Hey Jack Lew, Are You Ready for Some Football?

January 30, 2009
This is a joint post with Sheila Herrling Dear Coach Lew, Congratulations on your new position as deputy secretary of state where we understand you will be responsible for mobilizing and managing diplomacy and development resources, and reinvigorating those two "D's" alongside defense in the administration's new smart power agenda. Because of your demanding new role, we realize you might not get to properly enjoy the Super Bowl festivities this weekend, so we thought we'd bring a little Super Bowl pre-game analysis to the task ahead of you and your team. We are delighted with the expertise and enthusiasm you and Secretary Clinton bring to your new posts. Preparing a game plan to steadily advance the diplomacy and development ball toward the end zone will be a challenging task. No doubt, you and your team are hard at work on just such a game plan. As fans and side-line strategists, we encourage you to think about the following (a more detailed version can be found here:

  1. Prepare to win the game. It takes time to build a championship team and get all the pieces in place with clear roles and responsibilities. Focusing on the end game -- making diplomacy and development stronger, better, smarter -- is critical to ensuring the big "D" Defense doesn’t have to take the field. Your strategy, should you choose to accept it, should be to rebuild, retool, and retrain development and diplomacy to help tackle global poverty, inequality, conflict, disease and climate change that threaten prosperity and security globally and at home.
  2. Don't get sacked. No, we don't mean fired, we mean getting clobbered before you have a chance to throw the ball. Delaying your game plan may mean that other issues or players end up tackling the reform agenda before it throws its first pass.
  3. Who is the QB? Who is on the starting lineup? We know that someone has to be in charge to run the plays, change the line-up to respond to sudden shifts, and keep passing the ball forward. If Secretary Clinton is the head coach, and you are the assistant coach, who is your quarterback? And who is your starting lineup? Right now, appointed positions for the three largest development agencies remain vacant, with acting civil servants holding in position. Some worry there was an initial fumble with Mark Dybul's sudden resignation from the Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator, but there is still ample opportunity to fill these key positions with some of your MVPs. The quarterbacks are often the heart and soul of the teams, feeding important on-the-field and in-the-trenches data in the strategy formulation and execution process. Ask yourself, "Do you have what it takes?" Do you have the right combination of people on your team with the right skills and training to get the two very different jobs of development and diplomacy done? Just as offensive and defensive players have different builds and strengths, so should our development and diplomatic players.
  4. Unnecessary roughness. We think it best to avoid unnecessary roughness, unsportsmanlike conduct and turf battles. We know it's complicated to move bureaucracies but the game is all about being collaborative where each player has their own strengths and game plan. No one person or agency can do it all, nor can everybody try to fill the same position. And how you play in the game matters: try not push others around or go out of bounds too often.
  5. It's all about the commercials. Let's face it, lots of people love the commercials and a little (pricey) advertising goes a long way. Getting the message across about how development and diplomacy reflects American ingenuity, generosity and values to create a better, safer world is paramount.
If you do all this, we hope the Development and Diplomacy Super Bowl game will go something like this:

  1. First down: You and the Obama administration develop a national strategy for global development.
  2. Touchdown: A deft team comprising executive branch, legislative, and foreign assistance cheerleaders score a touchdown with a new foreign assistance act.
  3. Field Goal: You score three points with increased funding for and better accountability (thanks to great refs and linesmen) of foreign assistance.
  4. Second Touchdown. You score the winning game touchdown with an autonomous, streamlined organizational structure for development (you have to watch the game to find out whether it will eventually be a independent cabinet-level global development agency, a sub-cabinet agency like USAID -- but with a new team name -- or a new non-cabinet agency.
  5. Super Bowl MMIX Championship Victory: No one play is enough to win the game, but each has a role in getting you to the championship. If all this happens, watch out for the celebratory pitcher of Gatorade coming your way.
So, we hope your game planning is going well and is as smart as we can expect from the brains behind "smart power." And we all know the "Hail Mary" approach won't work so we hope you get your game face on, line up your dream team and start moving the ball. And remember: expect the unexpected and don’t count out the underdog. Sincerely, Two of development and diplomacy's biggest fans


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.