Thomas Miller: The nexus between diplomacy and development: A practitioner’s perspective

September 11, 2015 1:12:10
Kaltura Video

Thomas Miller discusses the diplomacy and development from a practitioner's perspective and the threats to diplomacy that exist today. September, 2015.


>> I'm Susan Collins, the Joan and Sanford Weill Dean here at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, and it's a great pleasure to welcome you to this afternoon's policy talks at the Ford School. Today's event is cosponsored by the Ford School's International Policy Center with generous support as well from the Wiser Center for Emerging Democracies. We're very honored to be hosting today's speaker, Ambassador Thomas Miller, welcome.

[ Applause ]

Ambassador Miller and his wife, Bonnie, are both proud alumni of the University of Michigan, and so it's a pleasure to have both of you back here with us this afternoon and also this weekend. Ambassador Ronald Wiser is also here with us today and will have the honor of introducing today's speaker, but before he does that, I have the pleasure of introducing him. Even though I know that he is likely very well known to many of you here today. Ambassador Wiser, chaired Michigan's Republican Party from 2009 to 2012. Previously he served as Ambassador to Slovakia, and experience that inspired him and Mrs. Wiser to establish the Ronald and Eileen Wiser Center for Europe and Eurasia, and also the Wiser Center for Emerging Democracies here at the University of Michigan. He was also the Ford School's commencement speaker in 2007, and very fondly remembered for that as well. Both ambassador and Mrs. Wiser are very active Michigan alumni as well, and in fact they serve as deputy chairs of the university's ongoing Victors for Michigan campaign, which of course I encourage all of you to join us and support. Ambassador Wiser, thank you very much for all that you have done and continue to do for the university and for the Ford School, we very much appreciate that. So before I turn the floor over to Ambassador Wiser for that introduction, just a few words about the format today. Following his remarks, Ambassador Miller will take questions from the audience and I encourage you to write them on the cards that you should have received as you came in. At around 1:30, Ford School staff will be circulating to gather the cards, and we're very pleased that the codirect or, John Ciorciari of the Ford School's International Policy Center, together with two Ford School students, Julie Sarn and Marcus Cho, will facilitate the questions and answer period. For those watching online, please tweet your questions to us and use the hashtag #PolicyTalks, and with no further ado, it's my pleasure to turn the podium over to Ambassador Wiser.

[ Applause ]

>> Thank you, Dean Collins. It's a special privilege to be able to introduce my friend and former colleague and still I guess current fraternity brother. We happen to have our, as the person who arranged it said, we have a fraternity reunion every 50 years, so this will be our only one I would guess. At any rate, I knew Tom and Bonnie in a different way, but Tom especially because I was his pledge master, and I can tell you a few things about him that nobody knows. He was lousy at push ups, and he didn't know how to clean the spaghetti out of his hair after the special dinner's that we prepared for pledges. So other than that, the state department obviously didn't know it, and for that reason he was able to lead a very distinguished career there for 29 years. And that is hard work for those of you don't know about it. You have to - you end up being assigned overseas to a variety of different posts in a lot of different positions, and you gain an enormous amount of experience, and he worked very hard and became the ambassador in 19 - in think 1998 to Bosnia, in Herzegovina, and then followed that up in 2001. And I remember very distinctly in 2001, we were in the basement of the State Department, and I was there for what they called charm school, learning how in two weeks to become an ambassador, and he of course had 29 years' experience. I'm walking down the hallway and someone says, "Hey Ron," and I turned around, it was Tom. I hadn't seen him in 30 years, and somehow or another, he recognized me. He, because of his experience in the State Department, was already very grey, I wasn't then, and so it was hard to recognize him. But that's how we re-met again. We both went out the same time, just after 9/11, and to a very different world then had been before 9/11. Focus on security and Tom had the, both the background and experience to help with some very critical things in Greece where he went and was assigned, because we had the Olympic Games coming there, and after 9/11, the security issues there were paramount. We both had issues in our countries on counterterrorism, because Central Europe was a place that was the route for some of our non-friends from the Middle East to make their way into Western Europe, and so our job was to try and intercept them, but not intercept legitimate refugees, and that was not an easy thing to do. For those of you who don't know, I was in Slovakia when Tom was in Greece, and Tom did an incredible job as all of you know that those Olympics were pulled off without any incident, and everybody expected there to be something going on. Incredible security and the American government really supplied a great deal of that security. So it's with great pleasure, I introduce Tom and Bonnie, who his - I knew also, because somehow or another she stuck with him through the university and all those 29 years of travelling around. So thanks so much for coming here and speaking to the university.

