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Thursday, January 19, 2006
Condi's Brilliant Move

The Secretary of State has restructured USAID to promote the administration's goals.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is reshaping the $19 billion U.S. foreign aid program and has appointed the government's global AIDS coordinator to run it.

Rice said Thursday the changes were to further the Bush administration's "transformational diplomacy" goals. That is the concept of using aid as a way of bringing good government to poorly run countries.

Responding to the criticism that the government's centralization would prioritize short terms goals over long term ones, Rice held a town-hall style meeting in which she:
said the position -- director of foreign assistance -- is intended to bring greater coherence and efficiency to a broad patchwork of often overlapping assistance programs that now total about $19 billion. Randall L. Tobias, a former pharmaceuticals industry executive who has headed the administration's global AIDS program for the past 2 1/2 years, was named to fill the position and also to serve as the new USAID administrator.

The moves eased fears at USAID that the agency, set up in 1961 under President John F. Kennedy, would be merged into the State Department. But it prompted other worries, voiced in the questioning, that USAID's strategic planning role might end up diminished and that the agency's corps of experienced foreign aid specialists might be superseded by Foreign Service officers.

In her nearly hour-long appearance before a standing-room-only crowd gathered in the cavernous Andrew W. Mellon Auditorium next to USAID headquarters, Rice offered assurances that USAID will continue to play a key role in setting development strategy and that the administration will maintain a long-term view on development issues. "If we have a short-term perspective, we will fail," she said.

This move is a part of the transformation diplomacy measures. "The foreign assistance initiative is part of a series of moves announced by Rice this week under the banner "transformational diplomacy." Her plan, announced Wednesday, to redeploy U.S. diplomats from Europe to difficult assignments in the Middle East, Asia and elsewhere received some backing yesterday from the American Foreign Service Association."

Of its many blunders, the Bush Administration has had excellent success in picking its Secretaries of State.