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 You are in: Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance > Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance: Releases > Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance: Remarks (2006)

Working Together Toward an Integrated Vision

Ambassador Randall L. Tobias, U.S. Director of Foreign Assistance and Administrator of USAID
Remarks at Defense Policy Board Advisory Committee Meeting
Washington, DC
September 21, 2006

[As prepared for delivery]

First, I want to thank all of you for being here, and for your continued contributions to our country. And I particularly appreciate your interest in the issues that are the focus of my attention in my current role here in the State Department. Vital to the challenges you are addressing on an ongoing basis is the present and future state of our foreign assistance program, and what it means to the Defense community and to our nation as a whole.

The 2006 National Security Strategy begins with the words, "We are a nation at war." I think we all agree that this war will be a long one, fought on many fronts, using varied tactics and approaches, and it will tax the resolve of the American people. What this war will also require are creative ways to engage not only the enemy, but to engage the underlying causes for the enemy’s existence. We cannot seek only to eliminate Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations on the battlefield. We must also seek to eliminate the very reasons these groups exist and resonate in so many parts of the world.

The War on Terror is demanding our engagement in new ways and we must be prepared to respond accordingly. Ungoverned or poorly governed nations, in which leadership takes little responsibility for the safety, security, and prosperity of its citizens, become breeding grounds for conflict. We know that even as we rely on our military to help put an end to these violent conflicts, unless we can provide tools for a hopeful and prosperous future, we will not secure lasting peace. One of the main tools at our disposal is foreign assistance.

How the United States uses its foreign assistance dollars plays directly into our ability to bring about lasting and productive change in the environments where terrorism will either grow or whither. We must be able to coalesce our intentions and interests and make sure our investments match our policy, while addressing both short-term crises and long-term needs. Only then will we be able to achieve the kind of transformation that brings about lasting peace and securityan essential component of my charge as the first Director of United States Foreign Assistance.

My objective as Director of United States Foreign Assistance and, concurrently, in my secondary role as Administrator of USAID, is to better align foreign assistance so that it meets the needs of a new era and is a more effective instrument of this nation’s foreign policy. Securing our nation must include a strategy of helping create and sustain responsible partners in the world community, thereby reducing the number of adversaries and breeding grounds for terrorist ideology future generations will face.

Our foreign assistance platform must be targeted and quantitatively effective. And quite frankly, until recently, we have not had an integrated way to plan and budget our foreign assistance so that we could strategically look at our collective resources, and our collective results, and adjust our approach to ensure success.

In many countries, there are a number of United States Government agencies on the ground doing great work. But is that work leading to the achievement of the results that are strategically important to us? Can we document the apparent success of our actions on the ground in a way that lets us see not just whether one program or project is succeeding, but whether that activity is a worthwhile investment of US taxpayer dollars in light of a bigger picture? Is there duplication? Do we even know? Without a coherent and effective plan for execution and accountability, how can we ever be certain?

Take Haiti, for instance, where more than a half dozen United States Government agenciesincluding State, DoD, and USAIDare working to help that country as it attempts to emerge from its most recent period of political instability and violence.  The Department of Agriculture supports the Haitian people with assistance provided through the World Food Program. The Department of the Treasury has identified Haiti as being on the threshold for eligibility under its Heavily Indebted Poor Countries program.  The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief has designated Haiti as a Focus Country, and the AIDS initiative is being implemented by seven different United States Government agencies, adding Commerce, Labor, HHS, and the Peace Corps to the list of foreign assistance implementing agencies.

Before we created my new role, I don’t think there was any focus on the fact that between 1995 and 2003, the United States Government provided more than $850 million in bilateral assistance and food aid to 640,000 Haitians. Do the math. That’s an average of $1,328 per person. And what do we have to show for it?

In 2004, we pledged an additional $230 million at the International Donors’ Conference to fund the Interim Cooperation Framework. An enormous expenditure of foreign assistance dollars to a very small country with limited absorptive capacity. So I ask, has the United States Government been speaking with one voice with its foreign assistance resources, making decisions based on one set of prioritiesdictated by a coherent strategy? Have we even clearly defined the objective?

