The Foreign Service Journal, November 2023

USAID VP VOICE | BY RANDY CHESTER AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 712-5267 THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2023 61 Wait, really? Didn’t we just do this? It’s been a few years, but we’re told it’s now time to address the inefficiencies and overreach of the last reorganization; align bureaus with new presidential policy and initiatives; Administrator goals and views; and guide, lead, mold, bend, stretch, contort ... all staff hands on deck. Now I fully support and implement all U.S. government foreign policy objectives and those of leadership, regardless of my personal beliefs or reservations. But do we really need to reorganize with every new administration and Administrator? Since 2003 there have been at least four major reshufflings: • Administrator Andrew Natsios oversaw the transfer of USAID HIV/AIDS programming to the newly created Office of Global AIDS Coordinator at the State Department, ceding budget, staff, and programming. • Administrator Randall Tobias concentrated power in the Office of Foreign Assistance (F), a new State Department office, eliminating the Bureau for Policy, Planning, and Learning (PPL) and removing USAID’s control over its budget. PPL returned to USAID in 2010, while F lingers on at State. • Administrator Rajiv Shah created and oversaw the implementation of USAID Forward, which radically changed the way USAID conducts It’s Been a Minute—Time to Reorganize business and establishes new bureaus and offices, combining staff from technical and regional bureaus. • Administrator Mark Green took on an agencywide restructuring that took nearly three years to complete and was favorably audited by the Government Accountability Office. Under Green, the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security (BFS) became Resilience and Food Security (RFS); the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) and the Office of Food for Peace (FFP) were forcibly married (sadly, the Office of Transition Initiatives, or OTI, was not the third member of this wedding and still operates in a separate bureau). The Bureau for Development, Democracy, and Innovation (DDI) was created by combining the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance (DCHA); Education, Energy, Environment, Economic Growth; and several smaller offices (Gender, Inclusive Development, Private Sector Engagement, and Faith-Based Initiatives). And now, Administrator Samantha Power is re-reorganizing yet again. DDI is being split into two component parts: the new Bureau for Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance and the new Bureau for Inclusive Growth, Partnerships, and Innovation. The new Bureau of Resilience, Environment, and Food Security (REFS) adds the “E” to the existing Bureau of RFS with the addition of the former DDI Center for Environment, Energy, and Infrastructure and the Office of Environmental Compliance. REFS has seven centers and five offices—that’s a mighty big bureau. It includes Feed the Future (FTF) Policy, FTF Office of Country Implementation, Center for Agriculture-Led Growth (not sure if that isn’t duplicative, but not my call), Center for Nutrition, Center for Water and Sanitation, Center for Natural Environment, Center for Climate Positive Development (which is different from natural environment, perhaps?) and other offices. As I write this column, I have reviewed two reorganization packages and expect a third soon. Reorganizations are not easy, and I fully appreciate the time (in this case, nearly a year) and energy spent. A reorganization approval package includes: new detailed organization charts down to the team/division level, complete staff reconciliation between previous and new charts, redrafted position descriptions, a new cleared functional statement, and a congressional notification— internal clearance alone must take months. Some bureaus created a core team and kept the effort internal; some hired a thirdparty contractor for support; some sought extensive D.C. and field mission ideas and feedback; and some held things close. Regardless of how it was done, it’s not cheap in terms of dollars, staff time, or morale. AFSA’s role is to ensure Foreign Service equities are safeguarded during this process. That means protecting current Foreign Service officer positions, titles, and ranks; identifying where FSOs can fill identified new and vacant positions; questioning the use of political appointees; and digging into the process and reasons for the reorganization. What makes this one better than what we have now? Like many, I lived through the creation of F, USAID Forward, BFS, RFS, and DDI, and will get through this latest as well as future reorganizations. But as a colleague in another agency asked: “Why does AID do this? When do you get to just do your work?” My answer: We always work. The noise around the reorganization doesn’t stop our work and doesn’t change our goal to improve the lives of millions. You do have to wonder, though—how much more could we do if we weren’t in a constant and continuous state of reorganization? n