And we didn’t plan to have this town hall the day after Valentine’s Day. But I’m glad we did, in part because we have a lot of love to share – (laughter) – and in part because we, yesterday, on Valentine’s Day, launched the gratitude blog. And if you haven’t had a chance yet to check this out, I hope you will go to the gratitude blog. We’ve already had, I think, something like a thousand hits and more than 50 entries that folks have put up in just the last 24 hours. And I was reading through it this morning, and it just gives you a sense of the unique range of things that our outstanding people do all around the world every single day in their own words and on behalf of their own colleagues. So please do check that out as we go forward here.
In that spirit, I wanted to offer a few Valentines as well to some of our people. We’re going to have a conversation today about some of the tough reforms that we’ve collectively put in place, and some of this work is not easy to pursue, but it is important to pursue in order to continue to elevate development as part of our foreign policy and national security strategy on behalf of this country. And that work is hard, so before we get into the really hard stuff, I wanted to offer a few visuals on what some of our people, who are real champions of these reforms, are actually accomplishing in practical terms.
First, in Haiti. Gary Juste in Haiti has been harnessing the power of innovation to transform Haiti into one of the world’s first mobile banking economies. He has personally drafted new language that goes into every single contract we – and grant we do to ensure that if there is a transfer of funds, we do it electronically, we do it on mobile phones. And as a result, there are millions of people today that are beginning to plug into a mobile banking system. And especially for rural women, it’s sometimes the first access they’ve had to actual financial services. That’s the kind of innovation, focus on technology, and willingness to do things differently in our actual grants and contracts that is so much a part of the reforms that we’re going to talk about. And it’s making a big difference in Haiti, it’s helping to fight corruption in Afghanistan, and next year we're going to take this effort through the Better than Cash campaign to more than 20 countries worldwide with a range of international partners.
Next, I want to talk about Cathy Cozzarelli. Cathy – who those of you in our gender work and in Europe and Eurasia know – is an absolute leader in making sure that we mainstream gender in every single one of our grants and programs. And in addition to that, she has been spearheading an innovative regional approach to combat human trafficking in exactly the region where it’s growing fastest. As many as 500,000 people are trafficked annually in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. Thanks to her efforts, working together with the diplomacy side and the development side, for the first time 10 countries in Southeastern Europe are using standard guidelines for assessing and assisting victims of trafficking across borders. That’s exactly the kind of leadership we wanted to unlock when we created the Policy Bureau and issued policies that would tie together the policy aspirations of this government and this agency with the operational capabilities of our superstars around the world.
The next person who gets a Valentine is Clinton White. And many of you know Clinton has been a leader on our implementation and procurement reform efforts in many different contexts. But he, in his current role in Egypt, drawing on his experiences in Pakistan, is leading one of five local capacity development teams. And by using the new grant tools that we’ve created, the results-based fixed obligation grant award, he’s now working directly with 18 local organizations, helping people realize the aspirations of the Arab Spring that, of course, is changing the world and has been so much the focus of this Administration and of Secretary Clinton. His efforts help us reach new partners and connect in a fundamentally different way to the communities we hope to serve and serve as a model for what we’re capable of if we stick to the procurement reform effort for the years to come.
And finally, I’d like to recognize Cara Christie whom – and I can't even believe this, but she has been our response manager for the Horn of Africa for more than seven months, 225 days. Before the world saw the crisis, she was giving up her weekends, and her team was giving up their free time to focus on helping people survive. And the efforts of our agency, the efforts of our interagency colleagues working hand-in-glove together, and the more than 100 people who have joined the disaster assistance response teams in the Horn of Africa have helped us reach more than a million people with direct health benefits and interventions, improved clean water access to more than three million people, offered food to more than 4.6 million people. And we’ll see the data when it comes out, but I believe the legacy of having saved tens of thousands of child lives in that region will be one of the things that we will be very, very proud of as a country, as an interagency, and certainly on behalf of USAID.
So my next slide is Secretary Clinton launching the Feed the Future program in Tanzania and meeting with a group of women farmers. (Laughter.) And I don’t need to say this to this group, because you all know this, but it is this Secretary’s vision and commitment to development that spans decades. Her commitment to food security and all of the other issues we’ve made an absolute priority, her willingness to put time and effort into listening to the USAID Forward team talk about the specific progress on specific metrics as we seek to implement the QDDR, and her desire to create the QDDR to fundamentally empower this agency to live up to the ever increasing demands on development and humanitarian response around the world that a time of great change, tremendous needs, and scarce – and increasingly scarce resources. She has empowered us and she has demanded more from us. And so today, you’ll get to hear directly from her, and more importantly, we’ll all get to hear directly from you so that we can continue down this path for many, many years to come.
Secretary Clinton. (Applause.)
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, it is wonderful to be back here again and to look out and see all of you who are doing such important work on behalf of AID and our government and, most importantly, the people of our country who really look to you to put into action our values, our compassion, our moral concerns. And I want to thank Raj for his innovative, committed, passionate leadership here at USAID. I want to also acknowledge Deputy Administrator Don Steinberg, who’s been a great partner as we’ve tried to plow through a lot of the changes that are underway. And everyone here at USAID, I want to thank you for helping to put into action ideas that we think will turn the QDDR and its emphasis on elevating diplomacy and development to the same level as defense as part our national security agenda into reality.