[ Applause ]

[ Silence ]

>> Okay, this is all set up like I should have a Power Point, sorry. Thank you very much, Ron, and Susan, thank you very much for your very kind invitation. I managed to wrangle an invitation to come back to my alma mater as often as I can, and I always make it the fall on a Friday, I don't know what comes the next day, but it's just coincidence. I want to applaud the University of Michigan, its administration, its faculty and students, for the interest and commitment it's shown for many, many years; and focusing on American foreign policy and bringing speakers in and doing programs that are focusing on American foreign policy. It's also, as Ron said, a real pleasure to return to my roots here in Michigan where I have many fond memories along with my 5 degrees, and yes I was a professional student, I finally was told I had to get out and get a job. I'd like to talk to you today about a subject that's very important to me, and I hope to you. And that is the Obama administration has emphasized how critical it is to have coordination between what they call the 3 D's of government. That's defense, development and diplomacy. And this administration has emphasized how important it is, that we no longer have either the resources nor the luxury of working each of these three D's in stove pipes, where there's very little coordination between the three. In his speech at West Point in May of 2014, President Obama went out of his way to highlight the significance of diplomacy and development, as well as defense, when he said, "This should be one of the hard learned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where our military became the strongest advocate for diplomacy and development." He was actually echoing the thoughts of his former defense secretary, Bob Gates, who I can attest, argued as passionately as any secretary of state, for resources for our diplomatic efforts. I'd like to also add my personal observation, that another lesson of the wars that we've been engaged in over the last 14 years, is that we should let the soldiers fight the wars, the diplomats do the diplomacy, and the development professionals carry out development. This seems obvious, but indeed we have many lessons from both Iraq and Afghanistan, where professionals in one sphere failed when they overreached by trying to work in areas outside of their expertise. Indeed the budget to rehabilitate these countries was often larger in DOD and the Department of Defense, than it was at USCID. Expertise and experience, and not the size of one's budget, should be the drivers of who takes the lead. Today, what I'd like to discuss with you, is the relationship, or the interrelationship between diplomacy and development. I'm limiting myself to these two D's, because I want to speak as much as possible from personal experience. As Ron pointed out, I couldn't really hold much of a job, I kept on changing jobs, I was a career diplomat for nearly three decades. Having worked extensively on the Middle East, less so on Asia and counterterrorism, and having served overseas in Thailand, Bosnia and Greece 3 times. For the last decade, since I retired, I retired from the Foreign Service 10 years ago, I've run three internationally focused non-profits. Plan International, which is a very large organization that focuses on the needs of children living in poverty around the world, very much like Save the Children. The United Nations Association, the largest US grassroots non-profit, focusing on the work of the United Nations in this country; and most recently for the last five years I've been president of the International Executive Service Core, it's a mid-size non-profit that brings business solutions to problems of development and poverty. So many of the comments I'm going to offer today are based upon a personal experience. Many of them are indeed critiques of the way the US does business around the world. I no longer work for the government so I can say what I believe. However these critiques should in no way be taken as criticism of the extremely dedicated cadre of diplomats and development professionals, with whom I've had the privilege of working over many years. Nor should they really be taken as criticism of successive administrations, all of whom come into office, I really do believe this, trying to do the best job they can for the American people. However I will say, and just to date myself, I first started as a diplomat when Henry Kissinger was still the secretary of state, don't even try to do the math. That one trait that I have observed with both democratic and republican administrations, is the tendency to throw out the baby with the bathwater. To discard many good practices, simply because they're coming in and they want to make changes and have a new imprint. And I think that's kind of tragic. It's important to establish a framework for how we look at diplomacy and development. Without understanding the differences through which diplomats and development professionals approach their jobs, it's just too easy and too simple to launch into a criticism of either area without genuinely appreciating that we start from fundamentally different perspectives. First, we have somewhat different goals. Diplomats work to get other countries to agree to do what is in America's foreign policy interest. However one defines that. Development professionals have an overarching goal of trying to make the world a better place by reducing poverty and suffering. Diplomats have historically tended to work well with their allies, even when those allies don't even - don't necessarily treat their citizens well. Development professionals focus on those most in need and only secondarily on the politics of the leaders of poor countries. A second major distinction between the two professions is that diplomats tend to see development assistance is one of a number of tools of foreign policy to be used to persuade other countries to agree to do what we want them to do. Development professionals view development more as an end in itself to help those most in need, rather than as a foreign policy tool. They would prefer to use our - that is the development professionals, they'd prefer to use our scarce resources where their primary purpose would have the greatest impact on reducing poverty. More than using it to further foreign policy objectives. The two also have different timeframes, at least in theory. While there are many exceptions to what I'm going to say, diplomats tend to have a shorter time fuse, and the need to demonstrate results much more quickly. A year is often the timeframe for measuring progress, and rarely does it go beyond the life of the administration. Development professionals know that by nature, their task is long term, in which results are measured over a decade or longer. That is over several administrations, and shorter-term efforts often end in failure. What I've talked about is more theory than practice and more vision than reality. Since, as we all know, the world is never the way we want it to be. However, what I'm going to talk about now is specific for those of you in the audience who are undergrads or grad students. Those of you who are thinking about what you want to do with the rest of your careers. I'm going to hypothesize that a certain number of you are interested in international affairs, but you're still unsure what you want to do. Whether you want to work internationally as a diplomat, as a development expert, for an NGO, international business, for international organizations, or with the military. Or maybe something beyond those lists that I've named. I'd like to share some of my experiences and perspectives, should you decide you want to enter either diplomacy or development. One of the real questions that we have to ask ourselves with the hundreds of billions of dollars that we spend abroad in helping other countries, and their people is, are we accomplishing our objectives? Very simple, but very important. Perhaps even before that question, we have to ask very coldly, do we always know what our objectives are? There's been a huge debate in recent years among development experts about these and related questions. Former World Bank official, Liam