If we fully leverage our resources and our expertise, I believe it is almost self evident that we stand a much better chance of making the most of American taxpayer dollars in helping Haitians and others around the world build a prosperous future for themselves a difficult enough task under even the most ideal circumstances. And in so doing, we stand a much better chance of strengthening our own nation’s security.

As Secretary Rice put it in announcing the creation of my role, "The current structure of America’s foreign assistance risks incoherent policies and ineffective programs and perhaps even wasted resources. We can do better and we must do better."

"Doing better" means improved alignment of our foreign assistance with our foreign policy priorities. "Doing better" means increased accountability for our foreign assistance and better cooperation among the USG agencies that deliver it. "Doing better" means working to ensure the many partners we work withwhether international or non-governmental, whether U.S.-based or indigenous to the countries in which we workare accountable as well.

One other area where we need to "do better" is the way we synchronize our civilian and military efforts.

When we are talking about foreign assistance we must consistently ask the question not often asked until fairly recently, "Is this advancing our peace and security?"

We need to ensure that there is a strong partnership between our civilian assistance efforts and DoD so that our foreign assistancehumanitarian and longer-termstarts early and takes hold in regions where otherwise no aid could be delivered by the development community alone. Given that the locus of national security threats has shifted to the developing worldwhere poverty, oppression, and indifference are exploited by our foes to provide haven for terroriststogether, we must establish best practices for how civilian and military agencies can leverage their respective strengths and areas of expertise. We look forward to continuing to find ways to work more closely with DoD as we build on lessons learned over the past 5 years.

We must also remember that sustainable change requires us to acknowledgeindeed, operate from the basis thatin the end, it’s not about us, it’s about them. The fact is that despite the noblest of intentions, outsiders cannot with sustainability, secure citizens’ health and safety, educate a critical mass, or create the conditions needed for economic growthall of which are necessary for development, and all of which are the responsibilities of government.

Citizens must understand that their governments are responsible. They must make demands of their governments, and reject excuses for failure. That’s a fundamental characteristic of a true democracy. And the assistance and policies of the United States can and must play a vital and catalytic role in making that happen. This is precisely what the Secretary has acknowledged in establishing the transformational diplomacy goal of "helping to build and sustain well-governed, democratic states that respond to the needs of their people and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system." This is now the overarching goal of all U.S. foreign assistance. All USAID and State Department foreign assistance funds are now being planned, allocated and measured against achieving this overarching goal.

Those of you who have followed foreign assistance for years know that this is newto have one goal against which we will measure the effectiveness of how we spend resources. In fact, one of the most rewarding "lessons learned" over the course of my tenure leading the President’s Emergency Plan For AIDS Relief was the incredible impact the United States Government can have when it speaks with one voice, targeting a shared goal.

Addressing HIV/AIDS in a coherent and coordinated way has not been about suppressing one USG agency over another, but about better aligning all of our efforts so none could divide and conquer among us by taking advantage of our own USG fragmentation to get out from under the need to perform. On a country level, the fact that USG agencies spoke from the same page, implemented one strategy, and monitored results in the same way, vastly increased responsiveness from both government and nongovernmental partners, and therefore vastly increased effectiveness.

As some of you may have seen, we have a new strategic framework that responds to the transformational diplomacy goal. You may be surprised to learn that the United States was the only developed country and donor nation that did not have a binding, comprehensive foreign assistance strategy. Many individual US government agencies, offices, and country programs did, but there was no coherent, overarching strategy to guide our collective efforts.

When I first came to this role, I asked for an analysis of our defacto foreign assistance strategy, based on where we were currently focusing our foreign assistance dollarson the assumption that our strategy IS where we put our dollars, regardless of our rhetoric.

It turns out that nearly three quarters of our foreign assistance spending is focused on five objectives:

  • Responding to humanitarian crises as they occur;
  • Fighting HIV/AIDS in critical countries;
  • Sustaining critical security partnerships in the Middle East;
  • Supporting traditional Eastern European partnerships; and
  • Countering narcotics in the Andean region.

