a chance to work with the south without upsetting the Khartoum government.

“Who knows, behind the scenes maybe China has even been encouraging that,” says Shinn.

 

QDDR–the second leg of a two-legged stool?

It has been said that the Obama administration aspired to recognize development as a key aspect of American foreign policy for global security in parallel with defense and diplomacy. Thus the notion of development and diplomacy being subject to a quadrennial review/planning process modeled after the Department of Defense QDR. Having the discussion and creating a first document is noteworthy, and there are positive details in the plans presented in the QDDR released Wednesday. But the overarching policy is to institutionalize development as one of the subordinate functional operations of the State Department’s diplomatic mission.

From “The Cable” blog at Foreign Policy, “NGO community likes State’s QDDR, but is worried about implementation”:

Paul O’Brien, vice president of policy and advocacy campaigns for Oxfam America, noted that while the QDDR clearly puts ambassadors and chiefs of missions at the head of country teams as the so-called “CEOs” of American diplomacy, it doesn’t tackle how the inevitable conflicts between short-term foreign policy objectives and longer-term development goals are resolved.

“The QDDR is an important step in reaffirming the efforts to modernize USAID and further elevate it as ‘the world’s premier development agency. But the document leaves open the question of how the United States will resolve situations where diplomacy and development will require different approaches and tradeoffs,” he said.

And from Secretary Clinton’s “Town Hall” with the QDDR release Wednesday:

Paul O’Brien, Oxfam America’s vice president of policy and advocacy, asked at the town hall meeting how Clinton planned to deal with the tension between long-term development goals and short-term diplomatic objectives. Clinton responded that that tension would remain but the State Department’s chief of mission would be empowered above all others.

“I don’ think there’s any way to resolve it. I don’t think it will disappear but there is a way to diminish it,” she said. “But we’ve got to have somebody in each country that actually speaks for the entire government.”

With all respect, I think what this ultimately means in practice is that you “resolve” the conflict by making sure that the State Department’s chief diplomat in country is empowered to do what is expected of a chief diplomat (who also has significant responsibility in the defense arena as well), which is to prioritize diplomacy.

IMG_0789[Todd Moss made similar points more persuasively in a post at the “Views from the Center” blog from the Center for Global Development.]

NPR Stories from Africa–an appreciation

Living in a smaller, lesser-developed state in the U.S., I am thankful this year for National Public Radio which brings news and coverage of the world to areas such as ours ours on a non-commercial basis as a public service. I most frequently listen to the local NPR station during my “drive time” and also when I listen to satellite radio I often find the best, most worthwhile programming on NPR. The satellite radio has audio from CNN, Headlline News, Fox News, etc., most of which is not news, and simply has lower standards and loud, obnoxious and frequently disreputable commercials.

Yes, from a doctrinaire ideological viewpoint, it lacks conceptual purity to have the government provide a partial subsidy for broadcasting. Likewise, you can argue that having public libraries gets the government involved in the flow of ideas and information [full disclosure: I am on my local library board, and check out books for free]. On balance, I think this is a good practical thing that we can do for each other to help build an informed and aware citizenry that is qualified to govern itself and provide a postive example of self-government to others. No one has to listen and most people chose to be entertained instead of informed, but making this available matters, I think. From Mississippi, thanks to those of you in the rest of the country that help provide this service.

Here are some good stories from Africa this week on NPR: “River of Life–Congo Odyssey”; “Helping the World’s Poor Save, a Bit at a Time”; “Tell Me More” interview with a Kenyan village girl who is now a doctoral student at Pitt and wants to be an educator back in Kenya; “Will Kenya’s attempt to root out graft take hold?”

“Stars and Stripes” on QDDR and “Civilan Power”

“US Considering Combining Military and International Affairs Budgets” at Stars and Stripes.

Citing the joint planning required between U.S. military and civilian agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proposal is one of several that would put the U.S. diplomatic corps and its lead global humanitarian agency on a stronger national security footing, according to a draft of the State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered the review last year to be modeled after the Pentagon’s four-year review, intended as a strategic guide for appropriators. It is part of an ongoing White House-led effort to link development and national security.

“To advance American interests and values and to lead other nations in solving shared problems in the 21st century, we must rely on our diplomats and development experts as the first face of American power,” Clinton said in the introduction of a “consultation draft” version leaked to The Washington Post this week. “We must lead through civilian power.”

“Why 300 million more people are suddenly poor”–release of “Multidimensional Poverty Index” and Ethiopia

Why 300 million more people are suddenly poor, by Jina Moore at the Christian Science Monitor:

Kigali, Rwanda In November, 300 million more people around the world were suddenly poor – on paper, at least. The latest numbers on poverty from the United Nations, released Nov. 4, include a new measurement for poverty and reveal some surprises.

The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) raises the number of poor by 21 percent, to more than 1.7 billion. According to the MPI, sub-Saharan Africa is still home to the greatest proportion of the world’s poor, but more than half of the total number of poor lives in South Asia.

