Town Hall Meeting at USAID

Thank you. Thank you so much. Thank you all. Well, thank you. I am delighted to be back here at USAID with all of you. I want to thank Alonzo for that kind introduction. He is absolutely right. When I found out he wouldn’t be here, we waited until he got back from that college tour. He took his daughter to Wellesley, and one of the recruiting comments now made as young women are shown around is, ‘you have a really good chance if you go to Wellesley to become Secretary of State.’ Madeleine Albright was there 10 years before me so I don’t know, something’s in the water. I am looking forward to answering your questions, hearing your ideas, and continuing our conversation that we started here in this atrium about how best to serve our nation and our world through effective development efforts.

I know that Alonzo mentioned two of the people who along with Alonzo will be leading up our effort, the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, but I just wanted to mention that Deputy Secretary Jack Lew and Director Anne-Marie Slaughter will be working along with Alonzo on this.

We see, in the Obama Administration, development as one of the most powerful tools we have for advancing global progress, peace, and prosperity. The President and I believe that it, therefore, must be a vital part of our country’s foreign policy. When I became Secretary of State here in this great space, I pledged to elevate development to its rightful place alongside diplomacy and defense as we tackle the many global challenges and seize the opportunities facing us. We are committed to pursuing peace and prosperity in every corner not only in the marbled halls of government but in rural villages and distant cities where people are striving to live and work and learn and raise families and grow old with dignity. These are universal dreams and the United States seeks to make them a reality for more of the world’s people.

To that end, we have set the United States government on a path to double foreign assistance with our 2010 budget request. We have made significant pledges of assistance for the West Bank and Gaza. We have made development an integral part of our approach in Afghanistan and Pakistan and Iraq. At last week’s G8 meeting in Italy, the President announced our food security program that will come with a major increase in funding for food and sustainable agriculture. Again, when he was in Ghana he focused on the importance of smart development.

So development stands on its own pillar of our foreign policy as does diplomacy and defense. At their best, they reinforced each other. When USAID and the State Department work in tandem, we achieve a multiplier effect significantly increasing the scope and the impact of our programs and policies. To deliver concrete results, we have to maximize our effectiveness. That’s why I’m excited to be here today to discuss a new enterprise: The Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review which I announced at the State Department on Friday.

We are adopting this idea from the Pentagon. The Pentagon has successfully used this quadrennial review process to improve effectiveness and to establish a long term vision. I know from my time about six years on the Senate Armed Services Committee that the defense review helped convey the department’s mission to all stakeholders from members of Congress to the members of the Armed Forces and their civilian colleagues and to the rest of government as well as to the rest of the American public.

Diplomacy and development deserve the same rigorous evaluation and strategic thinking. To protect our nation, advance our interest, and spread opportunity to more people in more places, we, of course, need more than a top-notch military. We need talented diplomats to foster partnerships and negotiate peace. We need experts in development, like all of you, to steer crucial investments and the material conditions of people’s lives from strengthening health and education to improving agriculture and access to food and water. We also need development experts to create the conditions for what President Obama described in Ghana as transformational change. So we rely on your expertise to promote and support the governance, fair and open access to global markets, strong political and economic institutions and a thriving civil society.

As we’ve seen in many places around the world, and most recently in Afghanistan, long term stability depends not only on the defeat of violent extremists but also on the construction of roads, the creation of jobs, and the strengthening of Afghan institutions to address the needs of the people.

For the past six months, I have fought on behalf of USAID and the State Department to get you the resources you deserve to do your jobs well. We have called for our government to increase its support of our work, but in return, we are also called to improve on that work. So this review comes at a critical time. We are facing an unprecedented set of challenges and too often in the face of these challenges, USAID and the State Department are forced to play catch-up when we should be taking the lead.

The truth is, we know we can do better. We know that, those of us in this effort together, better than anyone, but it is also true that in a time of economic recession in our own country, we owe it to our brothers and sisters and parents and friends and colleagues and classmates who are struggling to be able to put their own families future on a strong footing to explain to them why at this time we are asking for significant increases in the work of diplomacy and development. We, therefore, have to strengthen and streamline our organizations, and we have to be sure that we do so in a way that tells a story of the importance of the work that the State Department and USAID does for the citizens of the United States as well as for the people of the world.

We are going to launch this major reevaluation of how we set out priorities, organize our work, and allocate our resources to make sure that we start looking to the horizon to plan not just react. For the State Department and USAID to have the greatest impact, we cannot simply strengthen each agency on its own. We need to maximize the collaboration between us. We want to build on the existing partnerships and find new opportunities to share knowledge, tackle common problems, and align our programs around the world.