I don’t know about the gratitude blog. I’m going to have to look at that, but I love the idea. One of my kind of words to live by, phrase to live by, is the discipline of gratitude, because I think that every one of us every single day – sometimes it’s harder than other days – has something to be grateful for. And I’m grateful for all of you and for your colleagues out in the field and for the purposeful work we are undertaking together to ensure that AID is the very best development delivery system in the entire world.
Now, the last time we spoke was a little over a year ago about the unveiling and rolling out of the QDDR. And when Raj introduced me at that time, he said that it must be one of the busiest and most unpredictable months I’d had on the job. And at the time, I had to agree. But I had no idea how much more difficult, unpredictable, and busy life would become. Because on that very day that I was here, December 17, 2010, a young street vendor in Tunisia set himself on fire, sparking protests and revolutions that reverberate through today.
Now, the Arab Awakening has been at the top of the agenda for all of us, but it’s hardly alone there. New powers are still emerging. The largest military-to-civilian transition since the Marshall Plan is putting our diplomats and development experts front and center in dangerous settings in Iraq and Afghanistan. And there are so many other examples I could point to. But the real point here is the world is fast changing. It’s going to keep changing, and we will either master that change or be overwhelmed by it. And my intention, working all of you and with our colleagues at the State Department, is that we master the change, that we’re smart enough, nimble enough, agile enough to figure out how to stay ahead of it and to harness it on behalf of the important work we do.
So today I want to talk about the QDDR and the reforms it represents, including the USAID Forward agenda, because I think it is critically important. And it’s important on many different levels. Last month at the State Department, I was able to point out how gratified I was to see the progress that we’re making not only here in Washington but more importantly out at posts and missions around the world. I see teams from State and USAID working better together, breaking down silos, streamlining work, saving money while improving service. And I know there’s a lot of work still ahead of us, but I want to just take a minute to talk about the progress we’ve made and then to discuss the areas where I think we have to make more progress.
Now in the QDDR, we set out four main lines of activity, and it began with modernizing diplomacy and development to match the opportunities and challenges of the 21st century. We are empowering our chiefs of mission, our ambassadors, as interagency CEOs and making sure to include their perspective in decisions that are made back here in Washington that affect you and affect all of us. We’ve also at the State Department created new bureaus to deal with 21st century challenges. Our new Bureau of Energy Resources is our single point of contact on all energy issues, including making sure that countries use their own energy resources to actually benefit their own citizens. And we reconceived the role of the Under Secretary for Global Affairs, now known as the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights. Counterterrorism and police training programs now work alongside those programs that defend human rights, prevent conflict, promote opportunities for young people, combat trafficking-in-persons, and so much else. We elevated the Counterterrorism Office to a full bureau that will help us build an international counterterrorism network that, very frankly, is needed in order to keep up with the fast-changing reach of our adversaries.
The second focus – transforming our approach to development – was very clearly aimed at strengthening our ability to elevate development as a pillar of civilian power alongside diplomacy and defense. And we are rebuilding the U.S. development architecture with AID leading the way. And the goal is to deliver tangible results that we can we all point to, along the lines of the examples that Raj just gave us.
In the QDDR, we said we would concentrate our investments, working more deeply in fewer areas, and we have. For example, we’ve eliminated agricultural funding to Kosovo, Serbia, and Ukraine so we could offer more support to countries with less productive farms in Africa. USAID is leading the whole-of-government for this country’s single biggest investment in development, Feed the Future, to fight hunger, build resiliency, improve food security. And we are continuing to examine how we can best organize our work in global health, which goes across a number of other agencies.
Now as we focus our investments, we have to make sure that each dollar we spend makes the biggest difference for the most people. So we put more emphasis on practicing high-impact development and catalyzing economic growth with an eye toward helping our partners build sustainable systems so they themselves can become more self-sufficient. I mean, ultimately – it’s a very unlikely goal, but I think it’s an important one – we want to work ourselves out of the business. It’s kind of President Obama’s goal of a zero-nuclear-weapons world. The goal is zero. It will take a really long time to get there. Our goal is self-sufficiency - people being able to feed themselves and have governments that care enough about their people to provide healthcare and do all the work that we know makes for a better life.
I know that the mission directors have put months of work into setting targets to measure progress on this front. And I’m especially excited about our efforts to change the way we do business in our host countries. Now, I know it takes a special kind of person to come to work every day thinking about procurement reform. (Laughter.) But I’m here to thank those people who are doing just that. I’m grateful to you for all of your work. (Applause.) Because just look at the impact we’re already having. In Afghanistan, for example, we’ve already saved more than $6 million by cutting out middlemen and providing vaccines, nutrition supplements, and other interventions through government systems. Likewise, when our missions in the Middle East want to buy materials for construction projects, they no longer need permission from Washington just to buy sand. Imagine how long it took to buy sand. I mean, that’s like go pound sand, we’ll get back to you someday, maybe never. (Laughter.) Well, now they can actually buy sand from local companies, instead of having it shipped from the United States.
