Reform Plan Ludlam Hirschoff Part II Twenty Point Plan
From Peace Corps Wiki
|Intro:||Table of Contents and Executive Summary|
|Part I:||Plan to Strengthen and Expand the Peace Corps|
|Part II:||Twenty Point Plan|
|Part III:||Conclusion and Appendixes|
|Assessments & Reform Plans|
 Twenty Point Plan to Strengthen and Expand the Peace Corps
 Point One: Address the Three Peace Corps Funding Priorities
The 20 points in this plan are interrelated. Point One focuses on three budget priorities for the Peace Corps. President Obama has called repeatedly for doubling the number of Volunteers. But his success in securing the appropriations to fulfill this pledge will be contingent on the commitment and
Consistent with this view, the first budget priority for the Peace Corps should be to fund implementation of an ambitious plan to strengthen the Peace Corps; its second should be funding to reverse the recent cutbacks; and its third should be expansion.
The first step is to acknowledge that reform is the top priority. As we have seen with the 2008 Biennial Survey, few current Volunteers support expansion of the
Then the Peace Corps must present a budget that specifies the top reform priorities and the cost of each. We have presented such a budget to the House and Senate Appropriations Committee. See Appendix D. We project the cost of reform to be $31 million the first year. Our plan would include a) launching a strategy to reduce the high and costly ET rates; b) reimbursing Volunteers for their work-related expenses; c) reducing the ratio of country staff to Volunteers and strengthening site development and counterpart recruitment; d) strengthening language training to include written language materials and pod casts; e) strengthening medical support for Volunteers; f) utilizing the Internet to connect Volunteers worldwide and provide continuity among them; g) strengthening the agency’s management and financial staff; h) reconnecting RPCVs to the Peace Corps for lifelong service; i) increasing funding of Third Goal initiatives; and j) increasing reimbursements to applicants for required medical tests and implementing the IG’s proposed reforms of the medical screening process. Fortunately, many of the strengthening measures—instituting 360 degree reviews of programs and staff, reforming the out-of-site regulations, implementing new charitable donation rules, and protecting Volunteer rights—carry essentially no cost. Rather, implementation of these measures might yield substantial savings, for example, if the Peace Corps manages to reduce the high ET rate.
The reform plan budget that we have presented to the Congress demonstrates clearly that we support increased appropriations for the Peace Corps.
Addressing the Peace Corps’ funding shortfall of at least $18 million<ref name="ftn44">The Peace Corps has not revealed the baseline for calculating this $18 million shortfall. It could be a shortfall based on the FY08 appropriations ($330 million) or on some projection of the appropriations for FY09. </ref> should be the second budget priority. This budget crisis has caused the Peace Corps to eliminate 400 new trainees (10%) as well as to postpone, in some cases indefinitely, the deployment of Volunteers already approved. It has consolidated some of its recruiting offices in the U.S. and deferred the hiring of some new personnel overseas. It has asked its managers in Washington, and its 11 regional offices to reduce their budgets by 15.5%. Overseas, many of the Corps foreign posts are reducing spending by consolidating two or more employee positions into one and reducing time devoted to Volunteer training. These cutbacks—caused by the depreciation of the dollar and higher commodity (principally fuel) costs overseas—are reportedly just the beginning; the shortfall exceeds the current estimates. Coming soon are increases in Volunteer allowances, which represent approximately one-sixth of the overseas costs. Some have alleged that the Peace Corps has failed to adequately forecast these higher overseas expenses. Covering this budget shortfall would cost approximately $30 million per year.
The goal of expanding the number of Volunteers—the third budget priority—should first be accomplished organically. The first and most effective growth strategy is to reduce the high and costly ET rate among Volunteers, which runs at about 35% worldwide. The ET rate issue is discussed in depth below. It is realistic to believe that the rate of ETs could be cut in half. The most effective strategy to reduce the ET rate is to implement elements of this reform plan—giving Volunteers a better opportunity to achieve First Goal (development) results and listening to, respecting and empowering them. This is a growth strategy based on quality improvements.
The second organic way to grow the Peace Corps is to end the policy of eliminating one training slot for every Volunteer who extends for a third year of service. Those who extend tend to be the most productive and highly motivated, so growing the Corps with third-year Volunteers achieves several goals at once. Again, the best way to increase the number of Volunteers who seek to extend is to implement the elements of this reform plan, thus ensuring that the Peace Corps make investments in quality.
The most costly and least productive way to increase the number of Volunteers is to appropriate funds for additional slots without implementing fundamental reforms.
The logistics of expansion are critical. One central question is whether the supply of “qualified” applicants is sufficient to fuel expansion. Many mistakenly believe that for every Volunteer selected, the Peace Corps receives three applications from individuals who could become Volunteers. Inspector General (IG) Kotz, in a cautious statement, says, “In the last five years, the number of applicants the Office of Medical Services has medically qualified for service has exceeded the number of Volunteers requested by Peace Corps posts.”<ref name="ftn45">See http://www.rpcv.org/BillJosephsonPocantico.pdf The Inspector General also found that the agency’s dysfunctional medical clearance process had turned away “numerous” individuals. </ref> This statement makes a distinction between the total or gross number of applicants and the net number who meet the minimum standard (e.g. they have survived the medical clearance process). Only those who successfully complete the medical process<ref name="ftn46">Applicants must also survive “legal clearance,” which includes a check to see if the applicant has a criminal record and if the applicant has any outstanding financial obligations—pending bankruptcy filings or pending legal actions for breach of contract—that cannot be managed if they serve as a Volunteer. They must also be U.S. citizens and 18 years of age.</ref> are eligible to be invited to serve as Volunteers. Only they are “qualified.” It appears that the references to the three to one ratio applies to the gross—not the net—number of applicants. This is critical because so many applicants do not, in fact, survive the medical and legal clearance process and are not “qualified.” They cannot become Volunteers.
Applicants who meet the minimum standards and become “qualified” are almost certain to be invited to train to become Volunteers. Here are the statistics regarding the net number of “qualified” applicants compared to the number invited to training:
* In FY 2007 the Peace Corps reports that it received 11,108 applications, but only 4,588 survived the medical and legal clearance process to become “qualified.” Of this pool, 4,408 were invited to training. This means that of this pool of “qualified” applicants, all but 180 or 96% were invited to training. The ratio of those who were medically and legally cleared to those who were invited to training was 1.04 to 1.
* In FY 2008 the Peace Corps reports that it received 13,041 applications, but only 4,265 survived the medical and legal clearance process to become “qualified.” Of this pool, 4,123 were invited to training. This means that from this pool of “qualified” applicant, all but 142 or 96.7% were invited to training. The ratio of those who were medically cleared to those who were invited to training was 1.03 to 1.<ref name="ftn47">In processing our request, the Peace Corps stated that it did not have these statistics and would have to generate them from scratch, stating that this would require our covering its costs ($184). It’s hard to imagine that the Peace Corps was not generating these elemental statistics about its selection of Volunteers, but given the importance of these statistics, we absorbed the costs.</ref> <ref name="ftn48">The ratio of applicants to trainees used to be quite high. In 1962 there were 20,058 applicants for 4,421 trainees; in 1963 33,762 for 4,951; in 1964 45,653 for 8,085; in 1965 42,125 for 8,742; in 1966 42,246 for 11,230; in 1967 35,229 for 8,628; in 1968 30,450 for 7,735; in 1969 24,229 for 5,563; in 1970 19,022 for 4,450; and in 1971 26,534 for 4,692. All told from 1961—71 there were 331,952 applicants, 69,410 registered for training (21%)—a ratio of five applicants for every trainee. We do not know if this was the gross number of applicants or the net number who have survived the medical and legal clearance process. See http://peacecorpswiki.org/Early_Termination#Historical_ET_Rates</ref>
These statistics mean that if applicants survive the entire application process, including medical and legal clearance, they are not then compared to other “qualified” applicants to determine which of them is the most qualified. Rather, in almost all cases, applicants who survive the clearance process are invited to train as Volunteers. The Peace Corps rejects essentially none of these survivors. There is, therefore, no surplus of applicants who survive the medical and legal clearance process who are not invited to training. This makes it difficult or impossible for the Peace Corps to draw on a surplus of “qualified” applicants to fuel a rapid expansion of the number of individuals who are invited to training.
The perspective of a former Peace Corps recruiter is relevant here. This recruiter observed,
Although not specifically told to do so, we were encouraged to accept all applicants for recommendation for nomination. That recommendation would go to the regional office that would then nominate the applicant, with Headquarters approval. The quality of the applicants was widespread, but in the whole year I only not recommended one applicant, with agreement from the regional office. [I even recommended one individual who]…in answer to the question of “what motivates you to seek a service position, as a Peace Corps Volunteer,” had said, “It's my senior year and I couldn't find a job, so I figured I'd try the Peace Corps.” It was all about the numbers, both in reaching the quota [set for each school] and in accepting all viable candidates that met the minimum standards. At the end of the year we had the final meeting of what was accomplished and what to look forward to for the next year with the new recruiter. It was then that I mentioned the shock I had on the quality of applicants we had throughout the year that we were encouraged to recommend, in which the reply came, “Let us worry about the quantity and DC [Headquarters] worry about quality.” I am almost certain all those who were nominated, pending no medical and legal complication, were all invited to serve. For some it is a chance of a lifetime; for others it's more of a “Well, I can always join the Peace Corps” type mentality.<ref name="ftn49">Robert Strauss, a former Peace Corps Country Director, states, "The Peace Corps claims that about 1 in 3 applicants eventually becomes a volunteer, implying that the agency is about as selective as many “elite” schools in the United States. Not long ago, the figure commonly cited was 1 in 7. Either way, the truth is that so long as applicants meet the minimum standards and are healthy and persistent, the Peace Corps rarely rejects them outright. Each group sent overseas includes a few highly motivated and capable individuals—and then there are the vast majority who before joining the Peace Corps weren’t sure what to do with their lives, were fresh out of school and seeking a government-subsidized travel experience or something to bolster their résumé, or for whom the Peace Corps represented a chance to escape a humdrum life or recent divorce. Once overseas, the chances of being kicked out are slim. I queried my fellow country directors in Africa to find out how many trainees they had sent packing due to unacceptable performance. The figure was less than 2 percent a year, meaning that once accepted, an individual—qualified or not, motivated or not—is pretty much assured of sticking around."</ref>
This emphasis on numbers is what one would expect when the ratio of “qualified” applicants to training slots is roughly one to one. If the recruiters were more selective, the ratio would be less than one to one, and the Peace Corps would fail to fill the available trainee slots. With this emphasis on quantity rather than quality, the high ET rate is not surprising.
For the Peace Corps to tout a 3-for-1 ratio while ignoring the impact of the medical and legal clearance processes is like touting a 3-for-1 ratio when two of three applicants are not U.S. citizens, a minimum requirement for service as a Volunteer. It’s like a website touting “hits” rather than “sales” (let alone profits) or a marathoner touting starts rather finishes (let alone times).
With essentially no surplus in (minimally) “qualified” applicants, it is not possible for the Peace Corps to implement another critical initiative—improving the quality of the Volunteers. Saying that an applicant is “qualified” means nothing more than that he or she survived the medical and legal clearance process. The Peace Corps has a worldwide 35% ET rate (see below). This seems to indicate that it is inviting too many individuals to training who lack sufficient commitment to grassroots development or cross-cultural immersion.
Presumably when the Peace Corps nominates or invites an individual to become a Peace Corps Volunteer, the agency has high confidence in the motivation and qualifications of the individual applicant. Yet, here’s what happens after applicants are nominated to be Volunteers or invited to training:
* In FY 2007, 2,746 of the applicants who were nominated did not survive the medical and legal clearance process. In FY 2008, 4,129 did not.
* In FY 2007, 244 of the “qualified” applicants (who had survived the medical and legal process) did not accept the invitation to training. In FY 2008, 604 did not.* In FY 2007, 245 of those who accepted the invitation to training did not, in fact, begin training. In FY 2008, 1,241 did not.* In FY 2007, 305 of those who began training did not complete it to be sworn in as Volunteers. In FY 2008, 733 did not.These drop offs at each stage of the process after the nomination and invitation indicate that issuing nominations and invitations indiscriminately is a poor strategy for picking those who will survive medical and legal screening or training. Surely it’s no better at selecting those who will thrive as effective Volunteers for the full term of their service.
To improve the quality and staying power of the Volunteers, the Peace Corps needs a ratio of (minimally) “qualified” applicants to trainees that is substantially greater than one to one. Teach for America takes only 12.5% (eight to one: 30,000 applicants for 3,800 positions)<ref name="ftn50">Reports are that 11% of the graduates of the Ivy League and 35% of the African American graduates of Harvard applied to Teach for America.</ref> of those who apply and it sets high quality standards in choosing from among the applicants.<ref name="ftn51">Teach for America says “we view applicants holistically by looking for evidence of: a) Demonstrated past achievement: achieving ambitious, measurable results in academics, extracurriculars, and/or work leadership; b) Perseverance in the face of challenges; c) Strong critical thinking skills: making accurate linkages between cause and effect and generating relevant solutions to problems; d) Ability to influence and motivate others; e) Organizational ability: planning well, meeting deadlines, and working efficiently; f) Understanding of and desiring to work relentlessly in pursuit of our vision; and g) Respect for students and families in low-income communities.” It also seeks “evidence that applicants operate with professionalism and integrity, and meet basic writing standards.” The Peace Corps sets no such standards.</ref> Ideally the Peace Corps would achieve at least a three-to-one ratio and set similar high standards. Then, when it has three qualified applicants, it can select the one that is the most qualified. Surviving the medical and legal screening process should be the minimum qualification, not a more or less certain ticket to an invitation to train as a Volunteer.
The number of applicants has reportedly increased recently in response to the election of President Obama and the economic downturn.<ref name="ftn52">With regard to the invitation to serve as a Volunteer, the Peace Corps needs to pay better attention to the form, not just the substance. In a blog posting on May 12, 2009, Alison Boland said she’d sent a letter to President Obama saying, “I am joining the Peace Corps. I will be leaving for my 27-month stint in Mongolia on June 11. I am extremely excited to become a part of this program and nothing makes me happier than knowing that I am serving my country in a way that you fully support! When I received my invitation packet in April, it included a welcome letter from the President. I understand that it takes time to get all of these things updated, but I was a little bit disappointed to see that it was still a letter from George W. Bush. I know that you are very very VERY busy with all the important problems of the world, but I am writing to request that, when you are able to get around to updating the Peace Corps welcome letter, can you have it sent to all the people currently serving as well? Or just make it a Youtube video and send us the link! You were a big motivation for my decision to join the Peace Corps and it would make me (and I'm sure many other PCVs) extremely happy to receive a letter of welcome from you. I'm really glad you're my president and it's an honor to be embarking on this journey under your administration! P.S. If, by any chance, you're in Los Angeles on June 11, do you think you could make time to stop by our orientation event? It would make my year (and this is going to be a pretty exciting one.”</ref> Because the application process takes approximately a year, we will not know whether this surge alters the ratio of nominees who survive the medical and legal clearance process to the invitees to training. The question remains how many of them will meet the minimum qualifications. Then we can see if the Peace Corps can and will become selective among those who meet the minimum qualifications. If applications are up because young people can’t find jobs on Wall Street as investment bankers, they do not necessarily have the appropriate motivation to serve as Volunteers in a cross-cultural immersion setting with impoverished villagers. A surge in applications may indicate only that these applicants have no other feasible alternatives. Inviting them to train as Volunteers seems to be a prescription to continue or even exacerbate the high ET rate and malaise among Volunteers.
