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David Isenberg Headshot

Will the Real Hillary Clinton Please Step Forward?

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It appears that the old Hillary Clinton, the one who ran for president of the United States has managed to travel forward in time and merge with the current Hillary Clinton, the one who is Secretary of State.

For those who don't remember, the old Clinton vowed to ban the use of private security contractors. As perennial PMC critic Jeremy Scahill of The Nation reported back in July, ""These private security contractors have been reckless and have compromised our mission in Iraq," Clinton said in February 2008. "The time to show these contractors the door is long past due." Clinton was one of only two senators to sponsor legislation to ban these companies.

Scahill was upset that Clinton had since moderated her views and that she was "presiding over what is shaping up to be a radical expansion of a private, US-funded paramilitary force that will operate in Iraq for the foreseeable future--the very type of force Clinton once claimed she opposed."

But on Wednesday the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (AID) unveiled the much-awaited Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review entitled "Leading Through Civilian Power."

The report seeks to put some distance between State and the private sector.

Fundamentally change our management approach by turning to the expertise of other federal agencies where appropriate--before engaging private contractors. This will help all federal agencies build lasting relationships with foreign counterparts and reduce our reliance on contractors.
(p. vi
)

As obligations in the frontline states expanded and overall staffing levels stagnated, the State Department and USAID increasingly came to rely on outside contractors to supplement their ranks. While grants and contracts do have certain benefits, we need to restore government capacity and expertise in mission critical areas. We will:

Create a more balanced workforce to ensure we have the appropriate mix of direct-hire personnel and contractors, so the U.S. government has the capacity to set priorities, make policy decisions, and properly oversee grants and contracts.

Leverage the experience and expertise of other agencies with the skills to advance U.S. objectives, before turning to outside contractors.

Ensure that our approach to procurement advances America's development objectives and saves money by fostering more competition for our contracts and using host-country businesses and NGOs where possible.
( p. xvii)

More specifically, State will enter into interagency agreements, consistent with existing law, to draw on the skills, expertise and personnel of other federal agencies before turning to private contractors where State determines that building in-house government capability or promoting bilateral working relationships furthers our foreign policy priorities.
( p. 33)

In particular, given the national security implications of security sector assistance, State will look first to the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Homeland Security to implement State programs involving counterterrorism capacity building, foreign law enforcement, or strengthening justice and interior ministries. State and USAID will similarly look to the Department of Health and Human Services to build on existing long-term relationships with ministries of health in partner countries. State will use private contractors for non-governmental functions when other agencies lack appropriate skills or are otherwise unwilling or unable to provide the services needed in an effective manner. In the long-term, partnering with and building on the assets of other agencies will offer net policy gains to the U.S. government and reduce overall program implementation costs. This is a significant departure from current practice, one that we believe will save money, improve the U.S. government's ability to advance American interests, and strengthen State's engagement across the interagency.
(p. 34)

While those recommendations are for State they also apply to AID.

USAID must expand its human resource talent to include more experts in evaluation, planning, resource management, and research. And it must rebalance its workforce to build internal capacity, reduce its dependency on contractors, improve oversight and accountability, and expand engagement with other development stakeholders.
(p. 108)

And although there is more, let me finish with this quote; particularly relevant, given the perennial contractor claims of cost-effectiveness over their public sector counterparts:

In-source positions more appropriately performed by direct-hire personnel.
Creating a more balanced workforce at State and USAID is necessary to ensure that both agencies are supported, not supplanted by contractors. To this end, State will build on the results of its Office of Management and Budget pilot projects, which developed a framework that will be replicated in other bureaus within the Department. The framework identifies which functions are inherently governmental, critical, or essential to the mission of each organization. In our pilots conducted within two select offices from one regional and one functional bureau, we identified nearly a quarter of the contractor workforce performing work that was closely associated with inherently governmental or mission-critical functions. We also found that another 10 percent should be in-sourced for cost efficiencies. The average estimated cost savings in these pilots was $33,000 per position.