Last week, I sent a policy memo to the White House recommending they amend Presidential Policy Directive 1 (PPD-1) which sets out the organization and membership of the National Security Council, to add the USAID Administrator. Why? Three main reasons:
1. It puts real action to the Obama campaign pledge and, most recently its new Afghanistan and Pakistan strategy, to elevate development in U.S. national security and foreign policy.
2. It is an actionable step to give development a distinct voice at the highest government decionmaking body. This doesn't ensure that the development view will always win, but it does allow for it to be heard distinct from the diplomatic political views typically weighing most heavily on the Secretary of State.
3. It may help to recruit the calibre of USAID Administrator necessary to overhaul USAID and lead U.S. development policy inter-agency and globally.
Expectations were set high for serious action on and elevation of the development agenda during the campaign. Having served on the foreign assistance agency review team during transition, I can personally attest to this. Now, reality often gets in the way of the best of intentions, and certainly the financial crisis, the immediacy of the budget(s) and the sheer chore of setting up a new administration have been distractions from the development agenda. But by making the USAID Administrator part of the NSC and executing the three following supporting actions (also covered in the policy memo to General Jones) the White House could put the agenda back on track :
1. Appoint a strong USAID Administrator ASAP. The agency needs a strong leader at the helm to work hand in hand with Secretary Clinton on development policy and to re-professionalize the organization. The past four administrations had their USAID Administrators in place by May at the latest; Reagan had Peter McPherson confirmed February 1st.
2. The NSC -- not any individual government agency -- should lead an interagency effort to craft a National Strategy for Global Development.
3. Signal to Congress its willingness to support their efforts to rewrite the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 to reflect today's needs.