Easterly, I think many of you know that name, in 2006, wrote a very best selling and very provocative book entitled "The White Man's Burden: Why the West Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill and So Little Good," fairly provocative title. He raised some fundamental questions and issues, and questioned some of the basic assumptions that warrant our serious consideration. Just two years ago, he also authored a sequel called "The Tyranny of Experts," which attack the decades old assumption that with enough money and enough experts, we can eradicate poverty. I fully agree with Easterly that poverty should not be seen as simply a technical problem, amenable to technical solutions. Easterly raised some very basic questions about how we dispense foreign assistance, questioning the wisdom of working through a corrupt and often ineffective leadership of a host country. What he didn't ask, or what he didn't answer, was what's the alternative in a situation like this? Set up parallel structures? Not practical or possible. Without aid to those most in need? Not something that our conscience would allow. I don't intend to try to settle what has been an age-old debate between diplomats and development experts, where the former believe that development is a tool for political ends, and the latter see development as an end in itself. Our own recent history particularly during the cold war, often had us in bed with dictators such as Marcos, Mobuto, Suharto, a number of Latin American leaders and others. And these and many other cases, not only in hindsight have we realized that not only that a lot of development assistance was syphoned off by these corrupt leaders, but also ended up propping up many of these dictators and making it hard to genuinely improve the lives of people in these countries. Easterly calls many of these past practices, and it's a quote, "Racism on behalf of the West." From what I've seen firsthand, I'm not sure that's a fair characterization. Instead, in particularly thinking back 20 or 30 years, I believe it was more nativity on the part of well-intentioned people. Another very interesting issue that Easterly raises is what would some may call the blank slate mentality. That conviction that measuring success of development didn't go beyond comparative statistics and growth rates. Indeed I think he really is onto something here, in that real success and development is not just the numbers that can be measured. Number of schools built, miles of road paved, number of children inoculated. But also the outcomes and the processes by which development takes place. Let me explain. Outcomes are much more important than the statistics I just mentioned. We should ask, for instance, are children learning, rather than how many schools were built? Are people able to use roads to bring their produce to markets? Rather than how many miles of roads were paved. Are children healthy? Rather than simply the number of inoculations administered. I also said that the process is often as important, and sometimes even more important than the outcome. In our haste to do good work, we sometimes forget that this is their country, not ours, and that we will eventually leave. Will what we leave behind be a mess? Or problems that can be sustainable? Also, is what we are doing compatible with their cultural practices and norms? In this respect, let me share one personal experience that addresses some of these questions. My non-profit, the one that I work for now, International Executive Service Core, we do a lot of work in Afghanistan. We have one of our projects there, we've had almost for 5 years, first under the US department of agriculture, now under USAID, is to help - try to build the capacity of the Ministry of Agriculture, so it can more effectively deliver services to Afghan farmers. While our project has received high marks from our donors, and I'll leave it to others and particularly Afghans to make their final judgements about how successful we've been, I would say at this stage, our biggest supporters are Afghans, and that's because we're doing 3 things. We've designed the program taking into account Afghan practices, norms, and cultural sensitivities. And I will say the downside is it took a long time. And there was a lot of back and forth, and that didn't necessarily please our donors at USAID. The second thing is over 99% of our staff are Afghan nationals. This goes a long way in terms of answering the question of sustainability. And the third thing is we work physically within the Ministry of Agriculture, side by side, with the minister and the Afghan civil servants. Unlike many development projects that work in separate standalone buildings and are isolated from the populations they're seeking to serve. I've mentioned earlier that in my experience, every administration that has come into office since I've been in government, has tended to reinvent the wheel. Both the State Department and USAID have been reinvented more times than I can even count. Always with the best of intentions, but with the subtle agenda that the predecessors work could definitely be improved upon, and as we move into a silly season of the elections again, we'll probably see another cycle of this. Indeed the propensity to reinvent goes well beyond the State Department and USAID, as we saw JFK, President Kennedy and Robert McNamara, seeking to quantify everything. Ronald Raegan seeking to do less with less, and Bill Clinton actually launching a major reinventing government initiative under the leadership of then Vice President Gore. This is not to say that there aren't many good ideas that come out of these initiatives, but I do seriously question whether the results are often worth the effort. I've seen too many cases where good ideas and practices were discarded by the new administration, simply because they came from their predecessors. A few years ago, USAID, our development agency, went through its latest iteration of reinventing itself, when it promulgate its USAID forward strategy, that's what they called it, USAID Forward. Much of this new strategy is to be commended, as the world is a lot more complex place than it was before, and it's rapidly evolving. Where yesterday's solutions no longer work today. Reforms in this initiative focused on three main areas. First delivering results on a meaningful scale through the strength in USAID. This called for pursuing a more strategic focus and results oriented approach. Particular emphasis was placed on policy and budget management as well as enacting a world class evaluation, monitoring evaluation policy. That's all good. Second, identifying and scaling up innovative breakthrough solutions to address intractable development challenges. I also applaud this effort, as technology has become a major, major enabler to development. Just think back, with the internet only a quarter century old, of all the technological developments we have witnessed over the past generation. It is this partnership between the government's development efforts and the academic, scientific and business community, which is a real force multiplier. This is where institutions like the University of Michigan and the Ford School in particular, deserve a lot of credit. Third area was promoting sustainable development through high impact partnerships and local solutions. The focus here, very rightly so, is to work more through local organizations in the host country being targeted, then using western institutions to carry out development. Again, from 30,000 ft. high, from the perspective of where diplomats and often ambassadors sit, this sounds great, but the closer that one gets to ground truth, the concept doesn't always hold together, let me explain. There's somewhat of a contradiction here because we're going into these countries often to build up local institutions, in places where these institutions frankly haven't had a chance to develop. I believe in some instances, were investing in local institutions that will not be able to pass intense scrutiny of the plethora of Inspector Generals, Congressional Oversight Committees, and the investigative medium. All of which put international development assistance projects under a microscope. In short, in some