Meet the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, a really innovative idea from Secretary Clinton to reassess the big-picture questions about State Department/USAID strategy and identify resourcing shortfalls. So elegant in its simplicity that you wonder why no one proposed it earlier when lambasting the capabilities deficits of the State Department. If you’re concerned about moving American diplomatic and development work into the hinterlands of failed and failing states — where such expeditionary work can really fill critical host-nation governance shortcomings — this is quite an opportunity.

And to that end, it’s worth soliciting the views of the soldiers and marines who have had to fill American diplomatic and development capabilities shortfalls for the QDDR. Check out this guy’s suggestion at Clinton’s Friday townhall meeting at State:

My name is Alexander Edelman. I’m a contracted employee under IRM at the moment. As a former soldier, I noted during my time in the Army, that many of our field commanders have extensive diplomatic relations with their local counterparts. I was wondering if it was possible that there’s initiative to actually draw on that experience from the State Department point of view. And then also, possibly, to exchange it by sending Foreign Service subject matter experts and regional experts to deployment units or to pre-deployment units and to help brief them and get them ready for the challenges of non-kinetic warfare and their operations.

Words can’t express how great an idea that is. A lot of the experience base for innovative and nontraditional development and diplomatic work in non-permissive or semi-permissive environments isn’t in the State Department or USAID. It’s in the Army and the Marine Corps. Joint lessons-learned projects in places like the Office of the Coordinator for Stabilization and Reconstruction at State are a great way of distributing and expanding upon that hard-won experience.

Spencer Ackerman

Spencer Ackerman