A reflection of challenges to US whole-of-government aid approach?

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province. Photo by: S.K. Vemmer / U.S. Department of State

How streamlined is information on U.S. development and defense contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan? A new internal report calls for improvement.

The report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office analyzes the extent to which the U.S. Agency for International DevelopmentDepartment of State and Department of Defense use the Synchronized Predeployment and Operational Tracker, the common database the three agencies agreed to use to collect and store information on contracts and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It finds that despite the three agencies’ agreement, they use SPOT to a limited degree and still rely on other sources, platforms and databases to manage, coordinate and oversee contracting in the two countries. The recommendation: USAID, State and Defense should work together to improve and standardize their reporting methodologies to provide more comparable data to Congress and other stakeholders.

The work of these three agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan is just one proof of how cooperation between civil and military agencies to deliver development programs is becoming commonplace now in the international community, especially in conflict-torn areas like these two countries.

A working and effective partnership between different government agencies is especially important in the U.S. aid program: President Barack Obama has identified a whole-of-government approach to development among the priorities in his Global Development Policy.

The new report, released Sept. 12 by the U.S. Government for Accountability Office, however, shows that meeting this priority runs against some harsh realities. For one, overseas development and defense projects are often too entrenched within their respective agencies. The consequence: Collection and reporting of information is hard to streamline.

USAID’s response to the report’s recommendation points to another challenge. The agency, it said, is committed to standardizing methodologies used to report and collection information “to the extent resources allow.” USAID’s operating budget is almost always at the risk of cuts every fiscal year, and spending on efforts to streamline reporting requirements may not be its highest priority.

USAID does offer a suggestion: The three agencies should “continue to worktowardsmore consistent presentation of data.” Despite differences in the collection systems used by USAID, State and Defense, “the presentation of data across agencies could be improved,” Angelique Crumbly, USAID’s acting assistant to the administrator for management, said in the agency’s comment on theGAOreport.

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About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.