State Department launches quadrennial review

The State Department is launching a comprehensive quadrennial review of its operations and resources, modeled on similar assessments at the Defense and Homeland Security departments.

The review, led by Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources Jack Lew, begins immediately, and the department plans to publish the report in early 2010.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced the initiative, dubbed the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, to employees during public forums on Monday and Friday. The QDDR will be modeled on Defense's Quadrennial Defense Review, and will provide guidance for how best to allocate department resources to programs advancing the country's diplomatic mission and how to enhance coordination between State and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"This will provide us with a comprehensive assessment for organizational reform and improvements to our policy, strategy and planning processes," Clinton told employees during Friday's forum. "And this will help make our diplomacy and development work more agile, responsive and complementary." As a Democratic senator from New York, Clinton served six years on the Armed Services Committee and is familiar with the QDR process, which Defense is required by law to complete. The House recently approved similar legislation for State.

Defense is publishing its next four-year review in early 2010. Homeland Security recently announced its first quadrennial review to examine programs, budget and policies in areas such as immigration, border security, counterterrorism and disaster recovery. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence also produces a quadrennial assessment for the intelligence community.

Forum participants raised several concerns, including the need for better technology, employee health and productivity, agency culture, and general Foreign Service experience among the workforce.

Clinton said feedback from federal employees in defining QDDR priorities was important. "You are on the front lines. You know what works and what doesn't," Clinton told employees. "And we want to rely on you, your energy and expertise, to make sure this review is substantive and useful." She cited the recently created Secretary's Sounding Board, an online forum, as a tool for collecting ideas and said comments from employees resulted in the department's increased investment in telework.

Steve Johnson, an external collaborator and team leader examining strategy and resources at the nonprofit Project on National Security Reform, emphasized the importance of combining a top-down approach to resource management with a bottom-up system driven by individual embassy needs. "A QDR provides a home for looking at what the needs are from the scope of the department and presidential policies, and mirroring with the needs of various missions around the world," he said. "When the secretary and deputy secretary are involved in the process, we will see the department become more active advocates in looking for funding. When you start setting goals, your needs are more apparent."

State likely will face a unique set of challenges in undertaking a QDDR, Johnson said, just by virtue of its size and resources. For example, Defense employs a large number of staff and contractors during its quadrennial review process to craft internal management strategies and develop practical long-term goals for the department; State is much smaller, both in personnel and scope.

Jim Thomas, vice president for studies at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, agreed, noting that State, more so than Defense, is concerned with daily crisis management rather than long-range planning.

Thomas pointed out that Defense also has separate working groups that provide guidance for implementing the QDR's recommendations. It remains to be seen whether State will have the personnel necessary for those additional responsibilities. "What is challenging in any strategic document is crafting it in the sense of a larger bureaucracy," he said. "It is difficult to say anything that will drive actual investment and policy."

At a press briefing, Lew was asked whether State had sufficient resources for the comprehensive review. "It is within the boundaries of what policy staffs here do, to ask questions like this," Lew said. "So we're pulling people from different places." He added that the review staff would be small compared to other agencies, "less than a dozen."

Clinton touched on the importance of interagency coordination and communication during her July 10 remarks.

"I think we need to listen to each other and we need to cut down the bureaucratic barriers that sometimes get in the way of common effort in our own government and with the private sector and with [nongovernmental organizations], and set forth a clear sense of mission backed up by defensible requests for resources," Clinton said.

Alonzo Fulgham, USAID's acting administrator, and Anne-Marie Slaughter, State's director of policy and planning, will co-chair the QDDR with Lew.

CORRECTION: The original story incorrectly stated that an attendee of State's July 10 forum asked about department resources for the quadrennial review. The question was posed during a separate press briefing.

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