If the Peace Corps becomes selective, it will be important to see on what basis it chooses among the minimally qualified applicants. Will it select in favor of applicants with demonstrated commitments to international grassroots development service and cross-culture engagement and, if so, how will it measure these commitments?
The authors hear complaints from CDs and staff about the values and expectations of the Volunteers. But it is the Peace Corps that selects the Volunteers; they are not foisted on the agency by some third party. When problems arise with the quality of the Volunteers, it’s hypocritical of the Peace Corps staff to complain. The best response for the agency is to increase the ratio of applicants who meet the minimum qualifications and then to be very selective. The best way to augment the number of these applicants is for the Peace Corps to burnish its reputation by providing Volunteers with a reasonable opportunity to achieve sustainable development results, a high quality cross-cultural immersion, and strong site preparation, training and support—all issues addressed in detail in this plan.
Another benefit of achieving at least a three to one ratio would be to enable the Peace Corps to more carefully match the background and interests of the applicants to their country and program assignment. Applicants’ preferences and skills are often ignored in the placement process. If applicants speak French, they should be sent to French-speaking countries. If they are teachers or environmentalists, their assignment should match those skills. If the Peace Corps cannot make a reasonable match, it should be honest and tell the applicants, rather than persuading them to accept inappropriate matches. Surely, reducing the number of mismatches would reduce the number of early terminations. But reducing the number of mismatches is possible only if the ratio is increased.
In terms of mismatches, one key statistic is the number of switches that occur between the time an applicant is “nominated” to serve as a Volunteer and the time the applicant is “invited” to serve. Applicants are “nominated” to serve in a program sector, say “small business,” and a region, say “Africa.” Then they accept the nomination and rely on it as they undergo the medical and legal clearances. If they survive these clearances, they are invited to serve in a specific country and program at a specific time, say “Agriculture, Romania, July 2009.” Approximately 40% of the applicants are invited to serve in a program or region that is different from that they were told when they were nominated to serve. After applicants are invited to a program and region, Peace Corps sometimes surprises them further by shifting them to programs or regions that do not match their interests or experience. When they receive their invitations, they are given a “take it or leave it” period of 10 days to consider the invitation.<ref name="ftn53">In some cases the invitations change because the nominee has a medical condition that cannot be accommodated in the program and region specified in the nomination. The same also holds true for time constraints or political situations arising in the original country of nomination. Also, when the nomination is made, the Peace Corps has in mind a specific program and a specific country and if that changes, than it’s included in the 40% figure even if the program, say small business, and region, say Africa, remain the same as communicated to the nominee.</ref> If the ratio is increased, the Peace Corps should be able to reduce the number of switches and surprise fewer applicants.<ref name="ftn54">A related issue, discussed below, is the number of Volunteers who, after they are invited to serve as Volunteers and begin training, are switched to another program. </ref>
Assuming that the Peace Corps demonstrates its commitment to reform and attracts more qualified applicants, the Peace Corps must prepare a strategic plan including an assessment, country-by-country and year-by-year, of the costs and implementation requirements of such an expansion.<ref name="ftn55">One especially useful resource for planning and implementing this expansion is “Scaling Up—From Vision to Large-scale Change: A Management Framework for Practitioners,” by Larry Cooley and Richard Kohl of Management Systems Incorporated (March 2006). The report, funded by the MacArthur Foundation, create a manual to scale up programs in communities and villages that are exemplary so they are not "lost." The report is a field-tested framework and set of guidelines to improve management of the scaling-up process. This framework was intended to be of direct and immediate use to those planning, implementing, and funding pilot projects and to those hoping to take the results of such projects to scale. Founded in 1981, MSI is a woman-owned consulting firm located in Washington, D.C., and serving clients worldwide. MSI provides management consulting services to local organizations, foundations and international donor agencies in a number of areas including Managing Policy Change; Planning, Measurement and Evaluation; Institutional Development; and Training. This publication may be found electronically at http://www.msiworldwide.com/documents/ScalingUp.pdf</ref> This has never done this before. This plan must specify how many additional staff would need to be hired, and the impact on training, site placement, and Volunteer safety and support, and the needed expansion of facilities. The plan should consider increasing the number of Volunteers in countries where they currently serve as well as launching or re-launching programs in new countries. Expansion of the current “Friendship Volunteer” program in China should be a high priority.
If and when the Peace Corps expands, it should focus the expansion in the countries that have demonstrated an exceptional ability to manage Volunteers. We have specified the criteria that should be used in identifying these countries in our proposals to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees (see Appendix D) as follows:
a. The non-medical ET rate is well below the worldwide average.
b. The extension rate is well above the worldwide average.
c. The ratings of the managers and programs in the 2008 Biennial Survey of Volunteers is among the top 15%.
d. The ratio of APCDs and PCMOs to Volunteers is reduced and the other staff slots—Administrative Officers—and resources are appropriately increased to accommodate the additional Volunteers.
e. The CD establishes a program for 360 degree confidential reviews of programs and staff and publishes the results of these reviews to Headquarters and the Volunteers currently serving in that program.
There should be no expansion in countries that do not meet this standard.
In terms of expanding into new countries, advocates for Peace Corps expansion often claim that there are “20 countries” requesting Peace Corps programs. The list of these countries has not been made public so we cannot know if it’s a realistic and up-to-date list.<ref name="ftn56">The authors filed a FOIA request for the list of these countries on July 5, 2009, which was denied on July 20. The denial ruling was, “The information is not available and is being withheld in full pursuant to 5 U.S.C. § 552 exemption (b)(5). This document was prepared for Peace Corps staff and is intended for internal use only.” The (b)(5) exemption from disclosure applies to “inter-agency or intra-agency memorandums or letters which would not be available by law to a party other than an agency in litigation with the agency.” Given the fact that Acting Peace Corps Director Jody Olsen has touted this list—in her interview with the Los Angeles Times of June 2, 2009 (http://articles.latimes.com/2009/jun/02/world/fg-peacecorps2?pg=2)—as justifying increased Peace Corps appropriations, it’s clear that the list no longer exists solely for internal use at the Peace Corps. The facts cited by Ms. Olsen have become central to the legislative and public debate about increased appropriations for the agency. The Peace Corps has, in effect, waived any right it may have had to conceal the list. Accordingly, on July 20 we have filed an appeal from the denial of our request.</ref> The list may include stale requests or requests from countries where the safety of Volunteers cannot be maintained. In its Fiscal 09 budget justification, the Peace Corps proposed to field Volunteers in “79 countries” with the expansion occurring “primarily in programs in existing countries, along with three proposed new country entries." See the discussion of this list below with regard to the Senate FY 2010 appropriation for the Peace Corps.
In determining whether and where to expand, the Peace Corps should set standards for determining which countries are best suited for Volunteers. The fact that a country requests that a Peace Corps program be launched or re-launched is not remotely sufficient to justify doing so. The Peace Corps should much better assess which countries most need its services and are most committed to development and utilization of the Volunteers. The Peace Corps is active in 10 countries with “high human development,” 49 with “medium human development,” and 11 with “low human development.” The Peace Corps’ development impact would be maximized if it concentrated its resources in the world’s poorest countries and those facing a humanitarian crisis.<ref name="ftn57">The PCIEA requires that the strategic plan resulting from the assessments include “Strategies for—(i) distributing volunteers to countries in which they have maximum value-added for the host country, for the United States, and for the volunteers themselves; (ii) identifying countries with strategic value to Peace Corps goals, currently not served or dormant, and proposals for starting new country programs or re-activating dormant programs, as well as countries with less strategic relevance to Peace Corps goals, including proposals for reducing or closing such country programs; (iii) balancing the Peace Corps’ independence with its need to remain relevant to broader United States foreign goals; and (iv) ensuring that Peace Corps operations and goals are not adversely affected in situations where the bilateral relationship between the host country and the United States is problematic.” In addition, the PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “the distribution of Peace Corps volunteers in country programs, including how and why volunteers are assigned to various countries and jurisdictions within countries…” We have proposed that the Peace Corps also be called upon to assess the “standards that determine in which countries Peace Corps programs should be established or expanded and in which countries existing programs should be terminated.”</ref> Countries should be asked about their commitments to support the Volunteers—say in assisting with the recruitment of able counterparts and providing Volunteers with seed funding for projects. In addition, the Peace Corps should set an exit strategy for ending programs in countries that advance in their development. The results of the 2008 Biennial Survey indicate that Volunteers in better developed countries often question whether these programs should be continued.
It will cost about $30 million in the first year to plan for this expansion, begin to hire the additional headquarters staff and support and training staff, expand office and training facilities, prepare sites, and recruit counterparts.
To summarize, the Peace Corps needs a first-year increase of roughly one-third in appropriations—about $90 million. A total of $30 million of this increase would go for strengthening; $30 million, to cover the budget shortfall; and $30 million, to prepare for expansion. The increases would then need to be sustained over the long term. This is what we support.
The ultimate cost of doubling the number of Volunteers is uncertain. In the fall of 2008 the Peace Corps management presented to Congress estimates of the cost. (Senators Kennedy and Hatch had requested the estimates during the drafting of the Serve America Act legislation.) The estimates were that doubling would raise the expenses of the Peace Corps from about $330 million (FY08 estimate) to $450 million (FY09), $560 million (FY10), $625 million (FY11), $750 million (FY12), and $925 million (FY13). These were the costs for a plan to double the number of Volunteers by 2013. This estimate projects significantly higher expenses than have been presented on the Hill. For example, the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA proposed to raise the authorization—to achieve doubling—from $336 million (FY08) to $380 million (FY09), $450 million (FY10), and $618 million (FY11). The Peace Corps Expansion Act introduced in 2009 by Congressman Sam Farr (H.R. 1066) would raise the authorization—to achieve doubling—to $450 million (FY10), $600 million (FY11) and $750 million (FY12). The Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA and Farr bills see the cost of doubling to be roughly double the current budget (rising to $750 million). The Peace Corps estimates that the cost of doubling would require a tripling of the current Peace Corps budget (rising to $925 million). This higher estimate is apparently based on the expenses associated with reconfiguring the Peace Corps offices to accommodate an increase in the staff necessary to manage the increased number of Volunteers.
The Peace Corps did not learn how much it would secure in appropriations for FY 2009 until March 11, 2009. The FY 2009 fiscal year began on October 1, 2008, and most of the government operated under a “continuing resolution” (CR) at the previous year’s funding levels until the final appropriations bill was enacted. (Public Law 111-8; HR 1105). Part of the delay was caused by the focus of the Congress on enacting the economic stimulus bill. The FY08 appropriations for the Peace Corps were $330 million and President Bush asked for $343 million for FY09. The Senate Appropriations Committee has reported a bill calling for $337 million for the Peace Corps. The final appropriations were $340 million. It appears as if the delay in the confirmation of the new Peace Corps leaders handicapped the Peace Corps in securing adequate FY2009 appropriations.
President Bush did not present a budget for FY10. This means that President Obama was forced to develop his FY10 budget from scratch, an urgent and monumental undertaking. The normal budget process for FY10 should have begun well before the end of FY08 (during the summer of 2008). His plan unveiled on February 27 stated only that he wanted to “expand goodwill and inspire service by increasing the size of the Peace Corps,” but provided no specific appropriation.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/assets/fy2010_new_era/Department_of_State_and_Other_International_Programs1.pdf In May 2009 President Obama presented more details regarding his proposed budget for the Peace Corps—calling for a $36 million increase for FY 2010 for the Peace Corps, taking the Peace Corps appropriations to $373 million. See pages 868-869 of the appendix to the President’s FY 2010 budget at http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/budget/fy2010/assets/sta.pdf. We will see additional details when the Peace Corps releases its final Congressional Budget Justification for FY 2010, but it appears that much of the increase will go to institution building, not rapid expansion of the corps of Volunteers. The President states that the $36 million increase will increase Volunteer numbers, recruitment efforts and the entry of the Peace Corps into new countries in order to have 9,000 Americans enrolled in the Peace Corps by the end of FY 2012 and 11,000 by the end of FY 2016, but this seems implausible.
On May 20, 2009, the House Foreign Affairs Committee reported an authorization bill for U.S. foreign operations (H.R. 2410) that includes an authorization for Peace Corps appropriations for FY 2010 of $400 million and FY 2011 of $450 million. On June 17 the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee reported an appropriations bill providing for $450 million for the Peace Corps for FY 2010 (H.R. 3081). On July 9 during consideration of this bill on the House floor, Republican Congressman Cliff Stearns offered an amendment to hold the appropriation for the Peace Corps to the level recommended by President Obama ($373 million vs. $450 million in the Committee bill). Stearns argued,
This is a bipartisan amendment. The President has requested $373 million be allocated to the Peace Corps under the State-Foreign Operations bill and related appropriations. The [subcommittee chair] should realize, all my amendment does is ensure that we fund the Peace Corps at simply the level the President requested. So when you look at this amendment, it's really an President Obama-Stearns amendment…[I]t's obvious that the [subcommittee chair] does not agree with her President.
Rising in defense of the $77 million bump up from the President’s request were RPCV Representatives Farr and Driehaus and Representative McCollum. The Stearns amendment lost on a near party-line vote of 172-259 (Roll Call vote 518)<ref name="ftn58">Thirteen Democrats voted for the Stearns amendment and seventeen Republicans voted for the committee bill. Half of the Republican members of Representative Lowey’s subcommittee voted for the Stearns amendment and against the committee appropriation for the Peace Corps. Representative Kay Granger, Ranking Republican on the subcommittee, missed the vote.</ref> indicating that the appropriations for the Peace Corps may have become a partisan issue.<ref name="ftn59">The House report on H.R. 3081 “directs the Comptroller General of the Government Accountability Office to conduct an assessment of Peace Corps recruitment, selection, field placement, retention and management practices, as well as steps required to expand the number of volunteers while ensuring volunteer and management quality. This comprehensive review should assess and include recommendations for improvement in: the Agency's ability to recruit, train, equip, deploy, retain and sustain skilled volunteers for the duration of their service term [apparently a reference to the agency’s high early termination rate]; the Agency's mechanisms for recruiting qualified skilled volunteers and matching those with country requested skills; the process for evaluating the performance of its managers in accordance with federally accepted standards [apparently a reference to 360 degree reviews]; and the Agency's ability to absorb an increase in volunteers.” House Report 111-187. There is no deadline put on the submission of this report by the GAO.</ref>
In stark contrast to the action in the House, the Senate Appropriations Committee supported President Obama’s request for $373 million for the Peace Corps (See S. 1434).<ref name="ftn60">The Senate committee bill requires that “not later than 180 days after enactment of this Act, the Director of the Peace Corps shall submit a report to the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Relations of the Senate, and the Committees on Appropriations and Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, consistent with the requirements of section 3 of the Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act of 2009 (S. 1382), as introduced in the Senate on June 25, 2009.” The clock starts when this “Act”—the appropriations bill—is enacted, not when a new Director is confirmed.</ref> In the report accompanying the legislation, the Committee stated
The Committee strongly supports the mission of the Peace Corps, which can be as relevant today in promoting American values abroad as it was when it was founded almost a half century ago. But the world has changed significantly since then, and the Peace Corps needs to adapt to the 21st century. Past efforts by the Committee to encourage the Peace Corps to reform and make better use of resources have been ignored. A new Director with a new vision, who recognizes the need for reform, supports transparency and seeks a constructive relationship with Congress, is urgently needed. The Committee is aware that some have called for a large increase in funding above the amount requested by the President for fiscal year 2010, in order to send volunteers to new countries. Very few of such countries are safe enough or otherwise ready to host volunteers, and there are hundreds of volunteers currently serving in countries with little if any strategic importance to the United States who could be used more effectively. The Committee expects to recommend additional increases in funding to support the goal of doubling the Peace Corps, including sending more volunteers to countries with large Muslim populations, once it is clear that a new Director is providing the leadership the Peace Corps needs. (See Senate Report 111-44).