instances I wonder if we're putting the cart before the horse. Only in hindsight does this sometimes become apparent. As I can attest from my experience in Bosnia when I was ambassador 15 years ago. We had a great desire to build up local institutions, and particularly civil society, by investing a lot of money in this endeavor. Only to see failure in a number of cases. In other words, let's recognize a contradiction. We all share the goal of building in country capacity, but sometimes in our effort to achieve this goal, we put money into such local institutions before they have a chance to succeed. USAID Forward also talked about partnerships, including with the private sector. We have reached a point today where official assistance programs are no longer the panacea they were in the past, but at best they're just a catalyst for immobilizing other significant resources or a safety net in places where markets fail. Indeed in many countries such as - I don't know, just single out two, Pakistan, Columbia, you can name others, official aid is not even the most important element for dealing with the problems of poverty. As more favorable trade or tariff arrangements ultimately would have a much larger impact. While this is not specifically part of this latest USAID Forward initiative, I also want to call to your attention some well-intentioned but troubling aspect of our development efforts in recent years, and that's our increasing emphasis on what we call budget support. Budget support is when we give money directly to government ministries. In the host government, with the hope that they will have the power to make decisions, and that all sounds good. They'll have operational control over the money. From 30,000 ft., from the perspective of an ambassador or high levels of administration, that sounds right. You know, give them the money, let them make the decisions. It empowers national governments, it gives them the wherewithal to stand on their own. However, where it runs into trouble is when you get closer to ground level and realize that we're extending budget support to governments in some cases in which there's a great deal of corruption, inefficiency and waste. Indeed in 2012, just to give an example, the US government pledged that it would give 50% of all the money that it was giving in foreign assistance in Afghanistan to the government as budget support. We had a very high percentage in Bosnia when I was ambassador. The theory is fine, the practice often doesn't work, because those on the ground who are held responsible for making sure that these funds are spent properly often have a great deal of difficulty doing so. And in addition, with the massive cadre of oversight that I've already talked about, the Inspector Generals and the compliance audits and the Congressional Oversight Committees, often when we provide budget support they find a lot of waste, fraud and mismanagement, it's not hard to do, and the development efforts overall suffer. Finally having detailed some contradictions between what is good in theory but doesn't always stand up to scrutiny in practice, I want to turn this last section of my talk to a trend which has been developing over the last several decades, and makes delivering development assistance more and more difficult for the United States. This is something I really believe passionately about, so if you haven't registered anything so far, listen to this part, okay? I could entitle this trend, "We have met the enemy, and they are us." This trend is about, what I would call, the counter-bureaucracy, that has grown over the last several decades, and is responsible for oversight and compliance of our development efforts. The phenomenon of the counter-bureaucracy was brilliantly detailed in an article about 6 years - 5, 6 years ago. An article written by a former USAID administrator named Andrew Natsios, and he wrote this article and I would highly commend it to you. It's called, "The Clash of the Counter-Bureaucracy in Development." One of the least understood, but most powerful and disruptive tensions in the development field today is the clash between the compliance side of programs, what Natsios called the counter-bureaucracy and the programmatic side. This tension often is felt between development specialists and diplomats, with the former who focus on the details of the programmatic side, while the diplomats who are also concerned about programs, often concern more with oversight. On the compliance side, and I just want to tick off for you, if you're a USAID development person, on the compliance, there are many parts of US government whose goal is to monitor, critique and report on the performance of government agencies, in this case, USAID. The counter-bureaucracy for USAID includes the office of the Inspector General, the office of Management Budget, the US Government Accountability Office, GAO, the Special Inspector Generals they have for Iraq and Afghanistan, the set of luminous federal laws, such as the Federal Acquisition Regulations, the infamous, almost 2,000 page far that governs all federal contracts for all federal departments. DOD's regulatory control for all overhead rates for federal contracts and grantees, including USAID. More congressional oversight committees, statutory and ad-hoc than one can count. The 450-page foreign assistance act of 1961, amended more times than I care to count. In addition to all the above, there are additional agencies that set government wide standards for USAID, including the General Services Administration that controls office space, contracts and travel policy. The office of Personnel Management, which controls federal personnel policy. And the list goes on and on, to the point where there is no single institution in the world according to Natsios that is more audited, examined, scrutinized, than AID, except for the World Bank. It wasn't always this way. During the Vietnam war, when I was sitting - I wasn't sitting out there, because the school wasn't built, but when I was in your - a grad student here, there were 10,000 American direct hires at USAID. That's people who actually did the programs. In the 1980's, that name had declined to 4,000. And as of 7 years ago, that number had further shrunk to 2,000. Well the number of people working on programs has decreased, as you can see fairly dramatically, the number of those working on oversight, compliance, accountability, measuremental results, has grown exponentially. Indeed, even the remaining development officers who are charged with working on programs, spend increasing amount of time answering questions and queries from the counter-bureaucracy. While not nearly as dramatic, one could say similar things about our diplomatic efforts over the years. We also end up contracting out an increasing amount of services to private organizations, sometimes with decent results, sometimes not. The problem becomes worse because the diet of the counter-bureaucracy is increasingly focused towards programs that can be measured, and away from programs that perhaps are more transformative over the long term, and more significant, but are harder to measure. So for instance, the counter-bureaucracy loves humanitarian programs, where it's easy to quantify the number of goods and services, that is food aid, immunizations, schools, schools constructed, etc. It's much, much harder, and I know this from personal experience, to measure in a very concrete way the building of local self-sustaining institutions. Governance, staff quality, construction of business systems, institutional cultures. Ditto for measuring important reforms and policy changes, it's hard to measure these things. In addition, the counter-bureaucracy often puts very firm time limits on evaluating the success of a program. Something that again favors the delivery of specific materials and discourages programs like those sited above which are much more difficult to measure, but take much longer to implement. Let me be more specific. In my experience, one of the best bangs for the buck has been our scholarship programs. I know I'm speaking - preaching to the converted here. As my friend Andrew Natsios, the former Aid Administrator once pointed out, in the 80's we had 17-18,000 