Procurement reform supports our partners in their efforts to become more self-sufficient, and that’s our ultimate goal. If we want to build up local government ministries, NGOs, and private companies, then we have to invest in them directly. The agency has set a goal of implementing 30 percent of our investments through local systems by 2015. We started at 13 percent three years ago, so we have a lot of work to do. But it is critical to get this right.
Now, this is just one step on the path toward high-impact development. We’re also integrating women and girls and gender equality into our all our efforts because the evidence is overwhelming. It shows clearly they are the key drivers of economic development. We’ve accelerated our investments in science and innovation, bringing in dozens of research fellows, launching the Grand Challenges in Development, which is such an exciting effort to involve the private sector and the academic community in helping us solve tough problems from illiteracy to maternal and child mortality.
We strengthened measurement and evaluation, adopting a new model that has been broadly recognized as the gold standard around the world. And we’ve made our own investments more transparent. I love the Foreign Assistance Dashboard – www.foreignassistance.gov for those of you who are still looking for it – where anyone anywhere in the world with an internet connection can track how much we’re investing and where the money goes. And last November in Busan, I was very proud to announce that we are taking the long overdue step of joining the International Aid Transparency Initiative, which commits us to reporting our data in a timely, easy-to-use format.
Now, to deliver the kind of high-impact development that all of us want, we have to make sure that USAID is the preeminent global development institution. And I know we are expecting a lot from you and from this agency, but we are committed to making sure you have the resources needed to deliver.
It starts with building up the Policy Planning and Learning Bureau. I especially like that initiative because we need to be constantly learning. What can we do better? What can we learn from others? PPL is now a thought leader on development, leading the creation of cutting-edge policies on education, violent extremism, climate change, and soon on the importance of gender equality and the role of women and girls in development.
We’ve also created a Budget Office at AID and given your bureaus more control over your share of our unified budget, empowering you to target more resources to the highest priorities. And our mission directors in the field are stepping up into their role as the primary development advisors to our chiefs of mission.
I got to see the impact earlier this year when I traveled to Liberia for President Johnson Sirleaf’s second inauguration. Our ambassador, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, has worked hand-in-glove with Mission Director Patricia Rader and Patricia’s predecessor Pamela White, who went on to be ambassador to Gabon, is now on her way to being ambassador in another important country. And they have worked the way I want to see State and AID working. It is: let’s get in the room together, let’s bring the experts together, let’s figure out what we’re trying to accomplish, and let’s see what maximizes our individual contribution to our goals.
For example, with their insight into the technical aspects of registering voters and casting votes, our USAID team worked with their State colleagues in Liberia to assure that opposition parties would believe that the elections were free and fair. And they all worked on a plan to send dozens of embassy staff – not just AID staff, dozens of embassy staff from across the embassy family, and not just State Department staff, but people were called in from other government agencies as well – to observe the elections. And that’s the kind of State-AID partnership we need to see everywhere, working as one team with one mission.
The QDDR’s third focus is how we prevent and respond to crises and conflicts, because more than ever our national security depends on our ability to prevent fragile states from becoming failed states. And that demands the skills and the experience of diplomats and development experts alike. I really believe that it takes two hands, not just one. We have to figure out how we can maximize our partnership. So at the State Department, we rolled out our new Conflict and Stabilization Operations Bureau, which provides expertise and resources to prevent, respond to, and recover from conflicts. And then CSO, as it’s now called, is working closely with USAID’s Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance to ensure that we have the best possible combination of diplomacy and development assets.
Last year, AID and State galvanized a global response to the crisis in the Horn of Africa. Our people worked side-by-side tirelessly for months on end to save lives and to help the region become more resilient the next time drought strikes. And that’s really the kind of outcome we are seeking. And we want to get ahead of crisis, but if we are unable to do so, we want it to become almost muscle memory about how we immediately mobilize together.
USAID has also established a Center of Excellence for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance to promote strong democracies committed to broad-based development, and we’ve increased our investments to help countries recover from disasters more quickly, especially in the Pacific Rim, where 60 percent of the world’s natural disasters occur.
State and AID are working together to bring more women and girls into the work of making and keeping peace. Last December, the United States released our first ever National Action Plan on Women, Peace, and Security. It is meant to be a comprehensive roadmap for accelerating efforts on this front across the United States Government. State and AID are now working together to identify how we will engage host governments and civil society, ensuring that women are included every step of the way. And this is a great example of how we are elevating the role of women and girls to global preeminence across all our work at State and AID and in our development architecture.
But there is still more I think we can do to improve our responses to crisis and conflict. In particular, we need to institutionalize the QDDR’s lead agency approach, which provides that State will lead operations responding to political and security crises and AID will lead operations responding to humanitarian crises. It remains crucial that we speak with a coordinated and unified voice in the interagency process, because if we’re not coordinated and unified and ready to lead together, I know a really, really big agency that is willing to step in and do it all. (Laughter.)