The Senate Committee bill must now go to the full Senate. It will be interesting to see if Senator Dodd will mount a challenge to the Leahy bill. If this happens, we may see a full-blown debate about the Peace Corps.
Assuming that the Senate bill is not modified, it is not clear how the House and Senate will reconcile these two views of the Peace Corps involving a $77 million difference in the appropriations. The House and Senate commonly split the difference between their bills, which would yield an appropriation of $412 million. It’s also common that the House and Senate do not complete work on each separate appropriations bill, instead wrapping many into one bill, a “continuing resolution.” Also, the House requests a GAO investigation and the Senate requests that the Peace Corps itself prepare a report (using the new Dodd PCIEA as the point of reference). It’s possible that both reports will be required.
Over the long term, one additional consideration may affect Peace Corps appropriations, namely competition for appropriations from a new international service program enacted into law as part of the Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act—Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP). It would place volunteers with NGOs and provide matching funding to the volunteers. It was included in the Kennedy/Hatch national service legislation. See Public Law 111-13, S. 3487 in the 110th Congress and S. 277 in the 111th. The authorization for the VfP program is $10 million for Fiscal Years 2009-2013 ($50 million total). The appropriations to launch this program will come through the same House and Senate appropriations subcommittee that funds the Peace Corps. The Nineteenth Point in this plan focuses on the competition that these new programs may pose for the Peace Corps.
 Point Two: Make Listening the Hallmark of Peace Corps Culture
Listening should be the most important value in the Peace Corps culture. The Volunteers listen to the aspirations of the host country nationals with whom they serve, learning how to help them help themselves to achieve sustainable results. In turn, the Peace Corps managers should listen to the Volunteers, supporting and empowering them as agents of development and cross-cultural exchange. Managers should understand that site-by-site and program-by-program Volunteers understand, better than anyone, the opportunities, strengths, and weaknesses of the Peace Corps. This means that listening to the Volunteers—about what works and what doesn’t, who helps and who doesn’t—is the best way to enhance the development and cross-cultural results of the Peace Corps.
The principal option available to the Peace Corps for listening to and respecting Volunteers is 360 degree reviews that would enable Volunteers to confidentially review the performance of their managers and the design and implementation of the programs (e.g. agriculture, small business, health) in which they serve.<ref name="ftn61">Dr. Steven J. Noble (RPCV Tunisia, 68-70), is an expert on 360 degree reviews. He is Managing Director, Noble Consulting Associates, Inc. (www.Sjnobleconsulting.com) and can be contacted at Sjnoble@optonline.net and 516/524-0126.</ref> These reviews by Volunteers are the mirror image of the manager reviews of Volunteers that already take place. These 360 reviews are comprehensive and include feedback from employees (or in this case Volunteers), peers and supervisors as well as the manager’s own self-assessment. The objective is to compare self-perceptions with perceptions of each constituency. The reviews of the Volunteers are “upward feedback,” an essential part of a 360 degree review. These mechanisms hold managers accountable, sensitize them to the views of their principal clients (the Volunteers), and continually improve program design and implementation. Confidentiality is critical to ensure that the Volunteers, most of whom are young, will speak openly and honestly.
A former CD in West Africa emailed to say: "Reviews of staff (360 reviews) are standard in the private sector, why not the public sector?" But his positive response may be atypical. The Peace Corps managers may argue that such reviews will undermine their authority to discipline the Volunteers. They may remark, "What do these young people know about management?" Further arguments might be that the system would reduce management to a popularity contest or prevent them from recruiting good managers. They might complain that it's inconsistent with the culture of host country nationals to be openly criticized by “lower ranking” individuals. Those in authority may resist being held accountable. They may want to be free to exercise their power. Naturally, they want the minimum of uncertainty about their job tenure. So it's understandable that they may resist Volunteer input in their personnel reviews.
These 360 degree reviews can be a critical tool to improve the overall effectiveness of the Peace Corps, as explained in the context of a company. Private companies have traditionally operated as pyramidal organizations with a chief executive at the top, fanning out through the management levels to the workers at the bottom. More enlightened companies have started organizing with the pyramid inverted: chief executive at the bottom and workers at the top. This emphasizes the idea that each level of management exists to support the level above it in the chart. In other words, managers aren't there to crack the whip to ensure their staff works hard. Instead, their purpose is to establish an environment in which their direct staff performs effectively.
The logic behind 360 degree reviews is that the people being supervised have a unique perspective on their supervisor’s skills, which should be incorporated into any assessment of the supervisor. They may be thought of as the primary “customers” of the manager’s work; that is, subordinates receive—and are in a good position to evaluate—their supervisor’s support. We want supervisors to see that their customers are the Volunteers and the supervisors need to solicit and respect their views. Cracking the whip never works well with Volunteers.
These reviews are only as good as their application, especially the means by which the information is communicated to those who are rated. Their fundamental purpose is to improve management performance, not to inflict punishment. That means that the supervisors of those who are rated need to be competent to use the feedback (ratings and comments) to coach their subordinate supervisors/managers, reinforcing strengths and targeting needed improvements. In other words, the data from 360 degree reviews needs to be used to enhance performance.
These mechanisms will have the combined effect of shifting power from managers to the Volunteers, from headquarters to the country posts, and from the political appointees to the competitive staff. Prounelle’s Iron Law of Bureaucracy holds that bureaucrats will defend their self-interests even if this is inconsistent with the mission of the entity; thus, managers, headquarters staff, and political appointees may resist these reviews.
 Section 201
Section 201 of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA called on the Peace Corps to establish 360 degree review mechanisms for both personnel and programs.<ref name="ftn62">Regarding personnel reviews, Section 201 states, “The Director of the Peace Corps shall establish a mechanism for soliciting the views of Peace Corps volunteers serving in country regarding the support provided by senior staff. The information shall be kept confidential and reported to the appropriate Regional Peace Corps Directors…The information collected pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be given appropriate weight in the decision making process with respect to the extension of contracts for Country Directors, Chief Administrative Officers, Peace Corps Medical Officers, and Associate Peace Corps Directors.” Regarding program reviews this section states, “The Director of the Peace Corps shall establish a mechanism for soliciting the views of Peace Corps volunteers serving in country regarding the design, effectiveness, and continued need for the programs in which they serve. The information shall be kept confidential and reported to the appropriate Regional Peace Corps Directors…The information collected pursuant to paragraph (1) shall be given appropriate weight in the decision making process with respect to the design of, and continued need for, Peace Corps programs.”</ref> If the Peace Corps does so, it would still be useful to enact this provision into law to ensure that it remains a permanent part of the Peace Corps culture. Managers do not always appreciate the value of these mechanisms or the reviews they receive and over time they are likely to put pressure on the Peace Corps Director to water down or eliminate them.
 Section 203
The Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA stated that the 360 degree reviews should be given "appropriate weight.” Yet in Section 203 of the PCVEA—focusing on Volunteer recommendations regarding sites and training—the legislation provides that the views of the Volunteers shall have "substantial weight." Effective management and support of Volunteers is the single most relevant measure of staff performance, which should lead the Peace Corps to give these reviews substantial weight.<ref name="ftn63">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “mechanisms for soliciting the views of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps, on a confidential basis, regarding—(i) the support provided to such volunteers by senior staff of the Peace Corps; and (ii) the operations of the Peace Corps, including—(I) staffing decisions; (II) site selection; (III) language training;
(IV) country programs; and (V) dialogue with host country partners and ministries” and “mechanisms for incorporating the[se] views…into programming and management decisions of the Peace Corps.” We have proposed that this assessment focus on “strategies for developing and utilizing substantial written and electronic language curriculum materials designed to facilitate the learning of foreign languages by Peace Corps volunteers.”</ref>
The Peace Corps should also consider establishing similar 360 degree review mechanisms to enable country post personnel—CDs, AOs, PCMOs, and APCDs—to provide confidential reviews of the headquarters staff to hold them accountable, reduce the burdens that headquarters imposes on the country staff, and augment headquarters’ support of the country staff. Headquarters staff from the competitive service should be given the opportunity to confidentially review the agency’s political appointees. The Peace Corps Director should not be immune from these reviews.
Finally, regardless of whether the Peace Corps institutes 360 degree reviews, the Volunteers themselves may establish their own system for holding managers accountable via the Internet. As the Peace Corps begins to connect Volunteers to each other, it will find the Volunteers speaking out more forcefully and in concert due to the power of the Internet. The Internet is enabling individuals to organize themselves in groups for concerted action. “Word of mouth” power has exploded. Power is fast devolving from institutions to individuals who demand to be heard and respected. Individuals can now “shop around” in ways that hold institutions unsparingly accountable for performance, results and service.
With Volunteers increasingly finding their voice through the democratizing power of the Internet, it is likely that they will establish a Zagat-like system that will publish Volunteer reviews of Peace Corps managers and programs.
RateMyTeachers.com—with its 10 million reviews of elementary and secondary teachers at 55,000 schools—provides a template for establishing RateMyPeaceCorps.com. RateMyTeacher.com has set strict rating rules,<ref name="ftn64">These rules include a ban on statements of opinion about facts, vulgar or profane words, statements of a sexual nature or about personal appearance, name calling, and any references to mental capacity, alcohol or drug use, possible law violations, race, religion, ethnic background, sexual orientation, age, or personal life. Any threat to a teacher is reported to law enforcement authorities. Similar rules should be applied to RateMyPeaceCorps.com.</ref> defends its anonymous ratings,<ref name="ftn65">It says that "the most important voices are often ignored," but with the ratings, "the student is being heard." It believes that administrative reviews of a teacher's performance "can never substitute for a review from someone who interacts daily with that teacher—the student." It has found that 70 percent of the ratings are positive. In fact, its website publishes a popular Hall of Honor for the top ranked teachers and schools. It trusts that with a broad enough ratings sample, the views of students with a grudge will not dominate the ratings. The website "facilitate[s] a positive change in the way parents, students, and teachers alike look at the education system and therefore to encourage structural changes…" The website is also a place "for students and parents to have their opinions validated." It finds that "opponents of the website clearly believe that students are not astute enough to form a valid opinion nor should parents be given the opportunity to voice their observations." </ref> and argues that it is a useful resource to teachers who are open and self-assured enough to face the opinions of their customers, i.e. students and parents.<ref name="ftn66">Teachers want to be respected by their students. They entered the profession in order to help students develop as individuals. By studying the ratings, the teacher can often adjust teaching methods, helping create an environment of mutual respect in which their knowledge will translate more effectively to the student. Progressive teachers commonly tell the website how they adjusted their approaches to better connect with students after reading comments on the site. </ref> An independent and public rating system established by Volunteers will enable applicants, OMB and the Congress to assess the quality of the managers and programs of the various countries in which Volunteers serve.<ref name="ftn67">For a review of the application of web-based reviews of doctors see “Doctor’s Orders: Want Treatment? Just Sign this No-Complaint Contract,” Sandra Boodman, July 21, 2009 Washington Post at E1. The article focuses on the 40 web sites that permit patients to rate doctors and the practice of some doctors to demand that their patients sign agreements—gag orders—pledging not to post a rating. For the application of web-based ratings to travel see TripAdvisor.com.</ref>
The best way for the Peace Corps to respond to a RateMyPeaceCorps rating system would be to establish its own 360 degree reviews, protect the confidentiality of Volunteers, and demonstrate that these reviews are given substantial weight. Then Volunteers would have no need to utilize an independent Internet rating system. If the Peace Corps does not establish its own confidential review systems, the independent rating system would flourish as the principal forum for Volunteers to express themselves.
As the Peace Corps begins to face competition in the “marketplace” for international volunteers, the potential applicants will shop around. They’ll seek information that permits them to compare the available options. A RateMyPeaceCorps site will give them a reading on the quality of the Peace Corps experience directly from the Volunteers. Those that view this market competition as an opportunity will prosper. Those institutions that deny this reality, or attempt to squelch it, will suffer. Any attempt to squelch the voice of the Volunteers would generate substantial press and public interest in a RateMyPeaceCorps website.<ref name="ftn68">Lawsuits to shut down the site for posting anonymous speech or to hold the site managers liable would fail. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that anonymity of speech is protected under the First Amendment to the Constitution (see McIntyre v. Ohio, 514 U.S. at 337; Talley v. State of California, 362 U.S. 60). U.S. courts also recognize the right to speak anonymously—and have held that the right extends to speech on the Internet. Anyone questioning the legality of anonymous postings on an Internet site should become familiar with 47 USC Section 230, the federal law that permits many entities to "host" other people's content without being liable for defamation/libel etc. "By its plain language, § 230 creates a federal immunity to any cause of action that would make service providers liable for information originating with a third-party user of the service." Zeran v. AOL, 129 F.3d 327, 330 (4th Cir. 1997). Under 230(c)(2)(A) states “No provider or user of an interactive computer service shall be held liable on account of…any action voluntarily taken in good faith to restrict access to or availability of material that the provider or user considers to be obscene, lewd, lascivious, filthy, excessively violent, harassing, or otherwise objectionable, whether or not such material is constitutionally protected.”</ref>
The leadership of the Peace Corps is critical. In 21st Century organizations we need leaders who understand the concept of a “flat” organization that listens to, respects and empowers individuals. The Peace Corps will thrive with leaders who are personally modest and understand that the Volunteers, in critical respects, inspire and lead the Peace Corps. The influence and success of the agency’s Director and senior management will rise to the extent that they keep the spotlight on the Volunteers, bathe in the glory reflected from them, empower and listen to them, respect and love them, delegate power and allocate resources to the country posts and Volunteers, and minimize the footprint of the headquarters. In this way the Volunteers, not the political appointees, will supply the charisma for the Peace Corps. This approach will establish the Peace Corps as the paradigmatic 21st Century organization led by “servant leaders.”
