The Cable

Clinton to launch new development initiative

As U.S. President Barack Obama and his delegation touch down in Accra, Ghana, tomorrow, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will unveil a major new development initiative at a State Department "town hall" meeting.

Clinton will announce the launch of a new "Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review" to be headed up by Deputy Secretary of State Jacob "Jack" Lew and Policy Planning chief Anne-Marie Slaughter. Slaughter and Lew will brief the press on the planned QDDR later Friday afternoon.

The planned QDDR, as its acronym suggests, is modeled on the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review -- the major shaping document for U.S. defense policy currently being spearheaded by Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michèle Flournoy and a team of roughly 100 people.

The QDDR "accomplishes two goals," a State Department official told The Cable on background. It "moves our present planning from [a] year-to-year, annual appropriations-driven process. And it lashes up our two pillars, diplomacy and development," which are currently "separated by two appropriations processes and separate bureaucracies."

"It makes eminent sense!" the official added.

"The key question among development watchers is that, considering that development is broader than just assistance, any sort of consideration of coherent policy towards countries needs to take into account trade, in addition to aid," one Washington development expert said on condition of anonymity. "The question is whether ... the QDDR will be a planning tool for the State Department ... or will it really extend beyond to be a more comprehensive tool."

The development specialist said he had also heard that there may be an accompanying Presidential Study Directive on development and democracy issues, which couldn't immediately be confirmed. The National Security Council's senior director for relief, stabilization, and development issues is Gayle Smith, a former Clinton-era NSC Africa hand and senior fellow at the Center for American Progress who advised the Obama campaign on development and democracy issues.

The theme of development and democracy will be a key focus of Obama's trip to Ghana, NSC officials said in advance of the trip.

The idea for requiring the administration to provide a strategy for U.S. foreign assistance was introduced in legislation in April by Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He plans to introduce legislation in the fall that would completely overhaul the U.S. Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.  

Next week, Clinton is scheduled to make a related speech at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Paul Farmer of the NGO Partners in Health is a leading candidate for the USAID administrator job, an official told The Cable on condition of anonymity this week, and is undergoing the vetting process. An official with Partners in Health told The Cable Thursday that Farmer is a candidate, but did not confirm he is the leading candidate.

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