And my goal is we’re there first and we’re there smarter and we get there and do the job. And of course, they’re welcome to come along wherever they are needed to help us out. (Laughter.) But we can’t be – we’ve got to get to the point where we don’t have some internal discussion between State and AID about, well, wait a minute, should we do this or you do that. No, we need to have figured it out ahead of time, planned for it ahead of time, and be prepared to raise our hands and say, “We’re ready. Send us. We’re ready.”
Now, all of the changes that I’ve discussed so far mark important progress, and I hope they make one thing clear, that both President Obama and I are doing everything we can to build up USAID. But at the same time, this buildup comes with responsibilities and expectations. Every single one of us has a duty to use our resources – because they’re not really ours, are they? They’re the taxpayers. They’re our mothers and fathers and sisters and brothers. They’re the hardworking people you grew up with. They’re the family that lost the breadwinner to either death or unemployment. And so we owe it to them to do everything we can to use these resources as efficiently as possible.
So that brings me to the fourth focus of the QDDR, working better by working smarter. I’m delighted that USAID and State have streamlined our processes for producing reports and budgets, making them less onerous and more readable, and hopefully more effective. Every minute saved on paperwork is a minute that can be spent delivering medicine or training an entrepreneur.
We’re also consolidating services to reduce overhead costs so we can devote every possible dollar to our programs. I think it makes not only good sense, but I think it’s going to increasingly be seen as a budget necessity for us to work together to build a single platform. To eliminate duplication, we need efficiencies and economies of scale, and we are working together to find them. We’ve launched our Joint Management Board, known as JMB, to oversee the process. And while we have to proceed thoughtfully, let’s make sure that studying a problem at the JMB never becomes an excuse to delay fixing that problem.
We are piloting the best ways to merge our overseas IT platforms, a step that could save critical resources every year while keeping all the IT functionality that you depend on. And I just got a report today that the initial pilot in Lima is going very well. So at the point of direct contact, where the so-called rubber hits the road in these three pilot projects, we are seeing progress, so we have to stay with it, no matter how challenging it is. We need to keep up our momentum and do so with other projects, like strengthening existing medical programs that serve both agencies.
We also need to keep pressing ahead with our efforts to build a new discipline of what we call development diplomacy, modernizing our diplomacy to make sure that development is fully elevated in our work. This will require joint training and more exchanges that put State and USAID officers in positions in the other agency. The Foreign Service Institute has already made a good start by working with USAID to design a course that helps new mission directors learn how to work effectively across the interagency. FSI and USAID have also launched a distance-learning course on development and diplomacy, which hundreds of State and AID employees have already completed. A classroom course is in the works for the spring. Now we need to build on those efforts and create more opportunities for State and AID officers to learn together.
Now, I’m sure I don’t have to tell any of you that these are lean budget times. In two weeks, I will present our new budget to Congress. Now many representatives see the value of what we do and they want to support it, but there are many others who don’t see the value at all and are going to be very, very tough to persuade. I imagine that I’ll hear some quite challenging questions, and there will be many in Congress in a time when everything is on the chopping block looking to chop State and AID.
One year into this first QDDR, we and I can make a much better case than ever for our work. I am confident of that, but I’m also convinced we can’t stop now. We have to keep working to do the most with every dollar of funding and every hour of effort to work as a team with one mission: to make American more secure, show the world our values, help our partners build a safer, more prosperous world for their own people.
This will be the ongoing task and the eternal challenge that I know we are up to meeting. But we have to be very clear that business as usual is not going to sell well on Capitol Hill. The work we do speaks for itself. How we do the work, how we are more efficient, leaner, smarter, better will enable us to keep getting the resources we need to be able to deliver the results we seek. Thank you all very much. (Applause.)
I’m going to stand up here, because otherwise I can’t see you. I’m not as tall as I wish I were. Can we get a microphone? Yeah. There we go. Great.
MODERATOR: Morning. I’m Chris Milligan. I’m from PPL, and it’s my pleasure to be able to moderate the Q&A session of the town hall. I understand that we have some outside guests today, including those from the media, and I hope you understand that the town hall is primarily for USAID staff to interact with their leadership. I’ll be reading questions that were submitted from the field via Google Moderator, and we’ll also take questions from the floor. If you have a question from the floor, please be mindful to keep it brief. We’d like to give as many people a chance to ask a question as possible. We have runners with microphones and we’ll get to you, so raise your hand and we’ll get that runner and microphone to you. But they’re not marathoners, and I realize – (laughter) – that this room is large. So if you are at the outer edge and you have a question, please make your way around this way.
Madam Secretary, Administrator Shah, I’d like to start with a question from the field first, please: In some cases, beneficiaries of American assistance abroad are unaware that aid is being provided from the American people. This seems especially true in countries like Egypt and Pakistan. We don’t need profuse thanks for our assistance, but what more can be done to ensure that the people benefitting from our assistance know of our efforts?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Chris and the questioner, this is a constant concern of mine, because the work that has been done by so many of you and your colleagues is important work. It has certainly produced results, it’s helped people, but I am just amazed at how many times when I go to another country I am told that we need to give aid. And I say, “Well, here’s our budget. We’re giving aid.” And they say, “Well, nobody knows about it,” or “Nobody appreciates it.”
