On Friday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that the State Department plans on ripping a page from the Department of Defense’s playbook, by conducting its own Quadrennial Defense Review, dubbed the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). Clinton told an audience of State Department employees and foreign service workers that the review is envisioned as a way to enable the department and USAID to “get ahead of emerging threats and opportunities and to make the case effectively for OMB, the Congress, and the people of our country for the resources we need.” In other words, it’ll be a way to identify things that need fixing, and more importantly, gin up some media attention for the agency in order to pressure Congress to pony up more funding.
It’s a great idea, both as a reform agenda in its own right and as a way to put State’s needs front and center before Congress. Since the “civilian surge” into Afghanistan was announced a few months back, we haven’t heard much about who or what is actually heading overseas, so a look at the department’s capabilities, and where it needs to step up, is sorely needed.
Clinton also warned that while the halls of government are littered with well-meaning but ineffective attempts at reform, the report will provide a “comprehensive assessment for organizational reform” that will “help make our diplomacy and development work more agile, responsive, and complimentary.” In other words, if the United States is serious about this being an “era of persistent engagement,” then Washington is going to have to begin to lessen the burdens being placed on the military to run its foreign policy on the ground, and start funding and staffing more programs to get civilians on the ground where it matters most. And if it works as it's being billed, the QDDR could be a blueprint for how State can take the lead on this.