WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton presented a blueprint Wednesday for change at the State Department that she said emphasized development, conflict prevention - and decreased use of contractors.
Among the plans are to increase cooperation with other federal agencies, undertake consolidation to eliminate duplication, and make new hires to improve efficiency. One newly created position would focus on the intersection of economic and political issues.
"We have tried to minimize costs and maximize impacts, avoiding overlap and duplication, and focus on delivering results," Clinton said in presenting the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review to employees of the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The plan calls for hiring 5,500 new personnel at the two agencies, creating new positions and consolidating others under a revamped leadership structure.
It also outlines a strategy to reduce the government's reliance on outside contractors, which has rapidly expanded over the last decade, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"There are core governmental functions that should always be performed by public servants, not private companies," Clinton said.
At USAID, the proposal calls for tripling the hiring of midlevel workers from 30 to 95 per year to reduce reliance on contractors. This aims to reverse the 38 percent decline in the agency's workforce between 1990 and 2007.
No price tag was associated with the changes, which are being presented as a new Congress prepares to be seated.
The plan, which will be implemented beginning Jan. 1, though parts of it will require congressional authorization, is meant to help the United States deal with foreign-policy challenges that cross borders, such as energy issues, Clinton said.
The department will focus its investments in key cross-border subjects such as food security, global health, and climate change, she said. Conflict prevention will be a core concern, she said.
The plan earned praise from Sam Worthington, president of InterAction, an alliance of U.S. nonprofit groups that focus on disaster relief, refugees, and development.
"For the first time, there's been an attempt to rationalize the role of U.S. diplomats and development officers around the world and how diplomacy and development advance U.S. national security," he said.
"The challenge in implementing the review is that the administration will in some areas need new resources" and some parts require congressional action, Worthington said in an interview.
Republican leaders, including Florida Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who will lead the Foreign Affairs Committee when her party takes control of the House in January, and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor, who will be majority leader, already have threatened to cut the State Department's budget.
The department's director of policy planning, Anne-Marie Slaughter, said the review should appeal to lawmakers from both parties because it was about improving the agency's performance.
"It's about doing things better: How can we work better? How can we streamline? How can we produce better results?" Slaughter said. "We're ready to work with Congress."
Many of the changes can be done independently, she added. "Well over 50 percent of what's in this report can be done without authorization" from Congress, Slaughter said.