USAID’S Coordination with Other U.S. Government Departments and Agencies
Capitalizing on USAID’s Unique Field Perspective
This chapter addresses coordination among U.S. government departments and agencies in Washington and overseas locations as they deal with S&T-related issues that are within the broad legislative mandate of USAID. The emphasis is on actions that USAID can take to improve coordination, recognizing that the Department of State often has the lead in ensuring appropriate coordination.
The chapter does not address coordination of USAID programs with those of other donors, international organizations, NGOs, multinational companies, or other organizations interested in foreign assistance. Such broader coordination is an important and complicated issue that is particularly significant in helping to ensure wise use of limited international resources. However, the topic of coordination with all parties interested in foreign assistance is beyond the scope of this study.
About 40 U.S. government departments and agencies have bilateral and regional programs involving developing countries. S&T are prominent themes in many of these programs. The programs are, in the first instance, designed to contribute to achievement of the missions of the departments and agencies, missions that have become increasingly international as globalization becomes a more prominent aspect of government-wide policies and programs. Some programs in developing countries contribute to economic and social development of the cooperating developing countries as well; but this aspect is usually an objective of secondary importance to U.S. departments and agencies as they extend their global reaches.
Several examples of the expanding interests of U.S. departments and agencies underscore the breadth of U.S. government activities abroad. At the top of the list, the Department of State is vitally concerned as to the impacts of foreign
assistance in all target countries. The social and economic development of these countries directly affects many U.S. foreign policy objectives, including (1) promoting global and regional stability, (2) supporting U.S. private sector investments abroad, (3) ensuring U.S. access to important energy and other natural resources, and (4) countering the spread of terrorist groups. The Department of State has increasingly taken on management responsibilities for operational programs in the developing countries, and particularly the President’s Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The Department of State plays a lead role in determining the purposes and levels of U.S. contributions to international organizations that have many programs in developing countries.
Of special relevance to this study are the interests of the Department of State’s Office of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs (OES). The office is, of course, interested in USAID’s activities that provide new channels for international cooperation and communication but has not shown comparable interest in the development of S&T capacity in developing countries. OES has limited program funds that it has used on occasion for environmental and other activities in the developing countries. The office has for many years developed strategic plans for addressing S&T-related issues throughout the world, and these plans inevitably overlap with the interests of USAID when addressing developing countries.1 The level of coordination among OES, the department’s science and environmental officers in U.S. embassies in developing countries, and USAID program officers is inconsistent, and depends largely on the breadth of experience and interests of the officials involved. Of course, communication among all parties on issues of mutual concern should be strongly encouraged, but attempts to strengthen coordination of USAID’s program interests with the interests of OES through new bureaucratic requirements should be undertaken with great care lest such efforts complicate rather than improve the effectiveness of USAID’s programs and OES’s policies.
We saw a highly visible example of interagency coordination reflected in Figure 1-1: the many streams of U.S. financing of programs to combat HIV/AIDS worldwide, including indirect financing through international organizations. The PEPFAR program, in particular, has provided considerable stimulus for improved coordination of U.S. activities abroad. U.S. ambassadors are explicitly charged by the administration to personally lead the coordination. In some countries the ambassadors have extended this coordination to encompass all U.S.-financed health programs.
TABLE 5-1 The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases’ Research Activities on HIV/AIDS, TB, and Malaria in Sub-Saharan Africa
NIAID supports projects in 25 countries. Examples include:
SOURCE: NIAID. Communication with Committee, March 2005.
The Department of Defense and the Department of State undertake major efforts in facilitating the transition from U.S. military occupation of war-torn areas to stable civilian governments. The Department of Defense is also actively involved in strengthening the technological capabilities of developing nations, which assists in resisting military invasions and strengthening the base for civilian activities. The Department of Health and Human Services has extensive programs to contain infectious diseases and combat other health problems on every continent. Table 5-1 describes the extensive efforts of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in southern Africa. The National Science Foundation supports scientific cooperation of researchers from many developing countries to address issues of considerable importance to American scientists and engineers as well as being of interest in their own countries. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Aeronautics and Space Administration also have active programs that span the globe.
For decades USAID has provided funding to various U.S. government departments and agencies to manage implementation of USAID programs that have technical content of direct interest to the departments and agencies. For example, the Department of Agriculture and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention manage USAID projects in dozens of countries. Usually the projects are fully or largely funded by USAID, but on occasion there is cost sharing between USAID and the implementing organization. These other organizations often have their own programs in developing countries—funded directly through congressional appropriations—that are relevant to USAID’s interests.
The establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) in 2003 has added a new dimension to foreign assistance. With an annual budget in the billions of dollars, this independent organization provides financing in response
to requests from governments of developing countries (23 developing countries as of late 2005) that are on sound paths to “ruling justly, investing in people, and encouraging economic freedom.” The MCC has had a slow startup; but the availability of substantial funding after programs are launched seems secure, even though the level is not as high as anticipated in 2003 (because of the initial delays).
As discussed in Chapter 2, another area of interagency significance is providing early warning of and response to natural disasters. In this area USAID depends on support from other departments and agencies. In particular, the Department of Defense has many types of capabilities that are often deployed when there are such emergencies. Sometimes they are deployed at the request of USAID and are financed by USAID. On other occasions they are deployed at the initiative of the White House, the Department of State, or the Department of Defense itself, and in these instances the funding responsibility is less certain and determined case by case. In any event, with many departments and agencies involved—let alone other governments, international organizations, and NGOs—coordination is critical; and USAID is usually the coordination point for the U.S. government.
Technologies play important roles in such responses and in coordination of responses. Communications technologies linking the international responses to the activities of the affected governments are particularly critical. Appropriate international sharing of responsibilities for different types of activities—from providing food supplements to arranging for evacuation of damaged areas—is essential, and computer databases loom large in promoting and monitoring such sharing. Damage assessments through use of satellite and aerial photography in coordination with on-the-ground observations are also a high priority. Governments and NGOs often send teams of scientists to the scene to record observations that will be helpful in predicting future disasters and improving response strategies; sharing of information is important for the success of such missions.
According to the USAID Administrator, USAID now funds only about 50 percent of U.S. government foreign assistance. Thus, the intersection of USAID programs and the interests of other departments and agencies are manifold. As discussed throughout this report, S&T inevitably permeate many of these programs. The importance of effective coordination of the multiplicity of programs is clear and must be a high-priority responsibility of department and agency leaders in Washington and U.S. ambassadors around the world.
USAID has unique legislative authority of great breadth to support innovative programs in developing countries, unrivaled field experience in adapting technological advances to conditions and capabilities of poor countries, and many successes in integrating S&T into development activities. Therefore, the agency should continue to play a critical role in S&T-related programs of the U.S. government throughout the developing world.
To this end, the committee recommends that USAID encourage other U.S. departments and agencies with S&T-related activities in developing countries
to orient their programs to the extent possible to supporting the development priorities of the host countries; USAID should provide leadership in improving coordination of U.S.-government.-sponsored activities relevant to development.
As previously noted, both in Washington and overseas the need for interagency approaches that are mutually reinforcing and for coordination of overlapping activities is increasing. As repeatedly emphasized in this report, USAID’s field perspectives should be effectively integrated with the strong S&T assessment and programming capabilities of a number of other organizations. Therefore, USAID should:
1. Assume leadership in the establishment in Washington of an effective interagency committee to coordinate overlapping S&T interests of U.S. departments and agencies in developing countries. USAID, in cooperation with the Office of Science and Technology Policy and the Department of State, should take a leading role in bringing together the departments and agencies. USAID should ensure that such an arrangement does not deteriorate just into sessions wherein other agencies request funds from USAID. Rather, the agency needs to emphasize the importance of coordination on topics that have significant development potential, whatever the funding source. These topics include:
The development and implementation of bilateral S&T agreements promoted by the Department of State, which in the past has too often turned to USAID for financial support of already agreed programs that are of little interest to USAID;
USDA programming of PL-480 funds that directly overlap USAID interests (see Box 5-1);
NASA remote-sensing programs that could add new dimensions to USAID agricultural and environmental efforts;
CDC disease surveillance activities that should complement USAID health programs; and
The Department of Agriculture is developing a program to provide grants for agricultural research through the Bangladesh Academy of Sciences using PL-480 funds available to the U.S. government. The USAID mission knows nothing about this academy nor was the mission consulted on the design of the program even though the mission has a major interest in agricultural research.
SOURCE: Unpublished report of the NRC Committee on Science and Technology in Foreign Assistance on field visit to Bangladesh, January 2005.
Department of Commerce’s capacity-building programs for international trade that are related to USAID’s efforts to promote economic growth.