These numbers, and the new index that produced them, are part of the UN’s annual Human Development Index (HDI), a statistical touchstone. It covers everything from the number of women who die in childbirth to how many people have Internet access and can sway decisions on US policy, influence where nonprofits spend money, and help determine where donors give.

For years, the HDI has set the standard for just how little a person has to live on to be considered poor. The answer? $1.25. But some researchers have long said income alone doesn’t define poverty.

“There are some things money can’t buy,” says Sabina Alkire, cocreator of the index and director of the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative, which launched the index in collaboration with the UN. “It might not buy electricity; it might not buy a public health system, or an education system.”

Ms. Alkire’s index looks at poverty more experientially. It uses existing survey data and categorizes households as poor if they lack three or more of the 10 poverty indicators, which are spread across health, education, and basic standards of living. “For the first time ever, it measures poverty by looking at the disadvantages poor people experience at the same time,” she says.

Examining more than income changes the equation. It doubles the poor in Ethiopia, where 39 percent of people live on less than $1.25 a day. But 90 percent are “multidimensionally poor,” or lacking at least three of the 10 indicators.

. . . .

Some specialists have raised objections to the new index, including the director of research at the World Bank, which publishes its own income measure for poverty. Among the criticisms is that the measure is still a single standard, even if it looks at many factors.

“If my bosses were to ask for my recommendation on using the MPI as a factor in allocating USAID resources among countries or programs, I would recommend against doing so,” says Don Stillers, an economist for the US Agency for International Development, in an e-mail message. “Rather, I would emphasize the ongoing need to pay attention to evidence on each major dimension of poverty in each country we work in.”

. . . .

Indeed, Alkire of HDI admits her index isn’t perfect. She acknowledges that good data are hard to come by, and not all types of data that researchers want even exist. “These are messy numbers, and comparisons are fraught with danger,” she says. But she also thinks her approach gives existing information more context and helps correct misperceptions.

This seems to me to represent incremental progress in understanding actual living conditions at the type of “overview” level that inevitably influences political decisionmaking and overall public awareness.  While the USAID economist is right about the need to look at specifics country-by-country, comparisons are necessary and inevitable.  The Ethiopia example seems especially useful in evaluating the performance of the Meles regime which claims credit for a significant level of “growth” and seems to use that as political capital with donors to excuse or divert attention from political repression.

Speaking of Ethiopian governance, Meles has attacked the EU Election Observation Mission for its report issued this week on the May election, which he called “trash“.  Thijs Berman, the Chief Observer, responded as reported by VOA:

“If we say 27 percent of the results in the cases we observed had changed between the polling station and the final aggregation, then this is something that warrants a serious investigation about what went wrong and is this something that can be corroborated by other investigations in the rest of the country,” Berman adds.

Tensions about the EU mission have been building, even before the election.  The government had laid down strict rules for conduct of the observers, arguing that a previous EU mission observing the disputed 2005 election had violated its mandate. The government has also criticized the long delay between the May 23 election and the release of the final mission report.

But Berman tells VOA the report was ready months ago.  He says the release was delayed and the report eventually released in Brussels after it became clear he would not be allowed to present it officially to Prime Minister Meles. “In more than 80 missions in more than 50 countries, it has never happened that the inviting government refuses the presentation of the final report before the first, who are entitled to get this information, namely the Ethiopian citizens.  Which is bad for the long-term future of Ethiopia because real stability can only be brought about by improving the democracy in Ethiopia,” he said.

World Bank–current circumstance “calls for a new approach–Africa as an investment proposition . . .”

Apparently the World Bank has noticed the same shifting environment that private investors and the rest of us have and has released a draft of a revised Africa stategy this week at least in part to help position itself “in front of the parade”. Claire Provost has a good discussion at the Guardian‘s Poverty Matters blog: “What role does the World Bank have in Africa’s future?”

Millennium Challenge Corporation releases country scores for FY 2011 eligibility determinations

The MCC Board is to make decisions on eligibility of individual countries for Compact or Threshold status on December 15. The MCC uses 17 indicators in three categories to rate the performance of eligible countries against their peers as a key input in the selection process. Here are links to the scorecards for East Africa and the overall "Scorebook" with more information.

Kenya Scorecard

Uganda

Rwanda

Ethiopia

Tanzania

MCC 2011 Scorebook

“The President’s New Development Policy”–It’s Anti-Socialist, so can Republicans Find Common Ground?

 

I’m overdue to write more about President Obama’s “new development policy”, following my participation in a “bloggers’ roundtable” on the subject at the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

There are lots of people with much more knowledge and experience writing well about this, including especially at the Center for Global Development on my blogroll. “Value added” from me here might be to emphasize that the President has embraced notions of aid effectiveness, prioritization and bi-lateral relationships, as well as focus on private sector growth as THE way to reduce poverty, as reflected in the operating model of the Millennium Challenge Corporation. In other words, Obama has taken an experimental innovation from the G.W. Bush administration and sought to apply this as a policy framework across the broader scope of foreign aid in general.