Finally, the excessive number of political appointees in the Peace Corps undermines the inclination of headquarters to listen to the Volunteers and Country Post staff. The agency’s 33 political appointees constitute perhaps the highest percentage of appointees per employee of any government agency. The positions they hold go way beyond the standard for federal agencies, which limits political appointees to persons with “confidential or policy-determining…duties.” Taking this standard as a guide, the number of political appointees at the Peace Corps should be reduced to 17, and include only the Director, Deputy Director, Chief of Staff, General Counsel, Director of Congressional Relations, Director of Communications, the Chief Financial Officer, and Director of Press Relations and their deputies/confidential assistants. The following positions, currently filled with political appointees, should be filled instead with professionals from the competitive service who are committed to listening to, respecting and empowering the Volunteers: the Director of the Office of Planning, Policy, and Analysis; the Director of the Office of Private Sector Initiatives; the Director of the Office of Volunteer Support; the Director of the Office of Volunteer Recruitment and Selection; the Associate Director of the Office of Management; the Chief Information Officer; the regional directors for Inter-America and the Pacific, Africa, Europe, Mediterranean and Asia; and the Director of the Center for Field Assistance and Applied Research.<ref name="ftn69">The PCIEA limits to 15 the number of Peace Corps political appointees.</ref>
Implementing these listening mechanisms should reduce the high and costly ET rate and organically grow the number of Volunteers.
 Point Three: Achieve Greater Sustainable First Goal Results
The Peace Corps has been highly successful in achieving its Second Goal, "helping promote a better understanding of Americans on the part of the peoples served." Where it falls short is in achieving the First Goal, "helping the people of interested countries in meeting their need for trained men and women."
Typically, Volunteers are intensely focused on what they can accomplish to improve the lives and standard of living of the host country nationals with whom they live. The Volunteers are goal- and task-oriented and focused on what they can "do." This is what we’d expect from Americans. Their greatest source of frustration lies in the obstacles to effectively contribute to the well being of their host country friends and colleagues. It seems that many CDs and APCDs have low expectations of the Volunteers’ ability to achieve sustainable results.<ref name="ftn70">One Country Director was especially blunt and honest about this point in an email to a Volunteer. He said, "It is imperative to understand the near-futility of trying to accomplish ANYTHING in a two year timeframe and consider that thing to be—‘sustainable'" (emphasis in original email). This patronizing view demoralizes Volunteers. </ref> Making friends, being sensitive in cross-cultural communications, and giving a good impression of America—the Second Goal—are not sufficient accomplishments without achievement of sustainable First Goal results.
The Peace Corps rarely engages in meaningful evaluations of its development impact and does not appear in respected and comprehensive reports on development assistance. Books on this topic by Paul Collier, William Easterly, Jeffrey Sachs, and Tony Blair do not even mention the Peace Corps. The Center for Global Development has issued The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President, its blueprint for the Obama administration. The lengthy and detailed agenda dismisses the Peace Corps as an historic relic—"part of the Cold War arsenal aimed both at stemming the spread of communism and at encouraging development in some of the world's poorest countries."
Many provisions of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA directly related to achieving greater First Goal results. First, Section 101 of the PCVEA stated that Volunteers should be reimbursed for reasonable work-related expenses to enhance their First Goal results.<ref name="ftn71">Section 101 of the PCVEA includes three findings regarding seed funding for Volunteers: “(1) The Peace Corps is an agency focused on grassroots, bottom-up development. (2) Seed funding for local demonstration projects is crucial to the success of Peace Corps volunteers. And (3) Demonstration projects are a very effective method for Peace Corps volunteers to educate people in host countries.” It then authorizes to be appropriated “up to 1 percent of the total amount appropriated for the Peace Corps for FY08 and each fiscal year thereafter for seed funding for Peace Corps volunteers to carry out demonstration projects that have been approved in advance by the Country Director in the country where the volunteer is serving.” It states, “The Director of the Peace Corps shall determine at the beginning of each fiscal year the amount of funding that will be available as seed money for demonstration projects for that fiscal year and inform each Country Director of the portion of that amount that will be available to distribute to volunteers under the supervision of such Country Director.” The Director “shall promulgate rules pursuant to which each Country Director may award seed funds made available under this section to eligible Peace Corp volunteers.” To be eligible for a seed fund award under this subsection, a Peace Corps volunteer shall “(A) submit to the Country Director of the country where the volunteer is serving a plan for a demonstration project, including an explanation of how the demonstration project will lead to sustainable development; and (B) make a written attestation that funds awarded under this subsection are utilized for the purposes specified in the plan.” A seed fund award provided to a volunteer under this subsection “may not exceed $1,000.” Finally, each Peace Corps volunteer who receives a seed fund award under this subsection “shall submit to the Country Director of the country where the volunteer is serving before the close of such volunteer's service a report on the demonstration project funded by the award.”
Unfortunately, the PCIEA does not call on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of reimbursement of Volunteers for work-related expenses or Volunteer fundraising. We have proposed that the assessments include a focus on “strategies to empower and support Volunteers to serve as effective agents of development and cross-cultural communication, including providing sufficient funding and reimbursement to Volunteers for their work-related expenses and enabling Volunteers to engage in appropriate charitable fundraising.” We have also proposed that it focus on “strategies for enabling volunteers to engage in charitable fundraising from non-government organizations and persons personally known to them, including family members, friends, and members of their home community in the United States, and from government and nongovernmental agencies, including but not limited to working through the Peace Corps Partnership Program.” </ref> Volunteers often need small amounts of capital to fund the demonstrations that serve as their best teaching tool. This provision addresses a source of considerable frustration among Volunteers, their inability to obtain sufficient seed funding to mount demonstrations. In the Developing World, a live demonstration is worth a million words and is, in fact, the best and often the only way to teach a new idea. In our culture, we're used to making decisions based on reports, data, arguments, and pictures. We're willing to take risks based on analogies, corollaries, and propositions. We experiment and we design feasibility studies. With citizens of the Developing World, words are almost never enough. They rightfully demand that we show them that something works before they take risks to try it. Just because it works in America does not mean it will work in the village.
In implementing a reimbursement regime, the Peace Corps may wish to require that the Volunteers first attempt to secure funds from other sources (USAID SPA grants, Ambassador "self help" funds, and NGOs). The availability of funding from these sources varies widely from country to country. Then the Peace Corps would serve as the fallback source of funding when no other sources are available. One key issue is the timeliness of the reimbursement; holding up projects for two to six months can substantially impair Volunteers’ accomplishments during their service. Two years of service goes by in a flash.
The expense reimbursement strategy supports the Volunteer’s role as a teacher and does not establish the Peace Corps as a bank for the local community. However, the Peace Corps has expressed concern that Section 101 would shift one of the "main tenants [sic] of Volunteer service" from providing the "impetus for [communities] developing their own funding sources" to viewing the Volunteer "as a source of cash." Director Tschetter argued that allowing Volunteers to either raise funds or use seed funding for demonstration projects diminishes their primary objectives. He said, Volunteers "are not encouraged to give out money or be seen as a constant source of funds… [Seed funding to mount demonstrations] goes against the agency's basic philosophy of helping others to help themselves. The Peace Corps has never been a funding institution…Volunteers should not be requested by host countries or placed in a particular community for their ability to bring money to the table."
This position is undermined by the fact that Volunteers are currently permitted to seek reimbursement for their expenses from the Peace Corps, although often in insufficient amounts. It's also undermined by the fact that Volunteers are permitted to secure funding from the sources cited above as well as the Peace Corps Partnership Program. The funds that the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA would authorize are for use by Volunteers to mount demonstrations, not for grants to the community. The Peace Corps misconstrued the provision and failed to understand that providing seed funding is necessary to give Volunteers a reasonable opportunity to achieve sustainable First Goal results.
When seed funding leads to a successful Volunteer project—one that establishes the viability of a prototype or pilot program—allocating additional sources of funding would enable the Volunteer to replicate the project throughout the region or country and even in other countries. The Peace Corps could work to secure NGO or foundation funding for multiplying the Volunteer’s impact. Perhaps the Peace Corps could secure donations from corporations or wealthy individuals to establish a fund known as the “Sarge Fund.”
These funds could be available to any program or Volunteer that seeks to replicate the successful project in their community, train other Volunteers, or train host country trainers. The funds could be used by the original Volunteer/entrepreneur to cover travel funds to propagate the success by training other Volunteers. In short, the Peace Corps needs to takes its best development strategies to scale. Networks of Volunteers could organize cooperatives that could produce inventory sufficient to satisfy the needs of a large importer, such as Ten Thousand Villages (http://www.tenthousandvillages.com) or Shop the Cause (http://www.ShopTheCause.org), The Hunger Site, Mercado Global, Third World Craft, World of Good, or other fair trade retailers. These Volunteer-initiated networks could work together to establish export markets, manage export financing and customs procedures, and secure “organic” certifications and lower cost shipping.
A few real life examples of this approach will make the point. Volunteers in a West African country developed software that facilitates the process of recording and calculating school grades and attendance. These Volunteers should have access to funding for 500 copies of the disc and training manual, travel funds to visit and train other Volunteers in this country or in other French speaking countries,<ref name="ftn72">The issue of providing Volunteers with leave for these trips is discussed below.</ref> and access to video equipment to create a documentary to motivate school administrators. Other Volunteers in the same country developed a sophisticated solid waste management system, including composting. They should have access to funding to develop training manuals and videos (in English, French and local languages) for use in other communities and travel funds to propagate the lessons learned. Other Volunteers in the country developed quilt, hammock and solar dried fruit making projects. They should have access to funding to create prototypes, manuals and videos to train other Volunteers and to travel funds (and leave). Another Volunteer organized a collective to produce porridge. If Volunteers could develop a countrywide network of Volunteer porridge making collectives, they might be able to supply the needs of the World Food Program and obviate its need to import porridge. For the WFP, buying locally would be cheaper and would also create local jobs.
Second, Section 102 of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA reformed the rules regarding charitable fundraising by Volunteers to provide additional funding to launch demonstrations. It would have permitted the Volunteers to fundraise for projects from “family, friends, and members of their U.S. home communities, and also from government and nongovernmental agencies,” including but not limited to utilizing the Peace Corps Partnership Program (PCPP). As Senator Dodd said, "I presume the [Volunteers] do [this] anyway, in terms of getting help from back home or whatever else, in terms of supporting a project or an effort." Unfortunately, the Peace Corps bars this common practice and requires that all fundraising be funneled through the PCPP. If a Volunteer needs only $100 to keep a project going, it is not reasonable to require that it be funded through this highly bureaucratic program. The program's paperwork requirements often delay the funding until late in the Volunteer's term of service, when a project has lost momentum or there is no time left to complete it. Many Volunteers do not have sufficient access to computers or the Internet to fill out and file the complicated PCPP forms. Any fear that Volunteers will solicit funds for corrupt purposes can be minimized by limiting the fundraising to persons known to them or government or nongovernment agencies who have reason and capacity to monitor the expenditure.<ref name="ftn73">Donations that pass through the PCPP or NGOs with tax-exempt status would qualify for charitable tax deductions. Donations to the Volunteers directly from donors would not. </ref>
Under the Bush Administration, Peace Corps management expressed concern that the fundraising provision of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA would adversely affect Volunteer safety and security in that Volunteers believed to possess extra cash (reimbursements for work-related expenses) might become targets for theft. As stated above, however, some Volunteers already have access to seed funding for demonstrations, which apparently has not led to many attacks. Volunteers may be living on a subsistence wage by American standards, but they appear wealthy by local standards. Reimbursing Volunteers for their expenses won’t make them any more attractive as targets.
Third, Section 103 of the PCVEA authorized government funding for RPCV programs and projects and for building the capacity of returned Volunteers and returned Volunteer groups to support projects. The Peace Corps should implement this provision. Some Friends groups already offer support to Volunteers, and more should be encouraged to do so. Enactment of this authorization is necessary as a pre-condition to securing appropriations.
And fourth, Section 105 of the PCVEA pressed the Peace Corps to better utilize the Internet and web to provide Volunteers with technical assistance and to disseminate best practices guides. In all cases, complete documentation of the project—technical specifications, downloadable software, references to helpful NGOs and funding sources, pictures and videos, training curriculum (in many languages), and economic analysis would be preserved in the form of best practices guides that could be wikied on the Internet.<ref name="ftn74">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “how the Peace Corps can utilize information technology to improve—(i) program efficiency, effectiveness, and coordination; and (ii) communication among volunteers.”</ref>
The Peace Corps only recently established a website that enables Volunteers to share their experiences about successful First Goal projects. This website should include the final reports on projects funded through the Peace Corps Partnership Program and indexed so they can be easily found. Close of Service reports should be posted on the Internet. All Volunteers extending the practices in a given field—beekeeping, for example—should be part of one master list serve. That site should present Best Practices Guides for every aspect of beekeeping that can be updated and refined in a wiki process. Links to resources—technical and financial—could be posted. These websites will work best with the participation of RPCVs. They could reconnect with their sites to support successor Volunteers. They can help to wiki project designs and identify resources and funding sources. We need to engage RPCVs as life-long First Goal agents of development. For an outline of how the Peace Corps could utilize the Internet to connect Volunteers, see Appendix B for the excerpt from the authors’ testimony in July 2007.
As the Volunteers develop these best practices guides, the Peace Corps should reorient its training to rely on them as part of the core curriculum. In training, pre-service or in-service, the Volunteers need to face realistic problem solving challenges. Lectures won’t teach them what they need to learn and will likely bore them. With a best practices guide for porridge making, for example, a training session could start with a challenge: “How would you develop a porridge making project in your village?” The Volunteers would work through the issues including surveying the diet and nutrition of the children at their site, determining the appropriate manufacturing specifications, and pricing and marketing, and then compare their ideas with the Best Practices Guide. This is real life, practical, non-theoretical training. Schools in the Developing World usually focus on academics, so host country trainers often prefer an academic approach to training. But such guides can give the Volunteers the practical information they need to serve as entrepreneurs at their sites.
Former Peace Corps Volunteer, President of the National Peace Corps Association and Ambassador Dane Smith observes,
[A]side from education, has the Peace Corps been an effective development agency? There is no doubt that individual Volunteers—highly motivated, resourceful and able to communicate in the local language—have stimulated significant local advances in access to potable water, soil conservation, and primary health care in many different countries. As an agency, however, the Peace Corps has never placed high priority on the development task. Until 2007 it did not develop a strategic planning capacity which would examine systematically what has worked developmentally in the sectors where Volunteers are present and what does not. It has never put into place a serious evaluation process to obtain systematic feedback from Volunteers and the communities they work in about their development impact nor shaped that feedback into lessons learned and best practices. It has not collaborated with development NGOs working in the field. And, absent a mechanism within the agency for promoting and monitoring the developmental task of Volunteers, it has not made Peace Corps directors and staff accountable for the development success of their programs. Perhaps the most important development constraint at the local level is the failure of the Peace Corps to develop ways to promote continuity between the work of a departing Volunteer and her successor. Given training and assignment sequences, there is often a gap. The hiatus may not be a serious problem in a formal classroom, but in sectors like small business or agro-forestry the new Volunteer regularly starts from scratch in figuring out the most appropriate approach. So the Peace Corps contribution to development, though substantial in some countries, has not been large overall.<ref name="ftn75">From the "Afterword: Peace Corps" in Ambassador Smith’s forthcoming book, “U.S. Peacefare: Organizing Official Peace-Building Operations.” </ref>
Ambassador Smith proposes to strengthen the development thrust of Peace Corps service. He says, “Adding a strategic planning capacity to the agency focused on the role of Volunteers in development should be combined with accountability of Peace Corps staff overseas for supporting PCVs in their development role. Specifically, establishing a system for publicizing lessons learned and best practices, both in-country and generally, would help overcome the lack of continuity between Volunteers at a single site.” <ref name="ftn76">From the "Afterword: Peace Corps" in Ambassador Smith’s forthcoming book, “U.S. Peacefare: Organizing Official Peace-Building Operations.” </ref> These recommendations reinforce those in this reform plan.
