Well, it’s about time. Both the broad strokes and the details of US development assistance, down to the specifics of what (or who) gets funded, is often a political football. Aid work, as with domestic policy work, will always be influenced by changes in the executive and legislative branches, but it should also be subject to scientific review and professional standards. But as long as development work is housed at State, I worry that that will not happen to the degree that it should. Of course, I am not certain that any single pending reform will make foreign assistance policy more evidence-based and less tainted by the ideological spin of administrations as they come and go, but it seems that some very serious reforms are under consideration, including taking aid work away away from the Department of State. That article (at Foreign Policy) discusses a draft paper (which is available at the website) that recommends moving aid out from under State:
One important section of the seven-page document would establish an interagency "development policy committee" -- moving the responsibility for coordinating U.S. policy on development out of the State Department.
At issue is whether Foggy Bottom should have the ultimate authority over development policy or whether oversight should be done by the new interagency body, which reports up to the president.
The draft document also calls for an overall review of U.S. development strategy every four years (separate from the QDDR), and the design of country and/or regional strategies to "organize U.S. engagement and inform resource allocation."
The idea of a government-wide, independent committee to oversee development is one that Senate Foreign Relations Committee heads John Kerry, D-MA, and Richard Lugar, R-IN, also support.
However, the draft would not allow for complete independence of US AID from State. Dr. Shah, for instance, would still report to Sec. Clinton, not President Obama; and the budget would still be (partially?) controlled by the State Department. One “development observer” interviewed by the Foreign Policy blog “The Cable” stated: "We're not hugely supportive of the USAID administrator reporting to the secretary of state, but a lot of this is largely positive in terms of strategy and overall direction." (Note that this is all very much a draft, but it is interesting to get a glimpse.)