Hillary Clinton, Madame X & Rajiv Shah Release QDDR

12/15/2010 04:54 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Steve Clemons Washington Editor at Large of The Atlantic and founder and senior fellow of the American Strategy Program at the New America Foundation.

I will be writing more soon about the just released Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the first ever -- but wanted to post this video of the event and the transcript of an exchange that I had with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Two things quickly.

First, it was terrific that Secretary Clinton and her team have 'dedicated' this first QDDR to Ambassador Richard Holbrooke.

annemarie_slaughter_200_1.jpgSecond, Anne-Marie Slaughter, director of the Office of Policy Planning at the State Department, was the one who steered and dogged the QDDR process. Many were involved -- and Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, also gets top tier billing. But Slaughter, in my view, deserves enormous credit for producing a product and report that is far better than I expected (cynicism is tough to overcome when it comes to government agencies working together) -- and I have great hopes for effective implementation.

Given that George Kennan, Mr. X, directed State's Policy Planning office -- I had actually encouraged Slaughter to release the report in the form of a long telegram, or even a long email -- and have it emailed under the name, Madame X.

Regrettably, the State Department didn't take advantage of my great marketing advice.

For the time being, here is a link to a pdf of the 2010 QDDR Report Executive Summary. (The 200-page report link is still being prepared and will be released soon).

About 35 minutes into the program, I had this exchange with Secretary Hillary Clinton on the question about the Pentagon and its place in this QDDR process:

At 35:58

Steve Clemons: Thank you, I'm Steve Clemons with the New America Foundation and I publish The Washington Note. I want to congratulate Anne Marie Slaughter and the whole team for producing this and we're really going to miss Anne- Marie when she heads off to Princeton because I hope the deployment of the report has as much gusto as Anne Marie has shown in producing it.

Hillary Clinton: Yes, we fully agree.

Steve Clemons: My question about the QDDR and I don't mean to offer sort of a provocative, constructive question.

Hillary Clinton: I'd expect no less, Steve.

Steve Clemons: It is, where do The Pentagon and Pentagon resources fit into the picture? General Anthony Zinni at a New America Foundation program offered a critique, and he said as much as he wanted to see USAID and State more fully deployed in this arena, he continued to run into the notion that when it came to thinking like the pentagon does in simulating crisis and how one responds and thinking through every dimension of a challenge to figure it out, he said State and USAID aren't resourced or even disciplined to operate in that way. And he said he wanted them to but he saw it as a big deficit.

And so I'm interested, given your close relationship and your many mutual supportive comments with Bob Gates about deploying people and getting them to work, how do you reach across? Kind of like Richard Holbrooke was doing in his inter-agency group, how do you reach across at The Pentagon resources and Pentagon personnel and make them.. conform is the wrong word, but be good partners with your vision on the development side?

Hillary Clinton: Well, Steve, that's a very important question and one that we spent a lot of time analyzing and there's really three approaches that I would commend to you:

First; we have to be a good partner and we are well aware that we have a ways to go before we are organized and deployable in a manner that meets the legitimate needs of the kind of civilian military partnership that both Bob Gates and I believe in. What you will see in the QDDR is our effort to begin to better organize ourselves, to better coordinate between State and USAID so that we're not trying to determine who gets deployed, how they get deployed and who they respond to-- we can't keep reinventing the wheel in every crisis.

And we've learned a lot from what has happened in Iraq and in Afghanistan. And we really believe that we are putting forth a better organizational sense. Some may say 'well that's just moving the boxes on the organizational chart of the bureaucracy' ; that matters. It really matters how we describe how we are organized in order to relate to our friends at the Pentagon. So, there are specific organizational reforms.

Secondly; we are trying to build a core of expertise and one of the important recommendations that both Ann-Marie and Raj and Dawn can expand on, is that we are looking at what the congress created, the conflict-resolution stability office. We are trying to create a core of experts who can be on call and deployable. I mean look the problem we have is we have a relatively small workforce.

We're trying to expand it by having a kind of auxiliary core and also creating better partnerships with the rest of the US Government, very similar to what Richard (Holbrooke) did with SRAP- which I know created a lot of questions and people wondering what it was, but it was a model of an inter-agency operational office to deal with one of our highest needs. And so we are looking at how best to do that.

And finally; there is money that has been made available in accounts for State and Defense to work together to expend. We're trying to frankly get back a lot of the appropriation authority that was lost during the ... 2000's, I guess that's a word. And because of the military emphasis in Afghanistan and in Iraq it just was easier and quicker for the military to do a lot of things.

So you found the military doing development, you had young captains and colonels with discretionary funds, the so-called Commander-Emergency-Response funds... that they were literally able to call on $50 or $100 thousand to repair a school outside of Mosul or help build a road in Afghanistan without any of the bureaucratic checks and balances that we go through at AID and State.

And so we're well aware that first we have to be a better partner. Second, we have to be more operational and expeditionary, and thirdly we have to win back from the congress the authority we should have as the coordinators and lead on civilian power in the United States. You cannot work with the Pentagon as multitudes of agencies, that does not work. And one of the key messages in the QDDR is that the State Department has the statutory authority to lead. That doesn't mean that we're not in partnership with Justice and Treasury and Ex-Im and everybody else that has a role to play, but you've got to have someone accept the responsibility; and that's what we are offering and frankly demanding that we be given in order to make this civilian-military partnership something more than just a phrase.

Steve Clemons: Thank you.

Secretary Clinton was very impressive at this meeting and clearly had deeply drilled down into the detail of this report and what it means. I thought she hit the ball out of the park in her response to the question I posed.

-- Steve Clemons publishes the popular political blog, The Washington Note. Clemons can be followed on Twitter @SCClemons