scholarships available to foreign national government officials and leaders and civil society to build the institutions of development countries, that's scholarships, they come here, study for a while. Anyone who has worked in an embassy or a USAID mission knows that these are some of the most successful programs we have. A few years ago, that number from 17-18,000 had declined to fewer than 1,000 scholarships annually, because of the very heavy pressure over the years demanded by the counter-bureaucracy for more oversight, greater measurement of scholarship programs. But shelving that frankly is impossible to do over a short timeframe. One of our most valuable resources is a country, and helping other countries is our people, not our money. Why? Americans on the whole are outgoing, friendly, can-do kinds of folks. They often give much more than simply doing the job. The Peace Corps, which has its roots here as we all know, is a great example. My organization, IESC, has sent over 25,000 senior business executives to developing countries over the last 50 years. This, the cost for us, for the US government has been minimal, but with great results. However, it's very hard to measure concrete results. Another area in which the counter-bureaucracy's demand for timeliness and measurable results have been counterproductive, is the way we often implement projects. A central tenet of development policy is that for any project or program to be successful over time, it must be locally owned. To be locally owned often involves a long process of negotiation, and interaction with the people in the country in which the ultimate - people in the country in which you're trying to help. If you have this local involvement in both program design and management, there will inevitably be delays, changes in project design, and hurdles to overcome, as society in which politics are divisive and corruption is high. Unfortunately the counter-bureaucracy will not allow this. With the result that the foreign contractors often end up doing the entire project, and local beneficiaries feel little responsibility for, or ownership of the project. You all remember Lawrence of Arabia, or at least the movie. When he was writing his book, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom," he put it well, he was speaking of organizing local Arab tribes against the Alaman Turks, but it bears thinking about in terms of what I'm talking about. He said, "It's better to let them," in this case, the Arabs, "do it imperfectly than to do it perfectly yourself. For it is their country, their way, and your time is short." Don't get me wrong, I'm not against oversight and indeed I would argue strongly that oversight is very healthy for any system. My problem is that in recent years we put so many resources into the counter-bureaucracy to the detriment of funding people and programs that actually deliver on our overall objectives. This isn't just in the development world, but we've also seen it in the realm of diplomacy, where we've dramatically expanded our security posture at embassies around the world, at the expense of many of our more basic core functions. In particular, in high threat posts, and I've served in a few of them. Security considerations, rather than policy objectives, often drive our activities. I firmly believe like many of you in the audience who are just starting your careers, that people choose to enter the field of diplomacy and development with the best of intentions. To do good and to make the world a better place. At some point, we all run into the counter-bureaucracy, which is not an external enemy, but something we've created ourselves. The counter-bureaucracy exerts a strong influence, which often over time refocuses people who came on board wanting to do good, into now making sure that they don't get into trouble, that they don't make mistakes. Put in another way for those of you who are sports fans and borrowing from a sports analogy, we become so concerned about being scored upon, that we now put all 11 people on our side of the field just to make sure that the other team doesn't score on us. You originally have this as a soccer analogy, but here I better make it a football analogy. The best we're going to get from this is a scoreless tie. That's the best outcome we can get, and we just - the point is we have too few people left to play offense, too few people left to do development, or to do the core objectives of diplomacy. I'll close by noting that there are a number of very perverse effects of the counter-bureaucracy. First, a greater proportion of development funds are spent on known partner organizations, that are very conversant with US regulations and laws. Unfortunately, restricting newer, smaller and local organizations from competing for funding. Ironically, this goes against the current administrations focus on trying to build up local institutions. Second, the entire system creates a culture of risk aversion, where the focus is on easy and sure wins, rather than taking greater risk in order to address fundamental institutional problems in a country. This trend goes against the very basic tenet of development, and goes against the rhetoric that calls for a need for innovation and experimentation. Third, oversight and accountability costs a lot of money, resulting in more money being spent on checking on programs, and less on the programs themselves. Fourth, the more people working on compliance means we have fewer people designing and implementing programs. This is true as much in the State Department as much as it is in USAID. Because of this, we sometimes tend to confuse accountability with effectiveness. A program can be highly accountable, that is with no fraud or abuse, yet a failure in terms of accomplishing its objectives. Fifth, because the counter-bureaucracy has demanded so many measurable results, we focus on outcomes that can be quantified, rather than harder to measure programs that can be much more important overall to a country's development, such as institution building or policy reform. And lastly, and this is true in both development and diplomacy, because of the demands of the oversight community, the time horizon for results continues to shrink. My friend, Andrew Natsios, reminds us that before the 1990's, aid programs were typically 10 years in length, with review after the first 5 years. Now we see programs of much shorter timeframe. In the State Department, we now have a 4 year quadri-lineal review. And most programs and initiatives are a much shorter term than 4 years, and virtually none go beyond the life of the administration. In the extreme, we end up creating new bureaucracies because the existing bureaucracies have become so obsessed with oversight and measuring results that they can no longer deliver on their promises in a timely fashion. Just one example of this, the Bush administration, you know, frankly created a very successful HIV/AIDS program called PEPFAR, but it was because USAID failed to deliver on fighting HIV/AIDS in a timely fashion. In sum, I've painted what I consider to be a realistic picture for you based upon my four decades of experience. Three as a diplomat and one running NGO's. for those of you who are contemplating a career working for the government in international affairs, my message would be don't be discouraged. This is the reality I find today. It can be reversed, and definitely it can be improved upon. To do so will take the efforts of your generation, and preserving the focus of doing good, that was the reason that so many of us came into government and working for NGO's in the first place. For this and future administrations, I ask that you take my comments in spirit in which they were made. To improve upon an imperfect but admirable system. I haven't even mentioned the relative decline of resources spent on development over the years, and it's really quite sad and inexcusable for a nation as rich as ours that we spend so few resources on trying to help people who are in real need around the world. Instead what I've tried to focus in is how we can do a better job in delivering the assistance that we are currently delivering. I thank you very much and look forward to your questions. [applause]

