Ideas to Action:

Independent research for global prosperity

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Two major reviews on U.S. development policy—the Presidential Study Directive on U.S. Global Development Policy (PSD) and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR)—intend to make sense out of the confusing array of agencies and actors involved in U.S. global development policy; both appear to be suffering delays rooted in the very bureaucratic confusion they aim to resolve.

The interagency PSD team met Tuesday this week. This is the second White House meeting that was expected to finalize the review; this is the second time they have delayed. I hear some agencies (hint: possibly State) wanted more time to review the review. The PSD was initiated last August and was supposed to provide recommendations to the president in January. Nearly one year out, it’s hard to see whether we’re any closer to agreement. Eighteen months into this administration, the delay means President Obama and his team are running out of time not just to issue strategies, but to implement any reforms. The less time there is for the reforms to get traction, the less likely they’ll create any lasting legacy.

Meanwhile, major new initiatives on food security and global health have been launched. Each has its own new (and confusing) governance structure. The Global Health Initiative is said to have an overarching strategic council with interagency team leads from USAID, State, HHS, Treasury, MCC, and others plus an operational committee made up of the USAID administrator, head of the Centers for Disease Control and U.S. global AIDS coordinator, and Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew may or may not be the arbiter above all that. Feed the Future also has two new deputies—one for diplomacy and one for development—and involves multiple agencies but still no head coordinator, which will likely be a different coordinator than that for GHI and every other program. There’s lots of talk about country ownership in these new initiatives. But it’s unclear who owns them here in Washington, which can only make it harder for our developing country partners to work with us.

Obama’s new national security strategy, like those from President Bush, puts U.S. global development policy at the core of our national interests. But we still don’t have the clear mission, mandate and structure for U.S. global development policy that we had hoped for, and that President Obama, the  Republican and Democratic party platforms, members of Congress, NGOs and private sector representatives all agree is needed to ensure U.S. security and prosperity in the 21st century.