Going beyond the PCVEA, the Peace Corps should reduce the ratio of Volunteers to Assistant Peace Corps Directors (APCDs), who are the agency’s program officers.<ref name="ftn77">The ratio of Volunteers to Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMOs) is discussed below.</ref> The current caseload is often 40 or more Volunteers, far too many for an APCD to manage effectively. A more reasonable ratio would be 20-1. Travel in the developing world can be time consuming. Simply visiting all of these Volunteers may take a month of travel time and APCDs normally visit Volunteers at least twice a year. These visits are crucial for determining what kind of support the Volunteers need and whether they are prospering and adjusting well at their site. Visiting Volunteers is an important safety check. The APCDs come with language skills, cultural understanding and prestige, which can help the Volunteers gain support in their community. In addition to site visits, APCDs may spend two to four months a year training new Volunteers. APCDs need time to secure funding and other support for Volunteer projects, provide technical assistance, and confer with officials of the host government. Volunteer participation in 360 degree reviews will lead to continuous upgrades and modifications of program design and training manuals. APCDs must file reports, review and approve Close of Service and Description of Service statements, and review best practices guides. When a Volunteer is having trouble, the APCD may have to make an emergency visit. Of course, increasing the number of APCDs is an expensive proposition. They need access to vehicles to get to the Volunteer sites, which often means using Peace Corps drivers. But the APCD support is crucial to strengthening the Peace Corps, especially with regard to First Goal accomplishments.
Nothing that the APCDs do is more important to the success and happiness of a Volunteer than site preparation. Developing a new site for a Volunteer can take numerous visits with tasks such as consulting with the local leadership about their needs and interests, determining which Peace Corps programs will match best with these needs and interests, recruiting an enthusiastic counterpart, determining which language the Volunteer should be trained to speak, finding a host family, ensuring appropriate housing, and checking out the security measures. One key decision is whether to place a Volunteer where other Volunteers have previously served. Here soliciting and listening to the advice of the current Volunteer is crucial. An overworked APCD may simply place Volunteers in the same old sites, one after another, even if the previous Volunteers have recommended against it. Volunteers need “fresh” sites that have not become inured to Volunteers.<ref name="ftn78">During their service as Volunteers in South Africa (2006 - 2008) David and Marti Fine developed and field-tested a sophisticated site development protocol. In their view, site development is critical to the success of Volunteers. David can be reached at email@example.com or 414.312.0861 (CST).</ref>
Of course, increasing the ratio of APCDs to Volunteers will accomplish little if the staff do not listen to, respect and empower the Volunteers. If the staff is focused on enforcing bed checking rules and other forms of bureaucratic condescension, an increase in the field staff could be counter-productive. The focus of the APCDs should be to support Volunteers in achieving sustainable development results and cross-cultural communication.
The Peace Corps will be stronger if it ends its “go it alone” approach to development. Since the Peace Corps was established, the number of NGOs has grown from a few to tens of thousands. The Peace Corps should take full advantage of them by establishing relationships with NGOs that share its philosophy of sustainable, grassroots development. Among the best NGOs are PACT, TechnoServe, International Youth Foundation, World Education, SAVE, Freedom from Hunger, Refugees International, AFSC, World Vision, Solar Cooking International, the Seed and Light Foundation, EchoNet, and Junior Achievement. The Peace Corps should also establish relationships with host country NGOs and government agencies, always looking to train counterparts. In addition, it can connect with U.S. firms that wish to import products such as organic honey or organic cotton and agree to supply seed funding, seeds, training, and guaranteed markets. These connections provide continuity and expertise to achieve better First Goal results.<ref name="ftn79">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “the prospects for partnerships with international and host country nongovernmental organizations and other entities to achieve the goals of the Peace Corps through development projects…” </ref>
Volunteers could be engaged to conduct field trials on innovative technologies such as StockOSorb (a water conservation technology)(see http://www.americansoiltech.com/docs/stockosorb_brochure.pdfz), drought resistant tomatoes (see http://www.foodnavigator.com/Science-Nutrition/Drought-resistant-tomatoes-promise-increased-yields), and water pasteurization indicators (WAPI)(see http://www.treehugger.com/files/2005/09/for_water_purif.php and http://220.127.116.11/catalog/waterpasteurizationindicatorwapi-p-42.html).
The Peace Corps should consider preparing Volunteers to serve effectively as responders in the event of a natural or man-made disaster, including an outbreak of Avian Flu or other infectious disease or a tsunami, earthquake, flood, drought, or locust infestation. The Peace Corps should maintain contact information for the United Nations, Red Cross and Red Crescent, and other disaster relief organizations and assess the possible roles that Volunteers might play and the training they would need. It should also consider whether Volunteers might serve effectively and safely in conflict avoidance and resolution programs, such as those maintained by the NGO, Search for Common Ground.
The Peace Corps should keep current on the best thinking regarding development strategies, e.g. how to extend mosquito nets so that they are well utilized, how to establish businesses capable of tapping into export markets, how to develop an entrepreneurship culture where innovation is common, how to prevent the spread of AIDS, and how to purify and conserve water. The challenge is to find ways to spur sustainable development, that is, development that survives beyond the intervention of the Volunteer or NGO. The Peace Corps should lend its expertise to the ongoing debate about successful development strategies.
With implementation of this strengthening strategy, the Volunteer trainees will be have dozens of successful development project Best Practices Guides. With this smorgasbord of opportunities, plus sources of seed funding for demonstrations, the Volunteers will have more of the tools needed to succeed. If they develop a new type of project, they will add to this database for the benefit of the Volunteer corps. And they will be less likely to early terminate, the next point in this plan. Implementing these First Goal reforms is an effective way to organically grow the number of Volunteers.
 Point Four: Reduce the High and Costly Early Termination Rates
The early ET rate of Volunteers is one of the clearest indicators of Peace Corps' performance, reflecting the quality of volunteer recruitment and placement, management of country programs, and the development work that is the Peace Corps mission. The ET rate is the percentage of Volunteers who leave their country of service before completing two years of service. With an ET rate of roughly 35%, the Peace Corps is losing volunteers and trainees at an unacceptable and costly pace. Without these Volunteers, the Peace Corps loses both its investment in its most important human resources and its ability to fulfill commitments made to communities in the developing world. Reducing this rate should therefore be among Peace Corps' highest priorities for institutional reform. Regarding the recent calls for more Americans to serve their country as volunteers, a concerted effort to support Volunteers all the way through completion of service, is the most rational strategy for organically growing the number of Peace Corps Volunteers in the field. In light its commitments and obligations to host communities, reducing the rate is a moral imperative.
With over one third of volunteers leaving before completing their service, the Peace Corps is squandering substantial sums of taxpayers’ funds at a time when it is pushing for increased appropriations. At a time when budget deficits are exploding, the Peace Corps must show that is is a prudent steward of the public purse. The agency's goal, therefore, should be to lower the ET rate to 20%-25%, with a focus on halving voluntary early terminations (that is, those not due to medical reasons). To achieve this goal, and thereby increase the number of Volunteers serving, the Peace Corps must adopt a coherent strategy to retain the Volunteers it recruits, trains and places in the field. Since the high rate indicates significant selection and management problems, the Peace Corps should implement all elements of this comprehensive plan, listening to and respecting Volunteers, giving them a reasonable opportunity to achieve sustainable First Goal results, providing financial and other support for their work, and respecting their rights.
A further problem is that the Peace Corps is publishing a fictitious ET rate that does not inform OMB, the Congress and the public how many Volunteers complete their two+ years of service, masking the mismanagement at the Peace Corps.<ref name="ftn80">See http://www.peacecorpswiki.org/Early_Termination for more information.</ref> The agency claims that the rate is "8.6%," meeting its goal to hold it to less than “10%.” It says, “Retaining Volunteers is an area the Peace Corps has examined and analyzed carefully. The agency’s target to keep resignations for FY 2008 below 10 percent was achieved. Offices throughout the agency benefited from being updated quarterly. The agency continues to monitor early terminations and to use both quantitative and qualitative data to assist in improving recruiting, training, programming, and all other aspects of the Volunteer experience.”<ref name="ftn81">http://multimedia.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/policies/annrept2008.pdf</ref> This report gives the impression that programs are much better managed and the Volunteers are much more satisfied and productive than is the case. Instead of reporting early departures as a percentage of total arrivals, the Peace Corps reports the number of departures in a given year as a percentage of the total number of volunteers who served any part—even just a day—of that year. This is like reporting university dropouts as a percentage of the total student population in a given year, with all students including both outgoing seniors and incoming freshmen in the total. This yields an artificially low rate. Compared to a university with a four-year term, the underreporting is more pronounced in Peace Corps since a greater portion of its Volunteers leave and arrive in any given year. At best, this misleading accounting is incompetent. At worst, it is intentional deception.<ref name="ftn82">See http://www.peacecorpswiki.org/reports/ET_Report.pdf for a detailed review of the ET rate statistics and their (mis)interpretation. </ref>
The Peace Corps used to report an accurate “cohort” rate that provided a direct measure of the number and percent of Volunteers who completed their service. It switched to an “annual” rate in 2005. While the Peace Corps has stated that it retains no documents explaining the rationale for switching its accounting methods regarding early terminations, the change occurred just as OMB began to pressure the Peace Corps to report measures of its effectiveness under the Government Performance and Accountability Act.<ref name="ftn83">http://multimedia.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/policies/annrept2008.pdf</ref>
The Peace Corps should publish accurate ET rate statistics about how many Volunteers complete their service as a percentage of the number that swear in as Volunteers This is a cohort rate. It should recalculate all of its historical ET rate data using the cohort rate. The Peace Corps should use this cohort ET rate data to identify opportunities to strengthen management and programs. For example, if one program within a country has a high ET rate, or if certain countries have high ET rates, the Peace Corps should seek to improve these programs.<ref name="ftn84">The comparison of Peace Corps ET rates to those of similar programs in other countries is particularly interesting (see pages 21-24 of this report). Although the rates are not entirely comparable, the attrition rates for these other programs seems to be considerably lower than the Peace Corps rate. The VSO attrition rate was 20%; the VSA (New Zealand) rate, 20%; the APSO (Irish) rate, 5.5%; the German rate, 7%; the SNV (Netherlands) rate, 3.6%; and the OBS (Austria) rate, 9.1%. It seems as if these programs make more concerted efforts to identify and remedy the cause of attrition while the Peace Corps seems more focused on concealing its 35% ET rate. See http://www.peacecorpswiki.org/reports/ET_Report.pdf</ref>
If the Peace Corps continues to report an “annual” rate and claims that it has meaning in measuring the Volunteer “early terminations,” it should at least publish an annual rate that is substantially less misleading. The annual rate that the Peace Corps publishes is misleading because it gives all Volunteers who served during a given year the same weight—whether they served for one day during that year or 365. With this calculation, every Volunteer who served even a day is included in the denominator of the ET rate fraction. (The numerator is those who ETed in that year.) Including every Volunteer with full weight swamps the denominator and makes the ET rate appear to be lower. Both parts of the fraction are contributing to the computation of the rate and are “competing” to move the number up or down. If there are more than the usual ETs in one month the ET rate (for that month) should go up; but if there happened to be a new group of trainees that also arrived that month they could “overpower” the number of ETs and, by virtue of being a ratio of the two numbers, actually make the ET rate (for that month) appear to decrease. What we have is a random number divided by a random number, which, depending on the interpretation of the number, can generate a meaningless number. The number itself may have meaning—in this case it says that 10% of all Volunteers who served any portion of a fiscal year ETed within that same year. Unfortunately, what Peace Corps is trying to make us believe is that that rate is the rate "out of 100," which it isn't. That's where this “rate” is meaningless and misleading. The core of the deception is using two "correct" numbers, with different definitions of what those numbers mean. It's like comparing apples and oranges in a ratio. What OMB and the Congress and RPVCs think of as an ET rate is the percent who complete their service. The Peace Corps’ annual rate tells you nothing about that. The fact that the Peace Corps publishes the most misleading type of annual rate is the main reason why there is such a discrepancy between the reported 10% annual ET rate and the (actual) 35% cohort ET rate.
If the Peace Corps is interested in publishing a more meaningful annual rate, it must give a weight to the Volunteer number (in the denominator) according to how many months of the year the Volunteers served. So, if a Volunteer served one month, he or she would be included as 1/12 of a Volunteer.
The most accurate measure of Early Terminations is a cohort rate where the statistic directly measures how many Volunteers complete their service.
The cohort ET rates are crucial because the Peace Corps invests much of its budget in selecting, training, posting and installing Volunteers. In other words, the expenses to support the Volunteers are front-loaded. When Volunteers terminate early, these investments are squandered and the Peace Corps must select, train, post and install replacements. Then 35% of these new Volunteers ET, continuing an expensive and wasteful treadmill. The less tangible losses resulting from the high ET rates are also great. Community hopes are dashed. Community investments in preparing sites for Volunteers are lost. And the Volunteers who ET have to live with the idea that they have "failed."
The Peace Corps should calculate the cost of early terminations including direct costs and a prorated percentage of the agency’s overhead. One can argue that if 35% of the Volunteers ET, the Peace Corps has squandered 35% of its overall budget. A more accurate measure would give weight to how long the Volunteer served. The presumption should be that if a Volunteer ETs before the second year, most of the Peace Corps investment in that Volunteer has been squandered because Volunteers achieve most of their successes in their second year.
While family issues back home and health problems are factors in many ET cases, the principal cause appears to be the poor quality of Peace Corps programs and managers. It's important to note that the number of Volunteers who ET does not include those who are demoralized but remain at their sites. In other words, the ET rates are a symptom of a deeper, more pervasive management problem as reflected in the email affidavits and Biennial Survey results cited earlier. These three measures—plus 360 degree reviews—should be combined as a strategy for continual renewal and reform of the Peace Corps.