>> High ambassador, my name is Mark Cho, I'm a senior undergraduate here at the Ford School, studying with a focus area in American Foreign Policy, and our first question is, what future do you see for the immigration crisis currently afflicting Europe, and do you believe this is more of a concern for diplomacy or development?

>> I think it's a concern for both, to answer that part very quickly. It demands diplomatic solutions, but it's got long term development implications. You know, let me share something with you. When I came in the foreign service, January of 1976, we had, Vietnam had just ended the year before, the war had just ended, Vietnam's still around, we took in hundreds of thousands of refugees in very dire conditions from Indochina, and you know, we're now into the third generation of those refugees. They've become some of our most successful citizens. I'm not going to stay every story is wonderful, but overall, it's been a very, very positive experience for us. And you have a situation now where you have many hun - you have millions of refugees from Syria, living in camps, in Turkey and Jordan and Lebanon. You have hundreds of thousands of them trying to make it to Europe, and you have a real crisis, and a lot of these people are dying on the way. To speak nothing of refugees from Afghanistan, from Iraq, from Eritrea, from all of South Saharan Africa, and this is something that is a real, real crisis. And I think it's tragic, that the international community isn't doing more. For us, just look at our experience, we are a nation of immigrants. Not one of - I mean, I know everyone says that they're ancestors came over on the Mayflower, but if they all did that ship would have sunk a long time ago. We're all - you know, we are all the children or grandchildren and what have you of immigrants. That's the strength of our country. Demographers know that because we are still taking a good number of people in, you know, we're not in the kind of crisis that many of the European countries, Japan, in particular, is with an inverted age pyramid. Where you're going to have more and more - or fewer and fewer people supporting more and more people in retirement. So you can make economic arguments, you can make social arguments, you can make all kinds of arguments, but the fact of the matter is I think the world is doing a terrible job right now, and frankly, you know, people applaud President Obama for announcing 15,000 Syrian refugees. that's a drop in the bucket, you know. Now the downside of that, and so I would - we had a courageous senator who died a number of years ago, and he was the champion around the world for pushing administrations, whether is - an administration of his own party or the opposite party, and he was quite successful, this was Ted Kennedy, and we miss him a lot because there's no one up there who's really pushing, and I just think we could all do a much, much better job. It is a development issue, it is a diplomatic - you need to use diplomacy to solve it. The only downside, and this is something I mentioned in an earlier class - group that I was talking to, is that a lot of the refugees who go to Germany, UK, France, US, they're the best and the brightest and they end up staying. And what that does to the host country, the country they're coming from, is it deprives them of some of their best and their brightest. I even see this in Greece today. You know, I'm not saying we have a lot of refugees from Greece, but young people who can get out and see opportunities elsewhere are doing it. And that's depriving the country of some of the people who should be part of the future.