And I think there are three reasons. I mean, first of all, we have to do a better job telling our own story, and I think that means we have to do a better job branding our aid and then having a narrative that goes with it, because a lot of aid flows in that is not really branded. I mean, it’s not identified as being from the American people the way it needs to be. But then, if all we do is just provide that aid and not have a narrative that goes along with it through the media, through other outlets, it’s not fair to blame people if they don’t know what we’re doing in their country unless we’ve really tried to break through.
Now sometimes – and some of you remember – we’ve had problems in some countries, where for all kinds of reasons, primarily humanitarian, we’ve wanted to provide aid and the country didn’t want anybody to know it came from us. So there are a few exceptions like that, but those had better be very limited exceptions because, very frankly, it’s hard to justify providing aid from the American people that the people who are receiving the aid or their government don’t want to know comes from the American people. So those have to be kept to a very, very small percentage. The overall problem is more of what I said, about lack of information, lack of knowledge.
Secondly, in a lot of countries, we’re not giving the countries what they want. Let’s be very honest about this. I mean, they come and they say, “Here’s what we want,” and we say, “Here’s what you should want.” (Laughter.) Those days are over. (Applause.) And I know it’s been hard for a lot of people to accept that, but in today’s social media world and interconnectivity, when we are giving lip service to host country ownership and we don’t listen to the host country, then it’s not hard to understand why the government doesn’t support even their own people knowing what it is we’re providing.
So we have to – we are struggling with this. I think we’re making some progress with it, but I think we have to be very clear about our objective. There is some kind of aid that we’re just not going to provide. We’re not going to be spending a lot of money building large edifices and soccer stadiums. Now, there is another very large country that does a lot of that. And every time I go anywhere and I walk into the new parliament building or I walk into the new presidential palace and they proudly tell me that it was built by people of another country, they’re basically saying, “We tell everybody what they did for us. Remind me again what you do for us.” So we have to be smarter and more responsive in providing aid which is what the country themselves want but in a way that keeps it within our parameters for how we provide aid and what we provide aid for. But I think this is a really big issue that we have to struggle with.
And then finally, I think that there is an attitude in a lot of countries - that seems to be growing - that they’re not sure they want foreign aid. And they – even if they want foreign aid, they want foreign aid that comes directly to their government and not through NGOs. We’re living this out, as you all know, right now with the situation in Egypt. Well, I mean, you can’t make somebody take aid. There are a lot of places that want us and where we are doing good work and where we should continue doing good work. And there may be some political considerations that we either have to put a pause on aid or eliminate aid, because we’re never going to get the credit for it because they are not welcoming it.
So these are the kind of political realities that we all have to cope with as we try to figure out how to answer this question. Because at the end of the day, you all work too hard, you do too much good. I see it everywhere I go. I want it to be understood and appreciated both here back home and where you’re doing it. And we just have to get better at that, and we’re working on it.
MODERATOR: Great. Thank you. Would you like to --
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, the two things I would add is the Secretary’s asked us to really evolve our partnership model. So when Paul Weisenfeld was just out in Ghana and is in Tanzania today – the fact that he’s sitting down with heads of state, that the Feed the Future team’s across State and AID have done so much work to set up those consultations, that lays the groundwork for a much deeper partnership so that those countries see and feel us being responsive to them at the highest levels and there’s a substantive discussion about it. When Alex was just in Afghanistan a few days ago doing the same thing, that’s part of the diplomacy component, is making sure our ambassadors value that role, our mission directors are willing to put the time in, we’re willing to develop country development cooperation strategies in consultation with the highest levels. And when Secretary Clinton makes phone calls to announce we’re coming to have that dialogue, it helps open doors and it helps lift the nature of the discussion. And so that’s – it’s just something we’re going to have to continue to do, even though it takes more time and it requires being very open to the feedback we get.
SECRETARY CLINTON: I just want to add one thing to what Raj said, because this is such an important issue, and I need all of you to be thinking about it, because you have good ideas about how best we can do this. It’s also important, as Raj said, to get the broader buy-in from the entire government, not just from the development minister. You need to have access to the finance minister. You need to have buy-in from the prime minister and the president. We need it for a lot of reasons. One is you want them invested in what we’re doing and you want to extract some assurances that if you come in with a vaccine program or a maternal mortality program, they’re not going to cut the health budget, because, “Oh. AID’s here. The Americans are going to pay for that, so we don’t have to pay for it. We can take that money and finish that road we’ve always wanted to do.” So there needs to be almost a contracting mentality with the host nation going forward.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Let’s take two Q&As from the floor and then we’ll read a question from the field. So are there any questions? Denise?
QUESTION: Thank you. Thank you, Madam Secretary. First of all, gratitude should be given to you for your leadership and your vision. And you’re very inspiring and really a role model for so many of us as Americans and as development professionals, so thank you for that.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. (Applause.)