The logical corollary to reducing the high ET rates is to increase the number of Volunteers who extend for a third year. Just as a high ET rate is a sign of problems, a high extension rate is a sign of a well-run program. The easiest way to increase the number of Volunteers is to reduce the ET rate and the second easiest way is to increase the number of extensions. Unfortunately, for some time the Peace Corps has rationed the number of extensions it authorizes, apparently due to budget constraints, and even plays it as a zero sum game, reducing the number of trainees by one for every Volunteer who extends. Volunteers who extend are likely to be the most productive in terms of First Goal results, so lifting this limit on extensions is an effective way to generate greater First Goal results.<ref name="ftn85">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “the causes of the early termination of service in the Peace Corps, using the cohort and other statistically appropriate methods and the reasons cited by volunteers terminating their service in the Peace Corps early…” We have proposed that this assessment go to the “costs of” these early terminations and “strategies for reducing the early termination rate of volunteers and increasing the number of volunteers who extend their service.”</ref>
 Point Five: Recruit More Older, Experienced Volunteers
The Peace Corps has many times campaigned to recruit additional older, more experienced Volunteers—most recently the “50+” campaign. Older, more experienced Volunteers typically bring more confidence, organizational and leadership skills, and resourcefulness to their service. They can also serve as mentors to the younger Volunteers. Unfortunately, these campaigns have not succeeded, and the demographics of the Peace Corps remain heavily skewed toward recent college graduates who have limited work and life experience.
As the authors stated to the Dodd Subcommittee,
Given the problems we'd discussed [in our testimony], you may wonder if we recommend that older persons and RPCVs serve as Volunteers. Our answer is, ‘Yes, absolutely.’ Older and second-time Volunteers often have special insights into how to launch and sustain development projects. Also, older Volunteers tend to speak up about the quality of staff support, program design, training curricula and site placements. In our view, the more older Volunteers the Peace Corps recruits, the better—both for development and Peace Corps reform. To be clear, you will substantially strengthen the hand of the Volunteers, the young and not-so-young, and the cause of Peace Corps reform if you enact th[e Dodd/Kennedy] legislation into law.<ref name="ftn86">See http://foreign.senate.gov/testimony/2007/Ludlam_HirschoffTestimony070725.pdf and
Older Volunteers will tend to be especially interested in implementation of the reforms presented here and in Points Two (listening), Three (First Goal), Eight (Volunteer rights), and Nine (medical support). Older Volunteers will be especially receptive to reconnecting with RPCVs (Point Six). RPCVs who return to service will be even more interested in these reforms.
If it is to be successful in recruiting more older, experienced Volunteers, it needs to do a much better job of managing their applications and managing them in country. Through a FOIA request, the authors have obtained a copy of the summary of the Peace Corps 2007 survey of 50+ Volunteers. The results point the way to the special problems the Peace Corps faces in recruiting these more experienced Volunteers. Some 61% of the Volunteers reported that the costs of the medical screening tests required during the application process were not covered by their health insurance. These Volunteers reported paying “out of pocket costs” of $500-999 (21%), $1000-1999 (31%), $2000-4999 (10%) and $5000+ (4%). On a five-point scale—ranging from “difficult obstacle” to “not an obstacle” (with 2, 3 or 4 in the middle), an overwhelming majority reported that the medical clearance process is “too long.”<ref name="ftn87">35% rated it as “difficult obstacle,” 35% rated this as a 2, and 19%, as a 3.</ref> A clear majority said that the health screening review was “not easy to complete and/or understand.<ref name="ftn88">12% said this was a “difficult obstacle,” 25% rated this as a 2 and 22%, as a 3.</ref> Not surprisingly, 71% of the more experienced Volunteers said that the improving the medical screening process was the “one specific change that might make Peace Corps service a better experience for people 50+.” In terms of reforming the medical screening process, 28% said that it needs to be “50+ oriented,” 13% said the process needs to be “streamlined,” 12% said the process is “too slow,” 10% said the process needs better feedback and transparency,” 9% said it was “too complicated,” 6% said there needs to be “better communication with applicant’s doctors/dentists,” and 6% reported an “adversarial attitude in forms/personnel.”
In terms of service, 75% of the more experienced Volunteers reported “problems” at their post. This compares with only 6% who reported “application process” problems and 8% “recruitment” problems. Some 17% cited problems with “language training for 50+,” 16% reported the need to “improve staff attitudes towards 50+” Volunteers, 14% cited the need for “more appropriate site development,” and 13% reported the need for “more meaningful work for 50+.” Only 2% cited the need for “better living conditions.”
Section 104 of the PCVEA focused on this issue and contained several mandates. It finds, “The Peace Corps should include among its ranks more experienced individuals as Peace Corps volunteers to help meet specific development needs in certain countries and to serve as mentors for less experienced volunteers.” It states that the Peace Corps “shall set a goal of doubling by December 31, 2009, the number of Peace Corps volunteers with at least 5 years of relevant work experience serving in the Peace Corps and shall implement measures to achieve such goal.” It “shall conduct, every 2 years, a survey of Peace Corps volunteers with substantial work experience who are serving in country to determine what additional actions would reduce or eliminate disincentives and barriers to service for Peace Corps volunteers with substantial work experience.” In addition, it “shall direct a study on the disincentives and barriers to service for Peace Corps volunteers with substantial work experience and shall establish and report to Congress on a plan for eliminating such disincentives and barriers. The plan shall include the development and use of substantial written language curriculum materials designed to facilitate the learning of foreign languages by Peace Corps volunteers with varying degrees of work experience and academic training.” Finally, it “shall designate for each of fiscal years 2008, 2009, and 2010 at least 20 sector-specific programs in at least 20 different countries for which a minimum of 5 years of relevant work experience shall be required of Peace Corps volunteers. The Director shall evaluate the issues that arise with respect to those programs as they are implemented and conducted.” The Peace Corps objected that these mandates were too specific and inflexible.<ref name="ftn89">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “the effectiveness and efficiency of volunteer recruitment strategies, methods, and resource allocations used by the Peace Corps” and “the effectiveness of the Peace Corps in recruiting ethnically, socio-economically, and geographically diverse volunteers with wide ranging skills and interests…” We have proposed that this assessment extend to “strategies for increasing the recruitment of volunteers with at least 5 years of relevant work experience, including strategies for identifying and reducing the disincentives and barriers to service by such persons.” We have also proposed that it focus on “the selectivity of the Peace Corps with regard to applicants who meet the minimum qualification standard for service as a Volunteer.”</ref>
Section 301 of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA pressed the Peace Corps to focus intensively on reforming the medical screening process. This could be achieved by implementing the extensive reforms that the Peace Corps IG proposed in a recent report.<ref name="ftn90">Peace Corps Inspector General Final Program Evaluation Report: Peace Corps’ Medical Clearance System (IG-08-08-E)(March 2008).</ref> These reforms will benefit both applicants and staff and the spouses of staff, all of whom must navigate the dysfunctional medical screening process. Going beyond the IG recommendations, several additional reforms to the medical screening process should be considered.
A. The IG report did not recommend that the Peace Corps publish its Medical Screening Guidelines, as provided in the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA. Given that these guidelines are already public information on PeaceCorpsOnLine<ref name="ftn91">The authors obtained the guidelines through a FOIA request and on August 16, 2006, published them on PeaceCorpsOnLine together with a detailed explanation of the guidelines and reform proposals.</ref>, it seems appropriate for the Peace Corps to publish them to help Volunteers navigate the medical screening process.
B. Similarly, the IG did not recommend that the Peace Corps establish a process for applicants or others to propose amendments to the Guidelines, some of which are considerably out of date. The PCVEA provides for such a process. The Peace Corps might find it can utilize this process to keep the guidelines more up-to-date.
C. Also, the IG did not recommend permitting Volunteers who are rejected on medical grounds to appeal based on the inadequacy of the Guidelines. The PCVEA provides for this process. At present, Volunteers who are rejected can appeal only the facts of their case; they cannot challenge the adequacy of the Guidelines. Given that some of the guidelines are out of date, this appears to be unfair to the applicant.
The IG report recommends that the Peace Corps review its reimbursement fee schedule for required medical tests. Unfortunately, in his testimony at the July 2007 hearing, Director Tschetter argued against the requirement in the PCVEA that the Peace Corps fully reimburse applicants for these costs. He argued that full reimbursement would cost “upwards of $10 million.” He said that the Peace Corps currently spends "under $1 million" for such reimbursement. He may not have understood that his statements implied that the Peace Corps was reimbursing Volunteers for only 10% of the costs of these tests. Whatever the percentage might be, it would appear that failure to provide full reimbursement serves as a financial disincentive for service, particularly for low income individuals and older, more experienced Volunteers who are more likely to need medical tests.<ref name="ftn92">The PCVIE calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “the medical screening process for volunteers entering service in the Peace Corps, including—(i) the cost to the Peace Corps of providing full reimbursement for medical tests undertaken by volunteers applying for or entering service in the Peace Corps; (ii) expanded information for applicants including potentially disqualifying medical conditions…”</ref>
In addition to reforming the medical screening process, the Peace Corps must recognize that older, more experienced applicants require greater advance notice of their assignments and staging dates. They may well need time to rent or sell their homes or apartments, leave or retire from their current employment, or make other arrangements before departing for two plus years overseas. The Peace Corps should guarantee that it will give older applicants ample advance notice.
During training these older Volunteers are more likely to have difficulty in learning a new language, so the Peace Corps should—as specified in Section 104 of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA<ref name="ftn93">The PCVEA states, “The [Peace Corps plan for recruiting experienced Volunteers] shall include the development and use of substantial written language curriculum materials designed to facilitate the learning of foreign languages by Peace Corps volunteers with varying degrees of work experience and academic training.”</ref>—develop and use substantial written language curriculum materials. These are often unavailable. It should also make available downloads of PodCasts for language learning at Volunteer sites. It should reimburse older Volunteers for language tutors throughout their service. In the past, it was limited to the first year.
Section 302 of the PCVEA calls on the Peace Corps to secure the right for Volunteers to suspend enrollment in retiree health plans of State and local governments, private entities, and other organizations while the Peace Corps insures them and to resume enrollment after completion of service.<ref name="ftn94">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “the options available to volunteers to suspend payment of student loans while serving in the Peace Corps…” We have proposed that it also assess “the rights available to volunteers to suspend premium payments for retiree health insurance while serving in the Peace Corps without losing the right to reinstate such insurance upon the completion of service.”</ref> This eliminates the need for Volunteers to pay double for health insurance during their service. Federal retirees have gained this right—an effort led by the authors of this report.<ref name="ftn95"> See “Suspension of Enrollment in the Federal Employees Health Benefits
(FEHB) Program for Peace Corps Volunteers” by the Office of Personnel Management (Federal Register: November 30, 2005 (Volume 70, Number 229)).</ref> Unfortunately, despite a request from the authors, the Peace Corps declined to seek promulgation of a similar rule for non-Federal retirees. This refusal casts doubt on the Peace Corps commitment to recruit older, more experienced Volunteers. Section 302 of the PCVEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake this initiative. The Peace Corps should obviate the need to legislate this provision by finally taking the initiative to eliminate this disincentive.<ref name="ftn96">The Peace Corps also declined to participate in seeking to enact a modification of the rules regarding the capital gains taxes to be paid by Volunteers and Peace Corps staff (as a result of their time overseas) for sale of a principal residence, another issue of interest to older Volunteers. Section 302 of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA called on the Peace Corps to take on this issue. Then without assistance from the Peace Corps, the authors managed to secure enactment of this modification in late 2008. See Section 110 of H.R. 6081, the Heroes Earnings Assistance and Relief Tax Act of 2008 (Public Law 110-245).</ref>
Consideration should be given to determining Peace Corps policy regarding applications from same-sex couples that are legally married under state law. It should also consider permitting parents and children (or grandchildren) to serve together.
The Peace Corps should determine whether a recruitment campaign specifically directed at RPCVs, perhaps giving them a priority in placements, might be effective.
The Peace Cops should determine with IRS help which Volunteer expenses may be itemized as deductions and develop a financial guide for these older, more experienced Volunteers. These were mandates of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA (Sections 305 and 307, respectively).
Finally, the Peace Corps recruitment campaigns need to be reevaluated. These campaigns have an impact on the types of applicants, their expectations, and the subsequent ET rates. The campaigns should be evaluated, not just by how many applicants they attract but also by whether they share the Peace Corps’ commitment to grassroots development and cross-cultural exchange. Volunteers should understand that they will work under difficult conditions to benefit those in need. The opportunity for Volunteers to be citizen ambassadors and to learn about the world and other cultures should be secondary. Adventure and career advancement might be mentioned, but they should not be presented as the main reason for applying.
 Point Six: Reconnect RPCVs for Life-long Service
The Peace Corps has an incredible resource in the nearly 200,000 Returned Volunteers. It should move to "reconnect" them with the sites in which they served, or new locations, in order to support the current Volunteers and to ensure a life-long engagement with these communities.
As for the logistics of reconnection, RPCVs should be invited to register an interest in reconnecting and provide information about their Peace Corps service, technical and language skills, and availability to provide virtual or on-site consulting, mentoring or coaching services, technical support, or financial support to Volunteers serving in their country of service or elsewhere. The Peace Corps could forward this information to the Volunteer serving in the RPCV's former site or to other Volunteers nearby or to the CD for that country.
RPCVs might visit their countries of service or sites for short visits or even return for three- to six-month periods. They could serve as consultants, mentors, or coaches to the PCVs or to the Peace Corps staff. These reconnected Volunteers might provide short-term direct "capacity building" assistance to host country officials or NGOs. They might provide financial support or raise funds for local projects. The Peace Corps could ask that the RPCV commit to providing at least 12 months of ongoing virtual technical support to the PCV, host country Peace Corps staff, host country government, or NGO officials. In the end, we want PCVs to establish a life-long supporting relationship with their host communities, and to communicate these updated perspectives and understanding to people throughout the U.S.<ref name="ftn97">For more information on the Reconnect proposal, contact Dr. Russell E. Morgan, Jr., (Kenya/Ed 66-69), President, SPRY Foundation, 3916 Rosemary Street, Chevy Chase, MD 20815, (301) 656-3405 (fixed) and (240) 447-7369 (cell), and firstname.lastname@example.org.</ref>
 Point Seven: Take Initiative to Build Peace
Intercultural relations and contributions to social and economic development are among the building blocks of peace, but the authors believe the agency can do even more to focus on conflict prevention and resolution. Volunteers should be given training in the concept and practice of peace building and an orientation that would better enable Volunteers to discuss violence prevention and conflict resolution (in a nonpolitical way) with their host country counterparts. Volunteers should know how to respond in case of violence at any level. (Ambassador John McDonald of the Institute for Multi-track Diplomacy has developed a curriculum for Peace Corps Volunteer and staff training that could be considered.)
