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.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.