The QDDR will help us create short term and long term blue prints for advancing our foreign policy objectives and enhancing coordination between USAID and State, a crucial element of exercising smart power. We want to be sure that our top priorities are consistent and clear and that these priorities then drive not only decisions about budgets and programming but how we approach the training and development of the new officers coming on board through the Development Leadership Initiative.

As I told the people at State on Friday, the QDDR has a different aim than previous reform efforts as well as a broader scope. It is designed to tell us where we are and help us determine where we want to be and how to bridge the gap between the two. Through this process we will be working closely with the White House to harmonize the activities of USAID and the State Department with the goals and actions of the entire government. We are doing this review at the start of this administration rather than a few years in because we don’t have the luxury to wait. We are facing challenges that demand our best efforts, our best experience and expertise right now.

Each of you will be key to the success of this process. You are on the front lines. You know what works and what doesn’t. We want to rely on you, your energy and expertise, to make sure this review is substantive and useful.

I know there are a lot of questions about how this will work in practice, and I will try to answer as many of the questions you have today then we will answer more in the days to come. This initiative will have a dedicated staff. It will be chaired by Deputy Secretary Jack Lew, the first person to serve as Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources. It is a position that I filled for the first time to make sure that the Department and USAID are able to perform at the highest level.

We have already seen the benefits of having the position filled and even more so of having someone of Jack’s experience fill it. I remember when we were talking about his new assignment.  Jack, who some of you might recall, was the Director of OMB during the Clinton Administration, said that it was always so easy to cut money from State and USAID in the budget process because they would never come in in a unified way so divide and conquer in the face of more demands for defense and more demands for domestic priorities became the order of the day. When we presented a united front to OMB this time, they were somewhat bewildered that we came in and said we are here on behalf of diplomacy and development, and we are here to move toward the president’s stated goal of doubling our assistance budget. We’ve made tremendous progress.

I also want to thank Alonzo for serving as the co-chair along with Dr. Anne-Marie Slaughter. Alonzo will be filling this role until a permanent administrator is brought on board. Let me say, I am as eager as you are to have a permanent USAID administrator in place. But we’re not waiting, and we don’t think we have time to wait so Alonzo will be an integral part of our leadership team putting this together.

I am going to work as hard as I can in the days, weeks, and months ahead to get the resources that you need to do your jobs better. As part of this process, we will, of course, be including PEPFAR and MCC. We will be working through the White House process with Treasury, Defense, and others to try to get a handle on all of the resources that go either into diplomatic or development efforts. But one of my key goals is elevating development to its proper place in our foreign policy agenda. It is not only the smart thing to do, it is the right thing to do.

For me as with many of you, this is personal. For most of my adult life, I have been an advocate for women and children and families both here in the United States and around the world. Way back in the early 1980s, I read about a man named Mohammad Yunus. I called him up and asked him to come to Arkansas. We created a microenterprise project, the first in the United States, modeled on the Grameen Bank. Then I heard about a program in Israel that worked with mothers to help them even if they were illiterate as many of the refugees from Ethiopia and other places were to prepare their children. We brought that to Arkansas as well. But it wasn’t until I had the honor of representing our nation overseas as First Lady that I fully appreciated the intersection between diplomacy and development and the progress we can make when the two work together.

In 1995 I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of our government at the United Nations conference on social development in Copenhagen. Shortly after that I took my first trip to south Asia to Bangladesh, Pakistan, India, Nepal, and Sri Lanka. I not only met AID workers, but I visited AID projects and saw the tangible results of your efforts. It had a profound effect on me and my thinking. I worked hard during my husband’s administration and later in the Senate to make sure that development was recognized as the vital tool that it is, that it was done effectively and intelligently, that we invest in its potential to advance our national interest, and that we were serious about maximizing the resources and energy we put into it. That is what this review was designed to do.

I am counting on all of us to make it a success. I am grateful for your hard work, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with you to build a USAID that is fully prepared to take on the challenges of the 21st Century. I want USAID to be seen as the premiere development agency in the world both governmental and NGO. I want people coming here to consult with us about the best way to do anything having to do with development. I very much look forward to the day when we are able to bring back more full time USAID employees to do the work that now has been too often sent outside of this agency and recapture the dollars that should be spent on delivering results and not just paying contractors. We have a lot ahead of us in the case that we need to make, but we are going to rebuild USAID, we are going to revitalize the mission, and we are going to convince not only the Congress but the American people that this is the best investment that we can make. Thank you all very much.

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