>> Hi, I'm Julie Sarnie, I'm a senior in the Ford School studying the politics and culture of Latin America and Spain. Our next question asks, you emphasize the time pressure that diplomats and US foreign aid providers face to show short term results. This can cut against medium term development interests in some cases, what are some realistic ways to incentivize or enable the State Department, USAID, and others, to take a somewhat longer-term perspective?

>> You know, I would say borrow from the lessons of Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is not risk averse, and in fact it embraces risk. And it's too bad Ron is gone because he'd be going, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." You know, but we got Bill Martin in the second row here who would hopefully say yes as well. A very successful Ann Arbour businessman who used to be your athletic director here and I still regard as the athletic director. We are so risk averse in the government, I said that throughout my talk. And what we need to do, when you're risk averse, you go for the safe wins, you go for the singles. But you don't go for the home runs, because you might strike out. What we need to do is embrace the culture of Silicon Valley, and allow for failure. In venture capital, if you strike out, if you go bust, 7 out of 10 times, you're doing okay. That means you have three successes, and the standard, the measurement standard is usually two moderate successes, one big success and seven strikeouts. And that's pretty good. We have to allow for that, and this is why I was kind of railing against the counter-bureaucracy. We set up this elaborate structure that makes - almost impossible to succeed in a big way. And you know, we just have to change our risk tolerance if we're ever going to really get back to tackling the big problems in a meaningful way as we once did. I don't think it's impossible, but I think it takes a big, big effort and a much greater understanding. In other words, it's getting away from the "gotcha" kind of culture that is kind of permeated so many parts of this country today and definitely the government.

>> You mentioned the US experience in Iraq and Afghanistan over the past 14 years as a clear indicator that development and diplomacy should not rest with DOD. Given that some of the provincial reconstruction teams comprised of DOS, USAID and other organizations in Iraq prove no more effective than the army's Civil Affairs, what needs to change in the culture of DOS and USAID to make them more expeditionary and more effective in the field themselves.

>> Well, that's a very good question. I mean, I think we've come a long way, you know. When I came in the department, and this is an evolutionary process. The stove pipes were much, much more delineated than they are now, where the coordination between agencies was more poorer. And I think we've come a long way, I still think we have a long way to go. I think what you've got to do is come up with a culture that rewards collaboration, that rewards cooperation, and the best way in any organization to promote that culture is make sure that those people who are doing those kinds of things are the ones that are getting ahead, and the ones who are kind of more in their stovepipes do not get ahead. I mean, you want to change an organization's behavior, you look at what motivates the people within that organization. So I think we need to do a better job of that. You know, the Defense Department in the mid 80's did something that was extraordinary at the time, it was called, Goldwater-Nichols. It was a law that was passed, in which they - you know, up 'till then, the way you made general, or admiral or what have you, was a very narrow path within that service. And Goldwater-Nichols said, "You're not going to make it any more to the top unless you have a lot of inner-service experience," and that totally changed the culture where people who would not take jobs in what they called "joint jobs," you know, working in more than one service. Now that became the premium, they wanted to take those jobs. And it's amazing, in any organization, when you start saying, "The way you're going to get ahead is X," how quickly people will change.