The Peace Corps should focus on the “peace” element of its mission and consider posting highly skilled Volunteers with multinational peace-building interventions in countries recovering from civil wars (Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nepal), facing humanitarian disasters (Sudan, Haiti), and existing as failed states (northern Afghanistan). Obviously, security issues must be a high priority in these placements. The Peace Corps should consider preparing Volunteers to serve as responders in case of natural or man-made disasters, including an outbreak of Avian Flu or other infectious disease or a tsunami, earthquake, flood, drought, or locust infestation. The Peace Corps should maintain contact with the United Nations, Red Cross and Red Crescent, and other disaster relief organizations and assess the possible roles that Volunteers might play and the training they would need. It should also consider whether Volunteers might serve effectively and safely in conflict avoidance and resolution programs, such as those maintained by Search for Common Ground.<ref name="ftn98">For more information on the Peace Building proposal, contact John W. Chromy, Vice President, CHF International, (301) 587-4700, and JChromy@chfinternational.org and Chic Dambach, President and CEO, Alliance for Peacebuilding, (202) 822-2047, ext. 115 and (410) 703-8650 (cell) and email@example.com.</ref>
As Ambassador Dane Smith observes regarding the “Future of the Peace Corps,”
In one of his last speeches, Sargent Shriver suggested addition of a fourth goal to the Peace Corps mandate: ‘to bind all human beings together in a common cause to assure peace and survival for all.’ Congressman Sam Farr, a returned Volunteer and Peace Corps champion on Capitol Hill, has advanced a more specific formulation: “to help promote global acceptance of the principles of international peace and non-violent coexistence among peoples of diverse cultures and systems of government.” Adding a goal of this nature to the Peace Corps legislative charter should be carefully considered. The agency has presented a friendly and constructive American face to the world for almost fifty years. To give it an explicit peace-building goal would be logical and good public diplomacy.<ref name="ftn99">From the "Afterword: Peace Corps" in Ambassador Smith’s forthcoming book, “U.S. Peacefare: Organizing Official Peace-Building Operations.” </ref>
Ambassador Smith proposes that Returned Volunteers perform this function.
 Point Eight: Protect Volunteer Rights and Hold Managers Accountable
Listening to, respecting and empowering Volunteers means that the Peace Corps must respect Volunteer rights and hold managers accountable.
The Peace Corps should welcome constructive suggestions for reform and honor Volunteers and staff who step forward with them. The culture of listening must extend to those who have complaints about the Peace Corps. A healthy organization honors its critics, particularly those from the inside that offer constructive reform recommendations. See Appendix C for the viewpoint of an articulate critic of the Peace Corps, former CD and Volunteer Robert Strauss.<ref name="ftn100">Robert L. Strauss has been a Peace Corps country director (Cameroon 2002-07), recruiter (Denver 1982), consultant (Fiji, Nepal and Belize 1980s), and Volunteer (Liberia 1978-80). He is a recipient of the State Department's Meritorious Honor Award and lives in Madagascar, where he runs a management consulting company. He can be reached at RobertLStrauss@hotmail.com.</ref> The authors do not agree with all of what he says, but he clearly loves the ideals of the Peace Corps and he is an articulate, provocative and constructive critic.
The Peace Corps must retain the right to terminate the service of Volunteers who do not honor rules and regulations designed to protect them and the Peace Corps program. But it must give the Volunteers advance written notice of the specific conduct violations that may lead to administrative separation. This is elemental due process. Strangely, the Peace Corps has expressed concern about Section 306 of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA which required that these rules be published "in Section 204 of the Peace Corps manual"—the section that details the terms and process for Administrative Separation. In a bizarre interpretation, the Peace Corps argued that this language bars it from amending Section 204 to include additional rules. The key point is not where the rules are published in this specific place but the requirement that they be published in advance so that Volunteers have Due Process notice. Surely, the Peace Corps would not oppose that.<ref name="ftn101">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “the procedures of the Peace Corps for mandatory medical separation of volunteers serving in the Peace Corps…” We have proposed that this assessment include “administrative separation” and procedures for “respecting the rights of Volunteers.”</ref>
The Peace Corps should ensure that Volunteers reporting the misconduct of staff or advocating for reforms are treated in accordance with the provisions of chapter 23 of title 5, United States Code, prohibiting certain personnel practices. These provisions are commonly referred to as whistleblower protection. The Peace Corps IG supports the whistleblower provision, which must be enacted into law to be effective.<ref name="ftn102">Inspector General Kotz testified at the July 2007 Dodd hearing regarding the PCVEA, “We applaud Section 306(b) of the Bill that increases whistleblower protection for Volunteers reporting the misconduct of Peace Corps staff as we feel that as much protection as possible should be provided to these whistleblowers. Because of their status as Volunteers and not employees, currently Volunteers are not afforded significant protection from retaliation for their whistleblower claims. Whistleblowers provide a great deal of critical information to our office with respect to the inner workings of the Agency and we need to make sure Volunteers are protected when they provide this important information. Very often, our information comes from whistleblowers and complaints and our Office would not be able to prevent waste, fraud and abuse in the Agency without the help and support of Volunteers acting as whistleblowers.”</ref> These protections should be added to the pending “Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2009,” H.R. 1507 introduced by Congressman Van Hollen on March 12, 2009.
In addition, Volunteers should be apprised of their rights to file complaints with the IG and informed of how to do so.
Once individuals are accepted for service in a particular program and country, the Peace Corps should not switch them to another program or country without their consent. Here is how one Volunteer explains the practice:
My disappointment with Peace Corps began within days of arriving in [name of country withheld], when I had my scheduled short meeting with one of the APCDs to discuss my assignment. He asked me what I understood my Peace Corps assignment to be. I explained it as it had been explained to me by my placement officer over the phone and in my invitation to serve: my assignment was to train secondary school English teachers. Before I received my invitation, my placement officer even told me that before he officially invited me to serve in this country, he had to contact in-country staff to see if they would accept me for this project, as it usually required a master’s degree. (This, I came to learn, was not even remotely a requirement.) The APCD smiled as I explained in detail what I understood my assignment to be, and then he explained that, no, in fact, that was not my assignment. Instead, I would be working in all subject areas with primary school teachers. Let me say right away that if this had been the assignment I was given in my invitation to serve, I would not have accepted it. My previous experience was in the field of English and working with teachers and older students, not children. I had no education degree and no desire to work with educators at the primary school level. On my Volunteer Assignment Description, my placement officer had crossed out “primary” and written “secondary” and even wrote a note saying essentially, “It says primary but you will be working with secondary schools.” Months into my service, when I brought this concern to the attention of both in-country and U.S.-based staff, it became clear to me that the volunteer assignment descriptions were often intentionally tweaked to get more recruits and fill a quota. Considering the high attrition rate of volunteers in [name of country withheld], doesn’t it make sense to present the assignment accurately and thereby ensure the presence of volunteers who are actually passionate about and committed to the assignment that they’ve accepted? I see no advantage to increasing the number of volunteers on an assignment if those volunteers do not actually want to be doing the assignment. I find it highly disturbing, not to mention unprofessional, that Peace Corps is intentionally dishonest with its volunteers from the start.
In another case, a Volunteer was excited to be invited to serve as an agro-forestry Volunteer, so prior to training he consulted in depth with forestry NGOs, assembled a huge library of forestry materials, and bought tree grafting knives. Two days after arrival at training, he was unceremoniously switched to agriculture (cereal crops). When the Volunteer objected, he was told he could either accept the switch or Early Terminate. Five other Volunteers were put in the same position and six had been switched from forestry to agriculture a year earlier. Later when the Volunteer focused his service on forestry projects, he was threatened with Administrative Separation for not focusing on agriculture. When he reminded his APCD that the Peace Corps had invited him to serve in the agro-forestry program, the APCD accused him of lying. When the Volunteer produced the “forestry” invitation, the APCD backed off from this threat but did not apologize for the threat or the accusation. The Volunteer then filed a formal request to be reclassified as a forestry Volunteer. The CD sat on this request for six months and then falsely claimed that he’d denied the request many months earlier. The Volunteer then attempted to appeal the denial to headquarters. After several months attempting to secure a response from headquarters to his appeal, headquarters staff responded by saying,
You know…one of the key tenets of being a Peace Corps Volunteer is flexibility. Most folks are so excited to be serving in the Peace Corps—learning a new language, experiencing a new culture and helping those around them with new skills—that they don't focus on whether or not their actual assignment is exactly what was presented. While Volunteers generally serve in the project area assigned, many, if not most projects evolve and are reformulated to meet the needs of the Volunteers’ community. Sometimes their secondary assignments become more meaningful than the actual sector they were assigned. They simply learn to adjust—to be flexible…[M]y advice to you is to enjoy it—enjoy the people, the culture, and the amazing opportunity you've been granted to serve in the Peace Corps… In 5-10 years, what will truly matter is the impact that you…had on the lives of those you served in [name of country withheld]—not the title of your assignment area. During this process the Volunteer filed a FPO Freedom of Information Act request that produced many documents stating that the Volunteer acceptance of a program assignment is binding on the Volunteer but no documents indicating that the offer of an assignment is binding on the Peace Corps—an all too typical asymmetry where bureaucratic convenience trumps Volunteer rights and interests.
The practice of switching Volunteers from one program to another without their consent should end. These switches represent a failure to listen to and respect the Volunteers. If it became widely known that the program assignments were meaningless and that they could be changed by bureaucratic fiat without the consent of the Volunteer, applicants might become reluctant to accept assignments. This might be an especially sensitive issue for applicants who expect their substantial interest or experience in specific fields to be utilized in their service.
The Peace Corps should examine the appropriate systems for contacting the Volunteers in case of an emergency. Some countries use a “warden” system where Volunteers are grouped in a “telephone tree” so that one call from the CD can generate calls to any or all members of the tree. In these cases, the CDs do not seek to know whether the Volunteers are at their site; the system simply ensures that they may contact any or all of the Volunteers on short notice.
However, many country programs have systems that go way beyond the need to contact Volunteers in an emergency and to ensure safety and security. They regulate day by day how much time Volunteers spent at their sites. Volunteers are often required to seek permission from their APCD whenever they want to leave their sites. There are often limits on how many days per month that the Volunteer can be away from site. The definition of what constitutes the Volunteer’s “site” can be quite narrow. These bed-checking policies seems to have little to do with the safety and security of the Volunteers but arise because managers see no affirmative way to keep Volunteers at their site—through better designed programs, site preparation, counterpart recruitment and support—and take no responsibility for failing to give Volunteers work assignments that engage them at their sites. The regulations appear to assume that the only way to keep the Volunteers at their sites is to threaten them with termination for leaving without permission. Volunteers who become demoralized do tend to wander away from their sites, but imposing bed-checking rules is a sure way to demoralize all of the Volunteers.
Volunteers detest these “out of site” policies to the point that they routinely violate them (at the risk of being terminated). Typically the APCDs enforce the regulations, which undermines their role as the primary source of support for the Volunteers and takes considerable time away from substantive duties. Some APCDs take steps to “catch” Volunteers out of their sites, further undermining their relationship with the Volunteers. These regulations embody condescension and disrespect for the Volunteers, who are treated like children. They are a major source of the Volunteers’ alienation from staff and are inimical to a respectful partnership.
The Peace Corps should adopt the warden system for notifying Volunteers in case of an emergency and abolish the “out of site” regulations. If the Peace Corps finds that Volunteers are spending considerable time away from their sites, the managers might well ask how they can provide better support to the Volunteers to encourage them to stay closer to site. In this way, the managers share responsibility for the Volunteer’s effectiveness and well being. This contrasts with the “gotcha” game we find in many countries.
In cases where Volunteers travel to other countries to train Volunteers, the Peace Corps should consider reimbursing them for some of their expenses or granting them additional vacation leave. The Peace Corps should establish a budget for such reimbursement. No special medical or security burdens should be placed on countries hosting Volunteers during job-related international travel beyond what it would provide were they visiting as tourists.
Finally, the Peace Corps should reconsider its procedures for setting Volunteer living allowances. Reports are widespread that with the depreciation of the dollar, the current allowances are not sufficient. Volunteers are frequently asked to fill out expense surveys but the countries do not act on them to adjust allowances without a 75% return rate, which often proves to be impossible. Keeping track of expenses is difficult in the village environment where no one routinely issues receipts. Some other means should be found to document living allowances to ensure they are adequate.
 Point Nine: Strengthen Standard of Medical Support for Volunteers
Upgrades in the medical support to Volunteers should be implemented. The Peace Corps assumes responsibility for providing medical support for Volunteers during their service. Once an applicant is accepted to serve, this support applies to new and pre-existing conditions that require medical intervention during their service. The Peace Corps should give the Volunteers (and the staff) the highest standard of care, within the limitations imposed by the local conditions.
The Peace Corps states that the ratio of Peace Corps Medical Officers (PCMOs) to Volunteers should be 1 to 60. But this standard is not always honored. The authors know of countries where the ratio is 1 to 80 or 1 to 90. PCMOs are important participants in the training of Volunteers, which is very time-consuming. They have little time to visit Volunteers in the field to provide counseling or check on their psychological well being. Efforts to provide the highest standard of care start with moderating the PCMO’s workload.
The Peace Corps should utilize the most effective anti-malarial prophylaxis with the fewest side effects, regardless of cost. The Peace Corps prescribes Lariam as the standard prophylaxis for malaria. Volunteers who have side effects from Lariam can switch to Doxycycline. If the Volunteers do not tolerate Doxy, they might be switched to Malarone, but this decision has been grudgingly made because Malarone is much more expensive than either Lariam or Doxy.<ref name="ftn103">A week's dosage of Malarone costs about $33; Lariam, $10; and doxycycline, $3.</ref> The Peace Corps says that it prefers Lariam in part because it’s taken once a week, whereas Doxy and Malarone are taken daily. In addition, the Peace Corps has wanted to reserve Malarone as the treatment drug of choice for Volunteers who contracted malaria (either through non-compliance in taking their medicines or through failure of the medicines). The Peace Corps now uses the new Chinese anti-malarial Coartem (Artemesin) for treatment, so Malarone does not need to be held in reserve. It appears that Malarone has far fewer side effects than either Lariam, which is notorious for inducing psychotic episodes in some Volunteers, or Doxy, an antibiotic that causes gastric problems in some Volunteers. If this is true, then the Peace Corps should prescribe Malarone as its first-line malaria prophylaxis and willingly pay the extra cost. The Volunteers are worth it.
The Peace Corps is rightfully concerned about applicants with mental health problems. Service in isolated posts under harsh environmental and cultural conditions is tough enough on anyone, let alone someone prone to depression, for example, or an obsessive-compulsive disorder. However, the Peace Corps also apparently rejects applicants who have sought psychological counseling during transitions (such as a divorce), whereas this counseling may well give the Volunteer special strengths during their service. The Peace Corps should consider whether it should prefer Volunteers who have the strength to process their fears and failures with the help of professionals and whether these Volunteers are more reliable and less likely to Early Terminate (ET).
Female PCVs are often given annual gynecological exams but are sent to gynecologists only if a medical problem is suspected. Male Volunteers are sometimes, but not always, given annual prostate examinations and tests for Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA). Volunteers sometimes get skin cancer screenings by dermatologists. The Peace Corps should consider whether these are the appropriate standards of care.
