QDDR: Transforming State/USAID for the 21st Century?

The Art of Transformation album coverImage via Wikipedia


Deputy Secretary Jacob J. Lew delivered his Remarks on the QDDR at an event hosted by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition last week. His prepared statement has now been posted online here. You can also read the transcript of the panel discussion here (Panel participants: Jack
Lew, Anne-Marie Slaughter, Director of Policy and Planning, Department of State, Alonzo Fulgham, Acting USAID Administrator and moderator, Judy Woodruff). Quick excerpt below from D/S Lew:

[…] I am the first to acknowledge that resources are only a beginning. The world has changed, and we at the State Department and USAID have not done enough to change along with it. We use outdated tools and our organization was not designed to meet today’s challenges — the rise of new powers and non-state actors, increasing interdependence, the dangers of transnational challenges and weak, impoverished states.
[…]
We have an excellent QDDR leadership team with veterans of State and USAID as well as the private sector and the nonprofit community.

Five working groups led by key stakeholders from State, USAID, and other relevant agencies will drive the details. They will work quickly and pragmatically to produce both analysis and solutions. There is a lot of fine work to draw on, which will make it easier to work quickly. The goal is full engagement of senior leadership informed by the people who can make bottom-up transformation a reality.

Here are the working groups’ goals:

First, we are examining the kinds of capabilities needed to develop a new architecture of global cooperation.

Second, we are looking at how we can reform ourselves to both lead and support a whole-of-government approach to foreign policy.

Third, we are considering what capabilities we need to help contribute to the building blocks of strong societies.

Fourth, we are looking at ways to build a strong civilian capacity to respond to crisis and instability.

Finally, we are evaluating how the State Department and USAID should be organized to maintain core capabilities and execute them effectively.

I note that the fifth goal also says, “This group is considering how we recruit, train, and promote our own diplomats and development professionals, and how we can better equip them to meet these challenges. They are also reviewing how we manage our own resources, including how we work with outside partners.”


Read the whole thing here.


You might remember that “transformation” was a buzz word during a certain former Secretary’s tenure at the 7th Floor. Transformational diplomacy shifted resources from one end of the world to another, there was whole lot of commotion and a lot of ink spent on it. It was transformation this, transformation that without new staffing or funding. It was done quickly and on the cheap with great results if you believe everything you read.


Transforming an old, traditional bureaucracy such as the State Department has never been easy. Just about every administration, Democratic or Republican have tried stretching that rubber band only to see it slap back into place. It is a journey littered with good intention but also with disappointments …


Organizational transformation starts with the people and its internal culture. A strong leader with a vision is necessary to drive change to fruition. The people who sit at the base of the pyramid must be willing to trust and follow that leader, even if the outcome is not totally clear.


Jack Lew is probably the one great hope at the moment to shepherd that State/USAID transformation into the 21st century. Let’s wish him the best.

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