QUESTION: I was really delighted to hear you speak so much about USAID Forward and the reforms that are going on here. We know that a lot of – you’ve put a lot of effort in with your team at the State Department to advance the USAID Forward goals. And I’m just wondering how much has that been socialized with the embassy staffs, the ambassadors, those outside of Washington, because that’s really where the rubber meets the road. It’s very important to have the interagency here, but it’s at post where that’s critically important, and particularly around the implementation and procurement reforms.
SECRETARY CLINTON: You are absolutely right, and I’ll say a few words on this. But this is really Raj’s leadership that has made this happen. I think we’re making progress but we’re – it’s constant effort. Just any kind of reform effort, whether it’s State, AID, or any large organization, you can’t rest because you had one meeting with ambassadors or mission directors. It’s a constant, repetitive, educational effort. And I think we’re making real progress, but I think we still have some ways to go.
And part of what I’m hoping is that we continue the really important work that is being done between State and AID so that we rationalize those things that are not about our cultures or about our programs and policies. There are certain things that we just need to try to finish up the work on. I mentioned one, the IT platform – just kind of get it behind us and we say we’re saving money, we have better data organization, standardization management, it’s available to everybody who needs it. Because I think there has been a lack of transparency between State and AID.
An ambassador, up until we came in, didn’t think he or she had much responsibility for AID, and a mission director didn’t think that there was really much basis for asking the ambassador to do the introduction to the finance minister. I mean, we’re on parallel tracks. And it was exhausting and inefficient. So the more we can make the case, which I think we’re making, that this will enhance everybody’s ability to effectively do the work that all of us are trying to do.
But on the specific USAID Forward agenda, I want Raj to talk about where we are on it and socializing it. At the mission directors meeting, our deputy Bill Burns came. We’ve tried to have a lot of interaction at the levels of exchanging information, listening to each other.
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Sure. I’m going to stand up for this part, because I want everybody to see my favorite prop. This – these are the top lying USAID Forward indicators. And for each of the elements of the QDDR and the – and USAID Forward, we’ve actually created a specific measurable target that each mission director has put forth and said this is my goal and you can track this on an annual basis.
Now, this didn’t come out of something we concocted here in Washington. Bambi Arellano deserves a tremendous amount of credit for helping to pull this together, but it was a year’s worth of work. It started with our management retreat last April. We had three mission director consultations. We had a three-day mission director retreat, and then just as importantly, a three-day retreat with our legal and contracting officers to get the insight around what it would take to change the way we work.
But perhaps most importantly it talks about our own talent and our own team. And yesterday 25 of our civil service colleagues graduated from a structured mentoring program with colleagues at the State Department. And that’s great. But our target for this year is to get 850 already identified members of our global team in a structured formal mentoring program. And for an agency that has had the huge staff drop-off over the last 15 years and is now rebuilding that, that is critical to filling the leadership gaps that exist in so many different areas of work.
So our commitment is we will keep working on the things that we can do to make this happen, and I think the one area, Denise, that we have to do a lot more work on. But we have so much support from Johnnie Carson and the assistant secretaries across the State Department – is to reach out to ambassadors, talk it through, make sure when we talk about procurement reform – they sometimes think we’re talking about buying furniture for the office because it’s a different – it’s different language. And I said to Johnnie – I said, “No. This isn’t furniture for the office. This is that organization that’s going to be providing health services.” And making sure that we’re doing that directly with the government and through an institution that can last over time. And you see the support – just it’s unlocked and it’s very strong.
So we’re going to use part of the chief of mission conference to really have a deep dialogue on this. The IPR team is on a tour explaining the concepts and getting insight. We’ve sat down with Eric Goosby and the PEPFAR team to make sure we get their insights too. Because there are lot of perceptions out there, that if you take a risk and work with a local institution are you taking more risk or less risk. I think we can now prove across 45 cases that came in in just the last week that we uniformly are saving money and getting better results through this approach. But it’s a case we’re going to have to keep making. And I’m just proud that the Secretary’s been so aggressively helpful in making sure we get visibility for this effort and that we have the resources to build out our contracting staff and make sure that we steward the taxpayer dollars incredibly well against these goals and objectives.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Let’s take another question from the floor. Winston, is that – Winston.
QUESTION: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary and Administrator Shah. My name is Winston Allen. I’m with the Office of Learning, Evaluation, and Research at the PPL Bureau. As you know, the goal – or one of the goals of development is to create and sustain change. So with regards to USAID Forward, I was wondering do you think the USAID Forward is strong enough to transcend future administrations? And what can we do over the next year too to better institutionalize the changes resulting from USAID Forward reforms?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, Winston, I love that question. (Laughter.) Look, we are working as hard as we can in part to be able to institutionalize the changes that all of you have worked so hard on to bring to our attention and then to implement. There is this unfortunate pendulum in Washington that goes back and forth, where if it was done before then you have to undo it and do something different. And when I came in as Secretary, we didn’t take the programs that had been implemented, like the President’s Malaria Initiative or PEPFAR or MCC and say, “Okay. We got to start over. We’re not doing anything.” We said, “No. What are we going to do to make them better?” And what do we have to do to institutionalize the kinds of patterns of behavior and results that we want to be proud of at the end of this first term of President Obama.
