S&T Activities of USAID
During the Obama administration, integration of the strategies and policies of the department and USAID reached new heights with common S&T interests often being highlighted. Recently, USAID decided to augment its long-term reliance on S&T for supporting many development priorities with a number of new S&T initiatives, including, for example, (a) establishment of a new Development Lab that is to emphasize opportunities for technological innovation in 20 countries, (b) joining with several U.S. departments and agencies in supporting activities of scientists in developing countries who are interested in working as partners of American recipients of grants from these agencies, and (c) supporting a number of grand-challenge contests whereby awards are given to innovators with particularly creative technical approaches to long-standing problems that inhibit development.
Taking into account these new initiatives as well as USAID's long-time historical reliance on S&T embedded in many of its programs, the committee responsible for this NRC report decided to focus on some of the overarching strategy and policy concerns that are common to both USAID and the Department of State. Also, the committee addressed the significance to the American embassies in USAID-countries to be able to draw on the outreach capabilities of USAID missions in carrying out the department's diplomatic responsibilities. Finally, the committee recognized the importance of coordination of activities of common interest between the department and USAID in the launch of new programs of broad interest.
However, with regard to USAID's many long-standing program activities, the committee recommends that a separate assessment be undertaken of the agency's recent achievements and its plans for the future involving S&T. The National Research Council carried out such an assessment and published the results in 2004 with the title The Fundamental Role of Science and Technology in International Development: An Imperative for the U.S. Agency for International Development. This experience in establishing different committees with different sets of expertise for each of the two previous reports strongly supports the committee's decision to focus on the department in this report while recommending a separate report addressed to development
assistance rather than to attempt to consider the thrusts and details of diplomacy and foreign assistance within the same report.
Development Assistance Activities of Other Agencies
A number of other U.S. government departments and agencies in addition to USAID have development assistance responsibilities that involve reliance on S&T capabilities. For example, the Millennium Challenge Corporation has a multi-billion program to support economic development that is often based on enhanced scientific capabilities of carefully selected countries. The Department of Treasury has responsibility for U.S. contributions to the World Bank and other international development banks that have extensive programs wherein S&T play important roles. The Export-Import Bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation are significant contributors to development activities, often based in part on S&T inputs. And in recent years, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Agriculture have obtained expanded responsibilities directly linked to global health, the world's food supply, disaster relief, and other international development priorities that are intertwined with S&T considerations.
While this NRC report emphasizes inter-agency coordination and cooperation in carrying out a wide spectrum of responsibilities, it does not address effective use of S&T assets by the implementing organizations identified above.
As a member of the intelligence community the department, acting primarily through the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), needs strong S&T capabilities to interact with the 14 other departments and agencies that are involved. However, for security reasons, this aspect of the formulation of foreign policy is beyond the scope of this NRC report.
Timely Issuance of Visas
Of considerable interest to the science, engineering, and health communities is the timely issuance of visas by the United States and by other countries. This topic has long been high on the agendas of governments and scientific organizations throughout the world. However, the topic has many dimensions, U.S. policies and policies of other governments change frequently, and often the issues of concern are country-specific. The time and resources required to delve into the details of visa approval and issuance in Washington and other capitals were not available to the committee, which reluctantly must leave to others the development of recommendations to ease visa difficulties in the months and years ahead.
Support of Multilateral Institutions and Agreements
The department is regularly involved in debates and programming of many S&T-related approaches of multilateral and regional organizations. There are simply too many organizations in all regions of the world involved to assess the department's capabilities to effectively address relevant issues in this report.
Internal Concerns of the Department
The security of diplomatic personnel abroad has long been a priority of the department. In recent years, security of personnel and facilities has reached new heights. The committee commends the department's constant search for new technologies to address this issue. However, the committee has not considered the technical, financial, or diplomatic details of this effort to enable the committee to be in a position to offer conclusions or recommendations concerning further steps.
Also, the department has undertaken a broad effort, within constraints on funding that is embedded in administrative budgets, to green the department's facilities in the United States and its embassies overseas. The objective is not only to directly conserve energy and protect the environment (e.g., certification of its buildings as LEED buildings), but also to provide model facilities abroad worthy of emulation by host governments and their populations as they too seek to reduce carbon footprints. The committee has not had the opportunity to examine this very worthy initiative.
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