The interagency committee should focus its attention both on policy coordination in Washington and on coordination of on-the-ground activities in the field. The interagency committee could review annually the drafts of the country strategies prepared by U.S. embassies in five or six countries where USAID has major programs. The committee could then provide feedback to the embassies concerning opportunities for increasing the impacts by more fully integrating the program interests of different departments and agencies.
There is, of course, a variety of coordination mechanisms already in place in Washington. Although the former interagency committee on international activities2 established in the 1990s by the Office of Science and Technology Policy no longer exists, the National Technology Council, a White House coordinating council, has taken on several international topics. At present the Department of State brings together representatives of a large number of departments and agencies to address a variety of S&T-related issues that have development relevance, such as (1) global climate change, (2) AIDS/HIV programs, and (3) S&T in the former Soviet Union. USAID regularly convenes interagency meetings to deal with disasters and other humanitarian emergencies. There is, however, no mechanism to address S&T-related development challenges on a broad and continuing basis. The proposed interagency committee should not duplicate the many efforts underway but should be aware of them in its deliberations.
2. Emphasize within the joint State Department-USAID planning process and in the field the payoff from broad interagency coordination of S&T activities. The administrator and mission directors of USAID should continually advise the U.S. ambassadors at posts where USAID is active of the important contributions that USAID can make in developing U.S. country strategies that encompass S&T. The mission directors should be strong advocates for broad coordination in their daily activities.
3. Clarify the division of responsibilities for supporting research relevant to international development supported by USAID and by other U.S. government departments and agencies. In general, USAID should concentrate its resources on identifying opportunities to use scientific achievements in the field, and facilitating their adaptation and introduction, leaving other aspects of research to others. Delineations that are more precise should be sector specific and at times project specific. Table 5-2 presents a suggested role for USAID in the
health sector. In the agriculture sector the environmental uniqueness of different locations suggests that USAID needs to reach further back in supporting research. In the energy field, applications may be more appropriately left to the private sector.
4. Work with other government organizations involved in preventing and responding to natural disasters in order to strengthen the capacity of developing countries to improve early warning systems, upgrade the resilience of physical structures to impacts, increase availability of emergency social support resources, and develop response strategies that can be integrated with long-term development programs.
An important starting point is to ensure that internal mechanisms are in place within USAID for handing off responsibilities for combating disasters over the long-term from the disaster response offices that are concerned with immediate problems to development assistance offices that are responsible for the long term, and then to draw on the capabilities of other agencies to upgrade warning and response capabilities in the developing countries.
5. Work closely with the Departments of State and Defense and other national and international organizations involved in reconstruction of wartorn areas, taking advantage of the technical capabilities of these partners while sharing USAID’s experience in charting the course for recovery. Current experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Kosovo underscores how important it is for USAID to have strong engineering capabilities within the agency and its partners to provide near-term relief for decimated populations.
6. Develop programs that complement the programs of the Department of State for combating HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and malaria. USAID, among the many organizations interested in combating HIV/AIDS, should capitalize on its unique field capabilities to build local capabilities for delivering health services. As suggested in Table 5-2, USAID’s emphasis should be on assessing the public health situation and on implementing and evaluating the impacts of field programs.
7. Encourage the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to take advantage of USAID’s many years of experience in promoting international development in the countries where the MCC has decided to initiate programs. The USAID Administrator, as a member of the MCC board, should ensure that the board and staff involve USAID specialists in consultations with recipient governments and in reviews of proposals by these governments. The early praise set forth in Box 5-2 suggests that USAID is indeed contributing to the initial activities of the MCC.
The pooling of expertise and financial resources has enabled USAID to have impacts far beyond those that its own capabilities would allow. The importance
We could not have done our job in our first startup year without you, the USAID mission directors. We want to preserve and expand USAID funding; you do things we cannot do that are essential to the fight against poverty … MCC is allocating $180 million to USAID to help several threshold countries become eligible for assistance and in all cases MCC teams will depend on USAID teams to provide knowledge of the countries and local officials.
SOURCE: Statement of the President of MCC at the USAID Worldwide Mission Directors Conference, May 17-20, 2005.
of such coordination is increasing, and steps are urgently required to ensure that expanding programs enhance and not detract from USAID’s mission.
Implementation of the foregoing suggestions will require considerable USAID staff time. The USAID staff enhancements suggested in Chapter 4 would contribute directly to the improvement of interagency coordination. Even without additional staff, limited upgrading of coordination should be possible.