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Cablegate: Feedback From the Baltic Countries On the Fy 2008

VZCZCXYZ0015
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHC #1787 1851635
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 031639Z JUL 08
FM SECSTATE WASHDC
TO RUEHRA/AMEMBASSY RIGA PRIORITY 0000
RUEHTL/AMEMBASSY TALLINN PRIORITY 0000
RUEHVL/AMEMBASSY VILNIUS PRIORITY 0000

UNCLAS STATE 071787

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EE LG LH AMGT EAID
SUBJECT: FEEDBACK FROM THE BALTIC COUNTRIES ON THE FY 2008
OPERATIONAL PLAN PROCESS

REF: RIGA 318

1. We would like to thank posts for their hard work in
completing FY 2008 Operational Plans (Op Plans). This was
the first year your posts completed Op Plans, and we
appreciate the efforts that went into this process.

2. The Op Plan process is a key aspect of the Secretary,s
foreign assistance reform, providing a comprehensive,
interagency picture of how resources received by posts will
be used to support assistance objectives and the
transformational diplomacy goal. This new process gives the
Secretary and the Department the tools to strategically
allocate resources to improve effectiveness, impact,
efficiency, and coordination. By providing details on
proposed activities, tactics, and results, the Op Plan
process provides the Department with the information needed
to refine and defend resource requests, inform the allocation
of appropriated funds, and explain to the Secretary,
Congress, OMB, and the public how the United States is
fostering progress in specific countries and toward achieving
regional and global objectives. To achieve these goals, the
Op Plan process must be comprehensive, covering all State
Department and USAID programs managed both by Washington and
in the field.

3. We appreciate posts, feedback on this year,s Op Plan
process. While we have made major changes to the Op Plan
process since its pilot year for FY 2007, including
significant reductions in the amount of data collected and a
streamlined review process, we continue to seek ways to
improve the process so as to both gather the data necessary
for the Department and minimize the burden on our posts and
USAID missions. This includes continuing to evaluate whether
we have struck the right balance for posts managing only
limited security assistance programs.

4. Realizing that posts going through the Op Plan process
for the first time would experience difficulty, we took
measures that would minimize the burden for posts:

-- In August 2007, all posts were asked to identify an Op
Plan coordinator who would be responsible for the development
of post,s plan, coordinating the work of the country team,
and interfacing with Washington staff on guidance,
troubleshooting, and questions (STATE 115037). We believe
that posts that did not identify coordinators until late in
the process had more difficulty completing their Op Plans.
Without identified coordinators, it is not clear that
tailored guidance and other assistance intended to make the
Op Plan process easier reached the appropriate staff at posts
when it would have been most helpful.

-- Given that posts around the world manage foreign aid
portfolios of widely divergent scales and complexities, we
recognized from the outset that a one-size-fits-all approach
would not be appropriate. Therefore, we provided
supplementary guidance for partner countries receiving only
military assistance (FMF and IMET). This guidance was
developed by the Bureau for Political-Military Affairs, with
input from the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), to
assist Security Assistance Officers, Defense Attaches, and
Political-Military Officers at post in completing an
abbreviated Op Plan for countries receiving only FMF and IMET
assistance. This guidance was available online and provided
to posts in mid-March.

-- Lastly, every post was assigned a point of contact in the
Office of the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance to help
posts navigate the Op Plan process. To the extent that posts
had difficulty in preparing their submissions, had questions
on guidance, or required assistance with the Op Plan
software, they were strongly encouraged to take advantage of
this resource. Additionally, Office of the Director of U.S.
Foreign Assistance staff held widely publicized weekly
conference calls in the month leading up to the Op Plan
submission deadline to help posts work through issues arising
with their plans.

5. As difficult as the preparation of the Op Plan has been
for many posts, we appreciate posts, support for the
Secretary,s goal of integrating assistance with policy goals
and ultimately providing better accountability to the
taxpayer. We believe that, having gone through the process
for the first time this year, posts will find it an easier
exercise in future years. But we will continue to look for
ways to ease the burden on posts and stand ready to provide
both improved guidance and direct technical assistance as
necessary.

6. Finally, we should note that the inclusion of SEED
'graduate' countries in the annual SEED report will be ended,
starting with the FY 2008 report. As a result, the three
Baltic posts will not be required to contribute to this
annual report this fall or in future years.
RICE

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