US Foreign Policy

Presidential Inbox 2009: The First 100 Days

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The first 100 days of any administration are filled with tough choices and breaks from past policies. This administration is no different. In the lead-up to the election, Stimson experts identified the issues, from nuclear proliferation to a code of conduct for space, that should be at the top of the president’s inbox. They have been tracking the administration’s moves on these issues and offer their assesments of how the administration has coped in its first 100 days.


Rebalancing the Toolkit: The 100 Day Check-Up

By Gordon Adams

After 100 days, the jury is still out on whether the administration is rebalancing the toolkit of American statecraft. For budgeting, they get full marks, but the necessary institutional and process reforms are still pending.

  • The $53.8 billion foreign policy budget request for FY 2010 is 11% above the FY 2009 level and will track closely with the recommendations of the Stimson/American Academy of Diplomacy study last year that called for an additional 4700 foreign service officers for State and USAID.
  • For defense, the administration set a responsible baseline of $533.4 billion, 4% growth, over the FY 2009 budget. And Secretary Gates made some hard choices, proposing to terminate systems we don’t need more of (F-22) or that aren’t working (vehicles for the Army’s Future Combat Systems program).

In both cases, the administration is putting an end to allowing DOD and State to “get well” through supplemental requests that fund things that ought to be in the base budget.

On rebalancing, the jury is still out.

  • While filling the job of Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources, a position that had languished unfilled for nearly ten years, was a critical first step toward rebuilding State and USAID; USAID, development, and the State/USAID relationship need attention, and there is still no nominee for USAID Administrator.
  • The integrated budget planning process at State/USAID still needs institutionalization. It will be critical to reforming State’s ability to do strategic planning, write long-term, requirements-driven budgets, and develop a “whole of government” view of foreign assistance.
  • State and USAID need to build a standing capacity to assist to fragile and post-conflict states. USIAD seems to have the lead for Afghanistan, but an institutional capacity to do this regularly does not yet exist.
  • The State/Defense relationship: Secretary Gates has said DOD will not try to make its many new foreign assistance authorities permanent. Secretary Clinton says she wants to strengthen these authorities at State, but there is no clear strategy for doing so.

After 100 days, the pieces are in place to discipline budgetary planning and rebalance the toolkit, but it is too early to tell whether that goal is being met.

Presidential Inbox 2009: Reblancing the Toolkit: Strengthening the Civilian Instruments of American Statecraft


Presidential Inbox: Update on Peacekeeping

By William J. Durch

President Obama and his foreign policy team have offered substantial support for multilateral engagement, and for UN peacekeeping operations in particular. US Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice spoke before the UN Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations four weeks into her tenure-a rare occurrence in recent years for a US “Perm Rep” and symbolic of the president’s pledge of a “new era of engagement.” Rice stressed that helping to make UN peacekeeping successful was “one of the highest priorities” of the new administration, as was fixing the UN’s human rights machinery. The US subsequently stood for and won election to the UN Human Rights Council-reversing Bush era policy-and was “looking forward to working from within with a broad cross section of member states to . . . enable it to live up to the vision that was crafted when it was created.”

The administration was quick to seek funds to reduce America’s back dues for UN peacekeeping. The US share of UN peacekeeping costs is about $1.84 billion (26 percent of the total). The FY 2009 omnibus appropriation contained $1.52 billion, and 2009 supplemental appropriations (a $151 million “bridge” that passed Congress and $837 million that is pending) would pay current costs and cut US arrears to the UN by 75 percent. In addition, the administration sought to have 15 percent of these appropriations designated as “two year funds,” to better permit the State Department to adapt to fluctuating UN mission needs. The fiscal 2010 budget seeks $2.26 billion and, with the funding flexibility sought, is intended to eliminate the need for supplemental money.

On UN reform and renewal, Ambassador Rice has said that the United States is “ready to consider fresh practices and approaches on the mandates of individual [missions] as they arose and to contemplate the launch of new reforms wherever they held the promise of bringing all key constituencies together to address collective challenges.

On the other hand, there has been no visible initiative to commit US troops-either logistics or a quick reaction reserve-for any UN operation. US allies, especially France and Ireland, may have set a welcome precedent, however, by joining a new UN force in Chad, reversing a trend of the past 15 years of Western reluctance to serve under UN commanders in Africa.


UN Department of Public Information [DPI], “Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations, 208th & 209th Meetings,” 24 February 2009, address (among others) of US Permanent Representative Susan Rice.

Susan E. Rice, Permanent Representative to the United Nations, “Remarks to the media following a General Assembly Stakeout,” USUN PRESS RELEASE #095, New York City: May 12, 2009.

UN DPI, “Special Committee on Peacekeeping Operations,” 24 February 2009.



Obama’s Plan for Global Health

By Julie Fischer

After calmly confronting the first potential influenza pandemic in 40 years and launching a national pandemic preparedness plan on its maiden voyage, President Obama announced a 6-year, $63 billion initiative that promises an “integrated approach to global health” rather than the disease-specific silos that have previously characterized U.S. global health engagement.

  • On May 7, President Obama released a statement promising to continue U.S. commitment to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) as well as TB and malaria programs, while acknowledging that the U.S. “cannot simply confront individual preventable illnesses in isolation.”
  • Although the President’s statement and budget documents leave the specifics to a promised strategic review process, the global health initiative promises new foreign assistance for health systems strengthening and maternal/child health.
  • President Obama has restored and enhanced some global health expertise within the Executive Office of the President, including National Security Council advisers whose portfolios include health and development and global health security, and a special advisor for health policy in OMB.

The good news is that President Obama has committed to a “new, comprehensive global health strategy” that recognizes U.S. vulnerabilities and responsibilities in an interconnected world. However a larger question remains: how will the President’s plan reach the planned 6-year total, given the slim $500 million increase over current funding in the FY2010 budget request, and would even the promised $63 billion be enough to cover such an ambitious global health agenda?

Presidential Inbox 2009: Global Health Security: A Long-Term Prescription

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