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Clinton announces State Department review stressing conflict prevention

By Mary Beth Sheridan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 15, 2010; 7:41 PM

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced an overhaul of the State Department's bureaucracy Wednesday, pledging to focus more on conflict prevention and elevate the roles of U.S. ambassadors in coordinating the work of all U.S. agencies working abroad.

Clinton's Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) was two years in the making. It is intended to elevate "civilian power" at a time when the U.S. military has played a growing role in nation-building.

Clinton called the review "a blueprint for how our country can lead in a changing world through what I call civilian power." She said its goals include improving the State Department's ability to defuse crises before they explode, and enabling diplomats to be "the partner that our military needs" if violence does break out.

"We've learned a lot with what has happened in Iraq and Afghanistan, and we really believe we are putting forth a better organizational" structure, Clinton said at a town hall forum at the State Department.

The review also seeks to strengthen the U.S. Agency for International Development, by giving it control of the Obama administration's global health and agriculture initiatives.

Clinton said some of the reforms involve reorganizing the State Department bureaucracy - setting up an undersecretary for civilian security, who will focus on conflict areas, and bureaus for energy resources and counterterrorism.

But a major drive will simply be to get senior U.S. diplomats and aid officials to work more collaboratively with other federal agencies that have an increasing foreign presence, such as the Agriculture and Treasury departments, she said. Such ability to work with other agencies will become a key criterion in deciding who gets to be an ambassador or mission director, officials said.

Clinton said the State Department is trying to get back some appropriations authority that was transferred to the military during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. But officials said the review does not envision a large increase in the department's budget.

Key congressional Republicans have indicated they will seek to cut the diplomatic and foreign aid budgets when they assume the House majority next year.

The State Department director of policy planning, Anne-Marie Slaughter, said the review should get a good reception in Congress. "Many of the things the new members are calling for, we've been focusing on. How can we work better? How can we streamline?"

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