US senators call for national diplomacy and development strategy

U.S. Senators Todd Young and Jeanne Shaheen. Photo by: Indiana Public Media and U.S. Embassy Kabul Afghanistan

Two United States senators from across the partisan divide introduced legislation on Wednesday calling for the creation of a new strategy to guide U.S. diplomacy and development efforts.

Todd Young, a Republican from Indiana, and Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat from New Hampshire, want to see the Department of State periodically produce and submit to Congress a National Diplomacy and Development Strategy, which would directly support the National Security Strategy produced by the executive branch.

The strategy would resemble the quadrennial diplomacy and development reviews carried out during the Obama administration, but unlike the QDDRs it would be classified — accompanied by an unclassified summary. This would be to allow the exercise to include strategic planning around sensitive diplomatic interests, a congressional staffer told Devex.

“It’s impossible to implement optimal organizational or personnel reform at the Department of State or USAID without first conducting this kind of rigorous strategy development,” Senator Young said in a statement to Devex.

The bill arrives immediately on the heels of President Donald Trump’s Tuesday budget request, which describes a vastly reduced U.S. diplomatic and development presence in the world.

If enacted, the ‘‘National Diplomacy and Development Strategy Act of 2017’’ would compel the Secretary of State and U.S. Agency for International Development administrator to work together to describe: The “worldwide interests and objectives of the United States;” the threats and challenges associated with these interests; the diplomatic and development tools needed to meet those challenges; a plan to utilize those tools; and requests for congressional support or authorizations.

The bill is also aimed at improving interagency coordination, to better ensure that defense, diplomacy and development agencies are working towards common goals, according to Young.

“Protecting Americans and promoting our values require effective U.S. international diplomacy and development, yet sometimes these efforts are conducted in stovepipes — detached from the National Security Strategy or insufficiently coordinated across the U.S. government,” Young said.

Young floated the idea in a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing — where he is a member — in March. Testifying at that hearing, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright reacted to the senator’s proposal.

“Frankly, Secretary [Hillary] Clinton tried [with] this thing called the QDDR to bring more rationality to the State Department budget and the USAID budget. I have to tell you I tried,” Albright said, adding, “I can’t tell you how many reorgs I have looked at since even the [President Jimmy] Carter administration on how to bring this all together.”

But Albright was supportive of the effort to codify diplomacy and development planning into law. “I think it would make a difference,” she said.

Young is a first-term senator who served as a Marine intelligence officer — and maintained a top-secret clearance. In addition to calling for a new diplomacy and development planning process, the senator has also repeatedly called on the White House and State Department to press Saudi Arabia for humanitarian concessions in Yemen’s ongoing war and food security crisis.

Stay tuned to Devex for more news and analysis of what the Trump administration means for global development. Read more coverage here and subscribe to The Development Newswire.

About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.