The Cable

Shah: QDDR coming this month, for real this time

Now that the White House has released portions of its sweeping review of global development policy, the development community is looking hard for the State Department to follow suit and release its own comprehensive policy review, the first ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).

The long delayed review was first planned for March, then April, and finally promised by the end of September. Now, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah says it will be out this month. "The Secretary said 30 to 60 days, but well inside 30 is my guess," Shah said in an exclusive interview with The Cable. "We had hoped to have it out by the end of September, but we'll have it out soon."

The Cable heard that near-complete drafts of the QDDR had been sent to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton but were then sent back to the staffs for revisions due to some lingering disputes over how authorities were being divided up. Shah said that wasn't completely accurate, but that the individual working groups were now in the processing of revising their drafts, hopefully for the last time.

"We've sat down and we've made decisions across a range of issues, including how to elevate development, include some modern diplomacy aspects, including procurement and human resource reforms, and including how we do complex crisis response," Shah said. "It's back in the hands of those writing it up."

For USAID, the results of the QDDR are already pretty much understood and will codify what Clinton has often called the "elevation" of development as well as its "integration" with diplomacy at State and USAID.

Shah said the recent reforms at USAID, which include formalizing its new policy shop and its new budget bureaucracy, are parts of what the QDDR is set to announce.

"We've rebuilt our budget and policy groups, and having a strong, accountable, and responsible USAID is a major deliverable of the QDDR," Shah said. "For USAID, [the QDDR] is pretty consistent with the reforms we are already putting in practice."

USAID's development focus is on growth and good governance, prioritizing health and food investments where governments are taking ownership, doing things that support U.S. assistance efforts, and rebuilding its humanitarian assistance and complex crisis portfolios, Shah said.

Inside the State Department, however, there is less certainty about the repercussions of the QDDR with regard to organizational matters. For example, the office for the coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization (S/CRS) will continue to exist but will not be designated as the lead State Department agency for crisis response.

The tumult inside S/CRS is hard not to notice. The head of S/CRS, John Herbst, recently departed quietly to take a post over at the National Defense University, as first reported by Wired magazine last week. The office, which was created as a Bush administration initiative but never really given full funding support, has been slow to fulfill its mission to create a rapid reaction force of civilian experts who could be deployed abroad in a crisis.

On the State Department's website, S/CRS is called "the embodiment of Secretary Clinton's concept of smart power to enhance our nation's institutional capacity to respond to crises involving failing, failed, and post-conflict states and complex emergencies."

But despite National Security Presidential Directive 44, which directs the secretary of state to lead and coordinate government-wide reconstruction and stabilization efforts with the aid of S/CRS, we're told that the QDDR won't give the office that role.

"They decided as a government, when there's a crisis we're just going to keep winging it," one State Department source said.

According to our sources, the debate over S/CRS is one of a series of issues that has caused friction between the State Department, where Policy Planning Chief Anne Marie Slaughter has taken the lead on the QDDR, and the White House, which is led on development by the NSC's Gayle Smith.

The QDDR is a State Department process but still needs to be cleared through the interagency process, and Smith is said not to be satisfied with the level of involvement State is giving to other agencies as it finishes the review.

While Clinton is the ultimate decider when it comes to the QDDR, there are several instances where the White House has prevailed over State on overall development issues. For example, the White House included the establishment of a development policy committee outside of State in its review, something that has support on Capitol Hill but that the State Department had opposed.

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The Cable

State Department: Travel to Europe OK, just be careful

The State Department's Travel Alert on Sunday raised fears of Mumbai-style terror attacks across the continent of Europe -- but State isn't telling Americans to cancel their travel plans just yet.

"U.S. citizens are reminded of the potential for terrorists to attack public transportation systems and other tourist infrastructure. Terrorists have targeted and attacked subway and rail systems, as well as aviation and maritime services," the alert stated. "U.S. citizens should take every precaution to be aware of their surroundings and to adopt appropriate safety measures to protect themselves when traveling."

Undersecretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy told reporters in a Sunday conference call that the travel alert was the result of "cumulative" reporting about ongoing terrorist intentions to attack European sites, not one "eureka" piece of information that caused the U.S. government to spring to action immediately. He also reiterated that the warning did not advise Americans to not go to Europe.

He said the alert was to remind American travelers in Europe to take common-sense precautions, such as noticing unattended packages and moving away from loud booms when they are heard. He encouraged all Americans traveling to Europe to sign up on the State Department's travel registration page, so the U.S. government can know to try and find them if something happens.

"Avoid public demonstrations, avoid civil disturbances. Don't discuss your travel plans or where you're going with others or where others may overhear them. Know what you're doing, be aware of your circumstances around you. If you see something that looks untoward, move away from it and inform law enforcement personnel. If you see unattended packages, or such, move away from them and inform law enforcement," Kennedy said."Now is the time to issue a Travel Alert, and the situation, I think, can be really summed up by what Secretary Clinton said couple of days ago, which is that we all know that al Qaeda and its networks of terrorists wish to attack both European and American targets," he said, appearing to downplay the alert.

He refused to say when the State Department began considering issuing the alert, but said it had been discussed for weeks.

If the threat was even more serious, the State Department could have issued a Travel Warning, which would actually recommend that Americans defer travel.

"And so the material that we have available to us, fully analyzed, fully reviewed, and the weight of the material is such that a Travel Alert is the appropriate answer," Kennedy said.

While such a broad alert is extremely rare, there are some similar examples in the recent past. Last month, the State Department issued a Worldwide Travel Alert urging U.S. citizens to exercise caution due to possible anti-U.S. demonstrations in response to plans by a Florida church to burn Qurans.

After the 2004 train bombing in Madrid, the department issued a Travel Alert (then called a Public Announcement), and, following the London terror attacks in July 2005, the department updated its Worldwide Caution, an ongoing warning about the overall terror threat, to reference the attacks.