And so that’s why what we’re doing is so urgent. Because look, we have – as with any kind of environment in which change is happening, we have people who are such great proponents – they’re not a big number, but they’re significant, particularly on the Hill – such big proponents of diplomacy and development that basically all we have to do is show up and they say, “What do you need and we’ll help them.” Not a very big number, but they’re a good core group. (Laughter.) And then we have a group that unfortunately is bigger than I would like, which is basically – I don’t understand what those diplomats and development people do anyway; I’m not sure we need them; let’s just – can’t we – we can shut a bunch of consulates, we can cut a bunch of foreign aid, and who will ever miss it. So there’s that group.
The vast majority of the decision makers, particularly on the Hill but also in the broader community, are people who like some of what we do, criticize other pieces of what we do, and who are hoping that we will really engage in a reform process that strengthens us so much that we’ll be on firm footing, no matter what happens and be able to make the case on the grounds that we’re producing results and getting maximum impact for the dollars we spend.
So everything we’re trying to do on USAID Forward or the changes in any aspect of it, like procurement, is not just for the sake of doing it, but to streamline our process, make us more efficient, and make us more able to withstand the back-and-forth of political wins so that we are just on a steady course. Because AID has been in such a rollercoaster ride over the last 20, 30 years, and it has hurt the agency and it’s hurt our work out in the world. And I want to put AID on a really solid foundation, and the best way to do that is to say, “Yeah. Look, we know. We’re cutting expenses where they can be cut, but we want to be able to take that and put it into what works and we’ll explain how.” And that’s what we’re trying to do, Winston.
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: I would just add two things. One is – to the Secretary’s point, I think a lot – we’ve done a lot of consultation with members of both parties on the Hill around these reforms. And when we can demonstrate that we can link inputs to outputs and demonstrate results with clarity and strength and validity in terms of the data, we get a tremendous amount of support from members of both sides of the aisle. And I hope that that is the spirit that sort of continues going forward, and I hope we continue to be extraordinarily transparent with even what’s difficult so that we can get ideas from everybody and use them to create a better system here, because people want this work to be successful in their core and inside.
The other piece is something that Walter North said at the end of the mission director conference. That was an intense three-day conference, and it was the first conference we’ve had in two years with that group. And Walter, at the end, stood up and made a point that really stuck with me and I think about almost every day, where he said, “These aren’t your reforms. These are our reforms. Like we’ve known the best way to do this work. We’re the experts. We have the experience, and we’re going to make it happen.” And I think when you see that kind of energy and that kind of attitude and that kind of leadership from our mission directors around the world it gives me the confidence that you’re going to make it happen. (Laughter.) You’re going to make it happen in ways we could never have even designed or imagined. So those two things give me some faith.
QUESTION: Thank you.
MODERATOR: I’ve been told we have time for one more question from the field and one more question from the floor. Let’s take them both together, and if there’s a question in this area. Yes, sir.
QUESTION: Good morning. Thank you. Madam Secretary, you said sometimes we don’t offer what they want. And as a Washington expert in a suit, I appreciate being reminded of that. (Laughter.) However, my question is: Who are they? How do we determine who legitimately speaks for the hopes and needs of a population? And when we figure that out, how do we weigh the disparate voices? Thank you.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Excellent.
MODERATOR: To combine with the final question from the field: Madam Secretary, Administrator Shah, we are facing a proliferation of new initiatives from Washington and new priorities. Currently up to 90 percent of our funding in the field is tied up in initiatives and earmarks. How can we free up funding for missions overseas to customize their development assistance for the most countries?
SECRETARY CLINTON: You want to start with that one?
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Sure. (Laughter.) Why not? (Laughter and applause.) Look, I – I’ll just say two things about that. The first is, part of the – part of being an expert in this field is understanding how to conduct a process that helps get input and insight from so many different diverse partners in a country. Our Feed the Future teams working in an interagency context in now 20 countries – I believe 17 – 16 or 17 were in African countries that developed these comprehensive African agriculture development plans. They spent 12, 18 months developing these plans, doing it with country leaders, doing it with farmer groups, doing it with civil society organizations, with private sector. And we have to get better at continuing to, sort of, have those kinds of consultative processes, get back into the business of our own people being out and about doing those consultations directly, and building those relationships based on trust, and then using judgment about what is the best way to make sure we're abiding by what we're hearing. But that’s very much the art of this field, and I’ve seen, from Sudan to Haiti, our teams do that in different ways. But it’s a great point and we can get better at standardizing it.
The second thing I’d say on the earmarks and the budget, it – this is a tough environment and we have to fight for resources by documenting and demonstrating that we can deliver results for those resources. And that often means being able to say, “If you give us $900 million to focus on education, we will have – we’ll ensure and we will test literacy outcomes at grade level and generate this level of benefit for that investment.” And we’ve done that across a number of our strategies and initiatives, and I know sometimes that feels constraining. But the reality is we're going to have to have to continue to try and build space within those larger initiatives to do the right things.
