HRC Swears in New USAID Administrator

Photo from USAID

Secretary Clinton was at the Ronald Reagan Building today for the swearing in of the new USAID Administrator, Dr. Rajiv Shah (January 7, 2010 | 1:30 pm EST). Excerpt below from her statement:

I know it’s been a long wait to have a new Administrator named, and it took even longer to get him confirmed and sworn in, but it has been worth the wait, because in Dr. Raj Shah, we have a passionate, visionary, experienced development expert at the helm. And I am so thrilled that he will provide the leadership that is needed today as we not only work in partnership on so many of the issues that we care deeply about, but that we continue to elevate the role of development in our foreign policy.
Yesterday, I was privileged to give a speech that I had been waiting to give until we had an Administrator – so I was especially pleased that that day came – in which we outlined our new approach to development, our commitment to rebuilding AID as the premier development agency in the world, bar none. (Applause.) When I finished my speech, someone came up and whispered to me, “Does Raj know what he’s getting into – (laughter) – how much work he has ahead of him?” I said, oh, he totally gets it, and he is more than ready.
There is no doubt that we are going to be taking on an enormous agenda. But we don’t have a choice. We’re working on major initiatives on food security and global health, we’re pursuing new ways and making a greater commitment to women and girls, we’re expanding partnerships not only with governments and multilateral institutions, but with the private sector, the NGOs and civil society and the faith community. And we’re undertaking the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review through the State Department and USAID. Alonzo has been co-chairing that. Raj will now co-chair it.
[…]
I believe Dr. Raj Shah will be the transformational leader that USAID has been waiting for. One only needs to ask his wife Shivam the lengths to which Raj will go to achieve important goals. After all, this is a man who flew to India for one day to propose to her at the Taj Mahal when she was traveling there alone. (Laughter.) This is also a man – (applause) – who summated the 14,400-foot Mount Rainier, one of the most difficult climbs in the continental United States. And it combines the challenges of an unforgiving glacier with the unpredictability of an active volcano. That may be the best preparation Raj has for working in Washington these days. (Laughter.)
Read the full text of Secretary Clinton’s statement at the swearing-in ceremony here. Dr. Shah’s statement is also here.

Updated: 1/9
Why is the Secretary of State swearing-in the head of an independent agency?  Although USAID is an independent federal government agency, it receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State.
Dr. Shah’s swearing in by Secretary Clinton does have some precedence. When Andrew Natsios became USAID Administrator in May 2001, he was sworn-in by Secretary Colin Powell. Henrietta Fore, Dr. Shah’s most recent predecessor became the 15th Administrator on December 2007. She was sworn-in by Secretary Rice.  Natsios was USAID Administrator prior to the creation of the “F” bureau.  Fore was USAID director after the creation of the “F” bureau  and she served concurrently as the second Director of Foreign Assistance. It is perhaps telling that the new USAID Administrator has not been identified as also director of the “F” bureau.  If the USAID Administrator is not  the Director of Foreign Assistance in the DOS structure, then who is? 

 

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Insider Quote: the most individualistic staff in town

“Another challenge one has as secretary is that I think it’s the best staff in town, but it’s also the most individualistic staff …in town. With so many constituencies, to get them to work toward a coherent goal is a huge assignment for the secretary.”
Former Secretary of State

Senator Lugar on Twitter vs. Terror

Dick Lugar, U.S. Senator from Indiana.Image via Wikipedia

Is the State Department ready for this brave new world?

The ranking member on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Richard Lugar writes a piece for Foreign Policy on “How the U.S. State Department should enable and encourage social-networking sites in the global fight for freedom (FP | Argument | January 6). Excerpts below:  

The adroit use of social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and others, coupled with text messages and increasingly widespread mobile-phone technology, can help lend support to existing grassroots movements for freedom and civil rights, connect people to information, and help those in closed societies communicate with the outside world. It also promises to give a strong economic boost to small entrepreneurs and the rural poor. The World Bank estimates that for every 10 percent increase in the number of mobile-phone users in a developing country, there is nearly a 1 percent increase in its economic output.
[…]
But social networking technologies are more often used to enable individuals across a country, or across the globe, to interact, engage, and become empowered. Although this means that our government will not be able to control the message as well as it might with conventional public diplomacy tools, I believe it is a risk worth taking. Terrorists and other anti-American propagandists have for some time been using the Internet and other techniques to communicate and recruit. America needs to beat them at their own game, especially since we invented most of the technology.
I would encourage the administration and our diplomats to be nimble, flexible, and innovative as they pursue a wide range of foreign-policy initiatives that use these new communication and connection techniques. Diplomacy and development are our best means of winning the global war of ideas, and we must come to the battle armed with the most modern tools at our disposal.
Read the whole thing here.
In 1975, Donald Warwick of Harvard University wrote “A Theory of Public Bureaucracy” a 252-page book on the Politics, Personality and Organization in the State Department where he says:  
The motivational mix in federal agencies varies, but in most cases includes heavy emphasis on security. The rewards are job tenure, regular promotions, adequate salaries, a clean work place, and better-than-average retirement benefits. Many positions, particularly at higher levels, involve inherently interesting work and offer the employee ample opportunities to express his talents. But in most established agencies, there is little call for entrepreneurship, creativity,  innovation and risk-taking. These qualities are neither solicited nor rewarded, and may be punished.
The book, by the way, is an excellent study on the oldest executive department in the union.  Although written over 30 years ago, many of the problems and organizational issues that he talks about in the book are familiar as day.
One of the reports he cited in the book is called the State Department’s Task Force on the Stimulation of Creativity (can you believe that?) which concluded that “conformity is prized in the Foreign Service above all qualities.” 
… The pressures to avoid rocking the boat, to avoid dress and behavior which depart from the norms of the group, to avoid expression of controversial views are of the subtle, unspoken kind which are hard to document. But we have the testimony of a broad cross section of the officers whose views we sought that they are a powerful, all pervasive influence. Such pressures, of course, are the death of the creative impulse (U.S. State Department, 1970, p.310). 
Senator Lugar in his piece makes two important points in this new engagement: 1) less control of the message and 2) nimbleness, flexibility and innovation in engagement. Both points are still kind of “foreign objects” in the State Department’s galaxy.
I have no doubt that the desire to control the message is what cause the demise of Madam le Consul’s blog.  The “tried and true” in the bureaucracy is often preferable than “wild ideas” or even simple new ideas.  The prevailing wisdom might be that shutting her down “protects” her and of course, by extension the mother ship.  But how can an organization presume to “beat the enemies” at their own game when it has low tolerance for  employees engaging with “friendlies” on the web.  And if you can get in trouble for saying something that has not been cleared through the 12-steps program within the mission and the bureaus, how can you encourage flexibility and innovation?        
Senator Lugar says “we must come to the battle armed with the most modern tools at our disposal.”  I hate to tell Senator Lugar this.  The tools are here alright.  Bright and shiny and ready for razzle dazzle.  But “control” and “culture” have not shown up for the party.  It remains to be seen if they’ll make it here before 2050.