This leads us to an interesting insight from a piece in The Root last week, “How Barack Obama became a Republican”: Obama can best be understood as an old fashioned establishment Republican–a “Mastodon” if you will–with policies largely what one would have seen from a Gerald Ford confronted with similar circumstances. This is a more conservative era, and Obama’s new development approach is more narrowly market focused presumably than what you would expect from a Nixon or Ford, but I think in broad terms this observation makes sense. Granted that the President doesn’t LOOK that much like Gerald Ford, but policy-wise I do think this is a better template than the Dinesh D’Souza “Luo tribesman”.

Of course, many in the right within the GOP have always hated moderate or liberal Republicans with a special passion–and post-midterms many in the “Tea Party” are itching to carry on the fight after eclipsing dealmaking “Reagan Republicans” like Trent Lott and other more center-right figures. I am not sure why we should assume that these are not people who are fully serious about “ending not mending” foreign assistance.

The conventional discourse has been about how, not whether to address poverty. Perhaps this is now a question that is no longer a given. At some level, poverty is just an extreme case of inequality. Perhaps we now embrace inequality as reflected in Nicholas Kristof’s latest: “Our Banana Republic”. Are there “Reagan Republicans” left who will deal with the Democrats and Obama for a more “conservative” or “right looking” foreign assistance program, or will they be cowed by the fear of primary challenges to come?

 

Re-evaluating the comparative development experience in Tanzania and Kenya?

 

Awaiting final election results with some concern about transparency, but Tanzania seems to have avoided any major strife over the situation. Why? One interesting blog post by Jimmy Kainja says that “Tanzania Thrives on Julius Nyerere’s Legacy” at AfricaOnTheBlog: (H/T to Dibussi Tande in Pambazuka News):

Indeed. Nyerere’s emphasis on national building over personal interests, “UJAMAA”, which can loosely be translated as familyhood (Swahili speakers may translate this better) – one person for another. This formed what has come to be know as African Socialism; an ideology that has never been popular with most westerners, whose idealism and economic model(s) Nyerere objected. Consequently, Nyerere is mostly portrayed in negative terms: a socialist dictator. His association with communist China only cemented his reputation as “anti British” and “anti European.”

As explained here, Nyerere took strong international stands on African economic and political independence. In particular, he supported freedom struggles in South Africa, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe), Angola and Mozambique. He dared to speak against the CIA-backed corrupt dictator, Mobutu Seseko and sought a better a administration in Mobutu’s Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo). Nyerere also picked fights with IMF as they sought to impose free market economic policies on Tanzania.

These were “crimes” Nyerere committed. He stood up for his country and his African folk. Interestingly, Tanzania faired far much better, politically, socially, and economically, under Nyerere than his critics would have the world believe. According to Raya Dunayevskaya (1973)

“…Tanzania achieved the highest literacy rate in Africa (83%) and also experienced major advances in health care. The single party system Nyerere founded under the Tanzania African National Union (TANU) was hardly undemocratic, since open debate and competitive candidacies were permitted. Nor did Tanzania experience the pervasive corruption of so many post-independence African states.”

They say “bad news is good news.” This rings true on how African affairs are covered in the western mainstream media. This cliche may well explain lack of coverage for Tanzania elections. The elections are devoid of tribalism and ethnic tensions, which would qualify it as “newsworthy”. Given that tribalism has been a constant feature in the region’s (east African) elections, Kenya and Rwanda, in particular, the lack of ethnic tensions in Tanzania is an interesting development – a development that would interest not only media organisations but historians and social scientists alike. Therefore this is a genuine story, a newsworthy material. Kudos to the BBC for their attempted coverage.

The real problem with this story is that it is difficult for much of the international community to highlight these ethnic tension-free elections without giving credit to Julius Nyerere. Meanwhile, Nyerere remains dear to the hearts of many Tanzanians; whether one likes it or not, Tanzania today thrives on Nyerere’s legacy.

Twenty years after the end of the Cold War Tanzania is a favored African country in American diplomatic and aid officialdom. President Bush visited Tanzania during the Kenyan post-election crisis and it is a Millennium Challenge Corporation compact country. Relatively few Americans now would have much notion or recollection of the ideological issues among Nyerere, Kenyatta and the United States. The Soviet Union is no more and while there are signs of potential future competition and tension between the U.S. and China in Africa, this takes place in a context of overall U.S. policy which has been a consistent pattern over more than thirty years of cooperating in and facilitating the rise of China as a major power, while still under strict Communist Party rule without any significant opening toward democracy. While there has been a massive recalibration of the Chinese economic system, it is far from a “free market”. So in many respects we have moved on and we are obviously ideologically ambidextrous. On the other hand, there are American politicians who care very much about ideology in specific foreign countries in pretty much the same way that we did during the Cold War.

If there are lessons to be learned by reconsidering some things that “turned out” better in the long run in Tanzania than in Kenya maybe we can take a fresh look now that we are freed from the obligations of facing off against the Soviets?

*So why does the Veterinary Department of the Kenya Ministry of Livestock Development have a golf club in the first place?

*“African aid fears amid cheerful tears” Comments from various observers in South Africa on the possible impact of the U.S. midterm elections on U.S. aid budget for Africa. (H/T Africa Center for Strategic Studies).