Clinton Proposes Revamp Of Diplomacy, Development

The budget may be tight, but Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is trying to put diplomacy and development on par with defense. She's proposing to reorganize the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, hoping to triple mid-level officials, rely less on contractors and focus more on, among other things, conflict prevention, food security and women's issues.

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In Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon has long taken the lead on U.S. foreign policy. But Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants to change that, putting diplomacy and foreign aid efforts on a par with defense. She unveiled a reform plan today and she dedicated it to special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, who died this week. He had tried to break down bureaucratic barriers to get the entire U.S. government working toward the same goals.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN: Secretary Clinton says she's trying to change the way the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development do business. She wants to evaluate programs on their results rather than dollars spent. And she's reorganizing the agencies to better meet today's threats - creating a new coordinator for cyber issues, for instance. Out at the embassy she's hoping ambassadors will act more like CEOs, making sure all U.S. representatives in the field are working together.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): You know, if you're a regional commander in the United States military and you are going to be operating in a country in your region, the ambassador in that country needs to know and needs to approve. And we feel that that has to be the way we proceed, and I'm looking forward to the many challenges of implementation that that presents.

(Soundbite of laughter)

KELEMEN: The audience at today's town hall meeting at the State Department included not just U.S. diplomats, but also outside experts. Steve Clemons of the New America Foundation says Clinton is right about what needs to be done, but for now the Pentagon, with all its resources has been the de facto doer of everything.

Mr. STEVE CLEMONS (New America Foundation): That has to be undone at some level. And so this doesn't solve the problem, it just begins to provide what a portal into the blueprint of a different way of doing things. And I think that's important.

KELEMEN: The quadrennial diplomacy and development review unveiled today calls for a focus on conflict prevention and, among other issues, food security and global health, with special attention to women and girls. It says the government should rely less on contractors and hire more diplomats and development experts.

Secretary Clinton was asked, though, what happens when U.S. development goals aren't the same as political ones. She says there's always that tension, including right now in Haiti.

Sec. CLINTON: We have the continuing suffering and instability caused by the failure to get enough done since the earthquake to relieve that. And we now have an electoral crisis. So which do you address first? I think that's a perfect example.

KELEMEN: There will always be tradeoffs, she says.

The secretary wasn't asked about diplomatic cables on the WikiLeaks website. She did, though, joke that the job of coordinating U.S. foreign policy behind the scenes will be all the more difficult in a time when everyone is a potential blogger or leaker.

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

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