>> In some places like Northwest Pakistan or parts of Somalia, the US has had a difficult time identifying any local partners, official or non-official, with credible capacity and commitment to do the job. Are there needy places where US simply can't invest effectively, or are there creative options not yet explored?

>> Hmm - That's a good one. You know, I think there's always creative options, and I think we need to, again, this is how we change our culture, we need to stress, kind of reaching beyond the traditional norms. And looking for those alternatives that might not be the past practice. And so I would not - you mentioned Somalia and Northwest Pakistan, two pretty rough places, I would say, really stretch the bounds in looking for creative options. In both places, I wouldn't put Americans on the ground. But you don't have to have Americans on the ground. And indeed, as I mentioned in one of our projects in Afghanistan, 99% of our staff are local, are Afghans, and we're doing fine. We're doing really well. We sometimes don't do quite as well when the Inspector General comes around and asks for this receipt or that receipt or something like that, but that's okay, you know. I mean, that's my job, that's to kind of get them off our case. So yeah, I would say really stretch the bounds in looking for creative ways to work in the country, but also in asking that question, ask yourself, going back to my talk, what are your real objectives? What are you really trying to accomplish? And I think a good focused discussion on that will bring you much more effective development programs.

>> And this will be the last question that we have time for, so thank you ambassador.

>> We're not going to get any spontaneous questions saying, you know, why did you kill your wife or beat your wife or what have you? I mean, you know, I'm saying - ask your last question, I'm available, I think for a little while if people want to talk and ask me that real killer question, you know. How could you work for the - you know the question I always get, let me just throw this one out, because I always get it, you know, you worked as a diplomat, and you know, this is a place that thinks about deep issues, this is the leading school of the leading academic institution in the world, you know that. Okay, I just want to make it clear that I'm not biased. The question I always get is, have you ever worked on a policy that you strongly disagreed with? You know, and we all know there's policy's out there that have been very controversial. Can I ask that question?

>> Sure.

>> Is that allowed? And the short answer, and it's a really relevant question, it's one that I thought deeply about when I came out of the University of Michigan. In fact I was positive that I would not like the State Department, I would not last, and I'd probably be kicked out. Because again, I was Vietnam, Watergate, you know, I was a generation that hated our government, okay, to put it very diplomatically. And the answer is, I was so positive that I would run into this dilemma that I didn't think I'd be in the State Department long, I never did. You know, there were issues that administrations worked on, you know, ahead, that I didn't agree with, but I didn't work on them directly. And you know, and the stuff I was working on, I was basically pretty comfortable with. Okay, now ask your other question.

>> Okay. How do we evaluate success or progress when the focus is on outcomes, as you mentioned, and not measures which are often more quantifiable?

>> Okay, well this is where I want to put in a plug for the Ford School. I'm going to answer your question, and I'm not doing this because Susan's in the front row. Monitoring evaluation is something that you focus on here, and that's really, really important. And that's become increasingly important, but doing it right, is even more important. And I talked about the difference between outputs and outcomes, we need to focus on outcomes, not just outputs, not just the numbers that you can measure. And this is what institutions like the Ford School - I mean, we didn't have a Ford School when I was here, I would have died for a place like this, because you know, you bring the policy and the academic together, and to me that's what it's all about. You know, and I think that's why there is hope for the future. So how do you distinguish between the two? First of all, you focus on outcomes. Don't focus on just numbers that are outputs that are measurable statistics. And you allow for time. You allow - you don't set artificially short time delineations on measuring results. And not everything has a half-life of an administration. That's hard. That's really, really hard. But it's really, really important. And frankly, development, it's an intergenerational process. It's not something that's going to be all accomplished by this or the next administration. This is tough stuff, but this is where I think your generation can make a difference, and when you come, not just armed with a bunch of ideas, but with a solid academic underpinning to all of this, I think you have some real power. So get out there, you know, and do change the world. It needs a lot of changing, and I think you guys can do it.

[ Applause ]

>> Thank you very much, Ambassador Wiser, not just for your plug for the Ford School.

>> Miller; Miller. That was Wiser who introduced me. But that's okay.

>> So, thank you very much, Ambassador Tom Miller, for not just your plug for the Ford School and the university, but also for sharing your expertise and thoughtful perspectives which are really valuable for us. We do want to continue the conversation and hope that you'll stay with us and join us just outside the Ford School, this room and our great hall for a reception. I wanted to thank you for joining us today, I hope that you will come back to future policy talks, actually our next policy talk is September 22, and it will feature a conversation between former vice chair of the Federal Reserve, Roger Ferguson, and our very own, Justin Wolfers. But please visit our web page for the schedule for future events. We do have a class that will be starting here in - at 2:30, and so again, I invite you to join us out in the great hall to continue the conversation. I final round of thank to Ambassador Thomas Miller, and again we're really pleased and have valued hearing your perspective and your thoughtful remarks. Thank you.

[ Applause ]