I sat through an outstanding meeting yesterday with our joint planning cells from Kenya and Ethiopia that actually grew out of – Secretary Clinton had asked us to make sure that we do these consultations with the heads of state of Kenya and Ethiopia as part of our humanitarian program. So we went and we said, “Well, what are you thinking?” And they said, “Well, we understand why you have to do the humanitarian assistance, but where we really need support is with a resilience strategy so that after the crisis people in those dry land pastoral communities are less vulnerable so that next time all the NGOs don’t have to pour in again to save lives.” And our teams broke down barriers, worked with international organizations, worked across the missions. Our pastoral experts in Ethiopia were everywhere in the Horn, and it was fabulous. And they came up with a great plan that’s very responsive to what we need and were able to, by piecing funding together from different line items, support that imitative.
We can do that. We just have to be very intentional about it and very transparent about it. And we can use Feed the Future resources and some humanitarian resources to fund that package together. So I think there’s more flexibility in the system than it sometimes seems, and we have to do a ever-better job of making sure that we know where want to use that flexibility, because it is going to be – continue to be a tough fiscal environment.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I would just add a few points. What Raj just said, and sort of in response to the very real concerns that both questions suggested – it’s one of the reasons why research is so important, because sometimes what you think works doesn’t work as well as something else. But if it’s only our opinion that we’re putting forth, then the host government will say, “Well, here’s our opinion, and it’s our country, so go with our opinion, not your opinion.” So we need to do a much better job in evaluating ourselves and other development efforts by other countries, by NGOs, so that we are armed with evidence. Because the arguments that sometimes take place – and then – and I hear them, because when I’m in a country, sometimes the president or the prime minister, the foreign minister will say, “We’ve asked your country for X. But you tell us you’ll only do Y.” And I’m sitting there thinking, “I don’t get that.” And so what we're trying to do, by emphasizing greater country ownership, requires exactly what Raj just described: intensive involvement.
Now who are the people you deal with? Well, you got to start with the people who are viewed as the leaders of the country, elected or self-anointed. They are the people who are running the country, and for whatever set of reasons, the populace is permitting that to go on. But then you also have to deal with other influentials at province level or state level. I mean, one of our big problems, as many of you know, with polio eradication in northern Nigeria is not the government in Abuja; it’s local leaders in northern Nigeria. So those are people that we have to get to and work with in order to persuade, based on evidence, that the polio vaccine is not going to harm their children. So it’s a kind of power influential matrix analysis that you have to carry out all the time.
But I think it’s really significant that we’re not alone in this effort any longer. You got really large NGOs and you have China playing a greater and greater development role, which will only grow. So when I’m sitting across from the president of a country who says, “We want your help in education, but you’ve come and said you’ll do teacher training and curriculum, but the Chinese will build schools. Everybody’s going to think, even though I’m very pro-American, that you’re not helping us, because what you’re doing is not visible.” So I said, “Well, suppose we build one or two schools, and then do training in them.” But I mean, you’ve got to be creative to think about how we get our message across.
And if we come in convinced that we know best for them, whoever they are, or we have an agenda, because we’ve looked at the indicators and we know that they may be asking for education, but they really need our malaria program, and we only have so much aid for this country, then you have to either make the case to convince them that what you’re offering is what they actually need – because how you educate children if they’re dying from malaria, you make the case – or you have to go back to the drawing boards and say, “If we want a real impact in this country to build trust up and down the leadership ladder, from the top and to the local community, maybe we do need to do something that they actually will welcome and be grateful for.” And then the next time we talk to them, they’re willing to say, “You know, we really loved that school you built or that program you ran that you came in and said would help us, so what do you think we need to do next?” To begin to have that conversation of trust and transparency.
So none of this is easy. If it were easy, we would’ve all been doing it and be freed from the constant questioning that we’re engaged in trying to figure out how we produce more efficiently for more people. But I have total confidence in the ability of the people of AID, here and around the world. I’ve seen the results for more than 20 years. I know what we can do. And I know that if we get that partnership with local people and governments, what we do stands the test of time, and it’s appreciated. And it builds a platform for us to have other engagements that go to the political and the strategic side because you, with your development work, have really built up bonds of trust and people want to work with and rely on America. And where that doesn’t happen, there are so many misconceptions and so much room for stereotyping, caricature and all kinds of attacks. And that’s not good for development, diplomacy, or defense.
So what we're doing, I think, is incredibly important. I am very proud of the progress we’ve made. I want to lock in as much as we can in support of you and this reform agenda by the end of this year, so that whatever comes next there’s no question that it will be dismantled or that AID will be under assault again, because we will have demonstrated beyond any reasonable doubt that the work that is done by the professionals in AID is as essential to America’s security interests and values as anything done by a soldier or a diplomat. That’s my goal and that’s my promise to you.
Thank you. (Applause.)
ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Thank you, all. (Applause.)