While important in each case, collectively these goals do not of themselves add up to a foreign assistance strategy that supports transformational diplomacy. We may be achieving great progress in some areas, such as HIV/AIDS. But the lack of a well-coordinated, comprehensive, inter-connected foreign assistance strategy means that we are likely not having the collective impact we can and should. And beyond that, even with the programs we are supporting, we will be less likely to sustain the gains of those investments in the long term because they are isolated from other factors required for sustainability.

Our new foreign assistance framework explicitly identifies a comprehensive approach. It recognizes that nations cannot progress without peace, security, and stability. They cannot progress without just and democratic governance. They cannot progress without investments in the human capacity of their citizens. And they cannot progress without economic growth. These now are the objectives that drive our foreign assistance resource allocation process.

Our strategy is designed to get both those who plan programs and those who carry them out on the ground thinking about the right combination of programs, based on country circumstances, that will result in moving that country along a development path toward graduation from the need for assistance.

We know, for example, that in "rebuilding" countries that are in or emerging from conflict, little else can be effectively implemented without achieving peace and stability. These are also the countries in which we are breaking new ground in cooperation with our DoD colleagues.

We know that in "developing" countries, defined as low or lower middle income states that are not yet meeting the performance criteria that we developed for the Millennium Challenge Account, government accountability is often lacking, and we must address issues of governance and democracy even as we support programs in health, education, and poverty alleviation.

We know that in "transforming" countries, defined as low or lower middle income states that are meeting the performance criteria that we developed for the Millennium Challenge Account, we find states that often have the governance right, but need continuing assistance in funding health, education, and economic programs until they are fully on a path to sustainable progress.

We all know that these are words on paper if we cannot mobilize our bureaucracies, here and in the field, to implement effectively. So along with this new strategic approach, we have implemented a leadership and management model that will help us achieve what this strategy intends.

As the Director of Foreign Assistance, I now have the authority and the responsibility to ensure that our foreign assistance at State and USAIDabout 80% of appropriated foreign assistance fundsare being used efficiently and effectively and in support of our strategic intent.

It’s my further responsibility to help ensure wherever possible that USG agencies delivering foreign assistance are not working at cross purposes, but in fact we are taking advantage of agencies’ comparative strengths to create a U.S. Government program that is effective and makes the most efficient use of taxpayer dollars. Already we are seeing progress.

We have just finished the FY2008 internal budget process within State and USAID, and we see a number of strategic shifts of State and USAID resources. For example, more resources will be going into the rebuilding, developing, and restrictive countries. This makes sense, because these are the countries farthest from the transformational diplomacy goal, the places where our resources are needed most.

The contribution that foreign assistance brings to our security, I am convinced, is a vital one. The challenges of our time demand this change. I know DoD understands the mission of foreign assistance today. Indeed, the Quadrennial Defense Review states:

Foreign military assistance missions during the Cold War were largely designed to shore up friendly regimes against external threats.

Today the aim is for partners to govern and police themselves effectively.

Assistance in today’s environment relies on the ability to improve states’ governance, administration, internal security and the rule of law in order to build partner governments’ legitimacy in the eyes of their own people and thereby inoculate societies against terrorism, insurgency and non-state threats.

The foreign assistance operations necessary to rehabilitate Iraq and Afghanistan depend on an atmosphere of security that only the military can provide. However, our military missionand lasting peace and prosperitycannot succeed without the transformation of people and institutions. And the role of State, USAID, other government agencies and non-governmental groups cannot simply begin once the plan is already in the execution phase. We have to be apart of the conversations as early as the planning stage of operations and our contribution cannot cease until our greater mission is accomplished.

I commend DoD for its leadership and vision in pushing the agenda forward and echo the belief that much more work is still yet to be done. I believeacross the USGwe are up to those challenges. Again, to quote from the Quadrennial Defense Review:

The United States will not win the war on terrorism or achieve other crucial national security objectives discussed in this Report by military means alone. Instead, the application of united statecraft, at the Federal level and in concert with allies and international partners, is critical.

I couldn’t agree more. I look forward to continuing to work toward that integrated vision across all of United States foreign assistance as we advance our shared National Security Strategy.

Thank you very much.

Released on October 25, 2006

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