The Peace Corps routinely gives Volunteers HIV/AIDS and STD tests. However, when Volunteers request these tests, some fear that they will be questioned about their sexual practices with an implicit or explicit threat of separation (medical or administrative) on the assumption they would not have requested the test unless they had engaged in unsafe sexual practices. The Peace Corps should make it clear that these questions will not lead to separation. Without this reassurance, some Volunteers might fear asking for the tests, thus delaying diagnosis and treatment. The Peace Corps should consider whether to provide these tests on a no questions asked basis.<ref name="ftn104">In July of 2008, under pressure from the American Civil Liberties Union, the Peace Corps settled a complaint with a Volunteer who had been terminated following a positive HIV test. The Volunteer claimed that he'd been automatically terminated pursuant to an official Peace Corps policy to that effect. The ACLU argued that the automatic termination violated the Rehabilitation Act. Under the settlement, the Peace Corps acknowledged that it cannot legally terminate Volunteers merely because they test positive for HIV. In the same month as the Peace Corps terminated this Volunteer, the U.S. Foreign Service amended its policy of banning HIV-positive employees. Of the 75,000 Americans who have joined the Peace Corps since 1989, 36 have tested positive either during or at the conclusion of their overseas tours.</ref>
Peace Corps medical personnel routinely threaten Volunteers with medical separation for alleged failure to disclose medical conditions on their applications. In many cases these alleged failures arise due to ambiguities or omissions in the medical application form. Applicants should be given ample notice of both the need to disclose all medical conditions on their applications and the consequences for failing to do so. The Peace Corps should rewrite the medical application to be sure that it calls for complete disclosure and informs applicants of the consequences for non-disclosure.<ref name="ftn105">In one case the "full disclosure" and "medical test reimbursement" issues overlapped. A woman applicant, aged 59, checked "post menopausal" on her application. She was asked whether she'd taken hormones when she'd been in menopause and she submitted a signed affidavit saying "no." The Peace Corps wouldn't accept her affidavit and required that a physician vouch that she'd not taken hormones. No physician existed who could vouch to this, so the best she could do was locate one who could say, "She says 'no hormones' and I believe her." She paid out of pocket for the visit. She found the whole experience "derogatory and denigrating." This is no way to recruit an older applicant.</ref>
The Peace Corps routinely switches Volunteers from one brand of pharmaceutical to another or from branded to generic pharmaceuticals without notifying the Volunteer or securing the PCV's private physician's approval. This is notoriously true for birth control pills. The reasons for switching include cost, problems with late/lost shipments, or the short shelf lives of drugs ordered from the U.S. According to guidelines, PCVs are supposed to be notified of any switches, but this appears not always to happen. The Peace Corps should notify the Volunteers of these switches and give them and their physicians the right to object, even if this imposes additional costs on the Peace Corps.
The Peace Corps used to provide sanitary products to female Volunteers due to the limited supply of these products or their prohibitive cost in the host country. Apparently, it stopped this practice to save money. It should consider resuming this practice.
The Peace Corps requires that Volunteers bring with them to training a three-month supply of their prescription drugs but does not reimburse them for the cost. The Peace Corps should consider whether this is inconsistent with its commitment to cover the Volunteer's medical costs throughout their service.
Finally, Volunteers are supposed to be reimbursed for some routine medical expenses incurred post-Close of Service (COS). With regard to dental claims, however, the Peace Corps plays a “bait and switch” game. First it forces Volunteers to defer dental checkups until after they COS and then it finds excuses to deny them reimbursement for their dental expenses. For example, the Peace Corps policy is to reimburse the Volunteers for dental fillings on an "all or nothing basis" (that is, all elements of a dental claim, that is all fillings, must be "approved" or no reimbursement is forthcoming for any of them). Blue Cross or other health insurers do not provide reimbursement on an “all or nothing basis.” The Peace Corps also looks for ways to argue that certain dental expenses arise from a "pre-existing" condition and deny reimbursement for this reason. If a dental filling is needed soon after COS, there can be no doubt that the need for it arose during the Volunteer's service and that the Peace Corps is liable to pay for it. When a Volunteer “appeals” the denial of a claim, the same Peace Corps staff who rejected the claim process the appeal—with predictable results. These bureaucratic evasions of the Peace Corps financial responsibility for the Volunteers’ post-COS medical expenses should end. Until the Peace Corps does so, Volunteers should insist on scheduling their final dental exam and perhaps other medical interventions before they COS.<ref name="ftn106">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “medical care received by volunteers while serving in the Peace Corps…” We have proposed that this assessment include medical care received by Volunteers “upon completion of service for service-related health care matters.”</ref>
Strengthening the medical support for Volunteers should help to reduce the ET rate and organically grow the number of Volunteers.
 Point Ten: Enhance Third Goal Opportunities for Returned Volunteers
The Peace Corps should establish constructive relationships and substantial program and financial support for the organizations representing the Returned Volunteers that work toward the Peace Corps Third Goal.
The Peace Corps should establish a stronger relationship with the National Peace Corps Association in funding Third Goal activities and working closely with the Friends groups. It should inform COSing Volunteers about NPCA and the Friends Groups and facilitate their joining these groups. The Peace Corps should involve the Friends groups in staging programs and mentoring COSing Volunteers (a new program of the National Peace Corps Association). It should also utilize the Returned Peace Corps Volunteers—Washington (RPCV-W)—in supporting Volunteers who have to be medically evacuated to Washington, D.C. Those Volunteers could be housed with RPCVs who would support them during a difficult period in their service. The Peace Corps should work to professionalize these organizations so that they can help to support current Volunteers. For example, it could help them to secure tax-exempt status so that donations to the Volunteers through the Friends groups would qualify for charitable tax deductions. Donations from Friends groups to current Volunteers should be encouraged.
The Peace Corps should continue to support NPCA's WorldView magazine as an independent publication and forward copies to all current Volunteers even when articles criticize the agency management. The Peace Corps should not seek to influence the editorial policy of the publication.<ref name="ftn107">For many years the Peace Corps has paid for subscriptions to WorldView, the publication of the National Peace Corps Association, and mailed the magazine to all current Volunteers. In December 2007 the Peace Corps demanded to preview WorldView before the Peace Corps mailed it to the Volunteers. The Peace Corps subscriptions to WorldView are essential to the finances of this publication. The primary interest of most of the advertisers in WorldView is reaching the current Volunteers (e.g. about graduate education programs), not the RPCVs. So, if the Peace Corps did not continue its subscriptions, the NPCA might have to terminate the publication. The NPCA President refused the request and the Peace Corps withdrew its demand.
Section 103 of the Dodd/Kennedy PCVEA authorized funding for Third Goal programs of returned Volunteers. It stated, “The Director of the Peace Corps shall award grants on a competitive basis to private nonprofit corporations and returned Peace Corps volunteers for the purpose of enabling returned Peace Corps volunteers to use their knowledge and expertise to develop programs and projects,” including “educational programs designed to enrich the knowledge and interest of elementary school and secondary school students in the geography and cultures of other countries where the volunteers have served;” “projects that involve partnerships with local libraries to enhance community knowledge about other peoples and countries; and…audiovisual projects that utilize materials collected by the volunteers during their service that would be of educational value to communities.” The grants would be available only to “an individual who has served as a Peace Corps volunteer and shall have successfully completed all aspects of the volunteer's required Peace Corps service” or to “a nonprofit corporation that shall have a board of directors composed of one or more returned Peace Corps volunteers with a background in community service, education, or health.” An additional $10 million year—“in addition to any other funds made available to the Peace Corps under any other provision of law…” This authorization is not included in the PCIEA.
One issue with this funding proposal is whether it is appropriate to establish a program where eligibility is limited to individuals based on their status as returned Volunteers. Legal challenges to this limitation might be mounted by individuals or organizations with programs focusing on the same social issues. It is not clear why these individuals and organizations should be excluded from this program solely due to their not being returned Volunteers.
 Point Eleven: Substantially Modify the Five-Year Rule
The Peace Corps should recommend that the Congress enact legislation to substantially modify the current five-year rule, which has become an impediment to the retention of professional management talent. The authors propose that the Congress enact a hybrid rule that would permit the Peace Corps to issue a series of two and a half or five-year contracts with no limit on the number of such contracts and no required gap between them. This would permit the Peace Corps to retain the personnel who are committed to listening to, respecting and empowering the Volunteers, while not renewing the contracts of those who do not. This would also provide needed continuity in support services such as human resources, information technology, contracting, global financial services—all areas that struggle with high turnover at the Peace Corps. This proposed approach would retain the advantages of the five-year rule, enabling the Peace Corps to avoid the rigidities of the civil service system where unproductive employees cannot easily be removed.
In practice the five-year rule means that employees start looking for a new position after two or three years, not waiting until the last minute. The rule makes it difficult for these employees to plan their careers and provide for their retirement as they shuttle between different systems. The uncertainty and insecurity limits the types of individuals who seek employment with the Peace Corps. When former Peace Corps staff return to the agency after their required period away, the Peace Corps pays twice, once for having “closed out” these individuals and another for bringing them back into the system (which requires retraining them on current systems).
On balance it seems that the disadvantages of the current five-year rule outweigh the advantages. The hybrid rule proposed here would retain the advantages without incurring the disadvantages of the civil service system.<ref name="ftn108">The PCIEA does not call on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of issues of interest to Peace Corps staff. We have proposed that the assessments include a focus on “strategies to enhance recruitment and retention of professional staff, including a review of the impact of the five-year limit on employment and proposals for modifying it.”</ref>
 Point Twelve: Adopt Incentives for Improving Management and Retaining Staff
The Peace Corps should give CDs incentives to run their programs more efficiently. Specifically, it should allow them to retain and reprogram the financial benefits of any savings they achieve. It should also retain a reserve for innovative new programs and widely disseminate the findings of these demonstrations.
The Peace Corps faces tough competition in recruiting both American and host country nationals as staff. If the Peace Corps salary and benefits do not compare well with competing agencies, the quality of the personnel and the support for Volunteers suffers. Accordingly, the Peace Corps should retain an independent human resources/compensation consulting firm to analyze the salary and benefits of Peace Corps managers and personnel to determine whether the current system allows recruitment and retention of top talent to support the Volunteers. Among the policies that should be considered are amending the five-year rule, increasing the ratio of staff to Volunteers (to make the workload more manageable), investing more in staff professional development, providing staff with hardship differential pay and cost of living allowances, and providing annual home leave/R&R.
The independent consultants should examine whether the Peace Corps posts are handicapped by the lack of both in-country human resources (HR) personnel and an "objective" entity/body to whom the host country nationals can raise larger HR issues similar to the function of the Foreign Service Nationals (FSN) committee at US Embassies or an HR department that serves in most companies in the U.S. The consultants should also examine the issues that arise for locally hired Peace Corps employees who are contractors with non-standardized grade levels, a situation that can lead to inconsistencies in grades for those holding the same position or sometimes within a post for positions that are similar in nature.
 Point Thirteen: Strengthen Peace Corps Financial Management
Strengthening the financial management of the country posts must be a high priority in the overall Peace Corps strengthening plan.
The information technology and financial systems of the Peace Corps have advanced greatly in recent years. These advances have provided the agency with more sophisticated tools for managing its budgets and complying with the reporting requirements of the U.S. Government (Federal Manager's Financial Integrity Act of 1982; OMB Circular A-123; Performance and Results Act of 1993; and Federal Information Security Management Act of 2002). More rigorous audits at the headquarters level have forced country posts to enhance their financial, accounting and documentation processes. These system automations and process realignments have provided the posts with better tools, procedures, and checks and balances.
Unfortunately, the country posts are basically working with an outdated administrative structure, which is built from the old State Department model of GSO (general services) and Finance as the two main components. State Department has since realigned their processes, provided extensive and continual training of local staff, restructured the management functions when necessary, and even renamed the Administrative Officer as Management Officer to better reflect the duties. Additionally, the in-country Peace Corps administrative teams currently comprise low- to mid-level staff with the exception of the IT Specialist. This level of staff was appropriate decades ago in small operations that were more manual in nature. In the current model of Peace Corps, in-country staff need advanced language skills, information technology skills, overarching management knowledge, and experience in critical decision-making in order to support Volunteers of the 21st century in the world of advanced information technology. As the Peace Corps proceeds to upgrade its systems and processes, it needs to re-evaluate its administrative team and staff structure, assess workloads and competencies and provide necessary training to local staff in order to create a more dynamic model. This is not always easy in the context of the government planning process and the local labor laws and practices in the countries in which the Peace Corps operates.
The system advancements, automation and agency initiatives that have driven the need for more dynamic staffing and skills alignment include Forpost forecasting (an advanced enterprise accounting systems linked to Washington), broad use of Electronic Funds Transfer, a strong push for purchase and travel card use and on-line card reconciliation systems, reduction in the use of Imprest (cashier services), stricter policies and regulations regarding inventory and property accounting, a push to recuperate VAT taxes from the host country (an extremely labor- and paper-intensive process in many countries), stricter guidelines and auditing of time and attendance procedures and greater use of locally developed time and attendance systems, stricter reporting/documentation on leases, stricter reporting/documentation on vehicles, stricter compliance to agency-wide collection regulations, and a bar on cash payments made by Volunteers to maintain regional/transit houses. There remain areas where systems and automation are needed, including Volunteer allowance quarterly payments and reimbursement coordination/focal points that enable the agency to adhere to current government regulations related to international payments, yet accommodate the nature of the local banking system and local Peace Corps operations.
These changes in Peace Corps systems and procedures would mean that the in-country U.S. direct hire Administrative Officers' (AO) role would start to resemble that of a chief operating officer requiring delegation of many functions that could previously remain at the AO level. The country finance teams would need re-evaluation and reengineering to ensure workload balances. Certain positions should be added (Junior Financial Assistants and Human Resource Assistant). The GSO (general services) area should be completely restructured with significant increase in staffing. Administrative staff development and training is necessary in order to keep staff up with the pace of change at Peace Corps and in the information technology field. Standardization or normalization should be implemented across posts for position grades and scopes of work with flexibility so that best practices in the Admin team structure will be implemented world-wide.
 Point Fourteen: Transfer Authority and Resources to the Country Posts and Volunteers
The bottom line for the Peace Corps lies with the Volunteers, without whom the agency accomplishes nothing. This means that the Peace Corps should decentralize by transferring as much authority and resources as possible to the Volunteers and country staff to become an “edge” organization. In terms of listening to, respecting and empowering the Volunteers, the Peace Corps should learn from other Federal agencies about how to distribute power and resources to their operatives in the field. Among Federal agencies, the leading practitioner of this approach is—surprisingly—the Department of Defense, where “net centric warfare” delegates power to individual soldiers and units. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Network-centric_warfare. The best publication dealing with the developing theory of network centric warfare is Power to the Edge (2003) by Dr. David S. Alberts and Richard E. Hayes of the Department’s Command and Control Research Program (CCRP). The book argues for a major flattening of traditional military hierarchies. http://www.dodccrp.org/files/Alberts_Power.pdf.
The corollary in the civilian sector is a network-centric organization. These organizations create and leverage information to increase competitive advantage through the collaboration of small and agile self-triggered and self-directed teams. For this, the organizational culture needs to change from one solely determined by a command and control, rule-based hierarchy to a hybrid structure which supports loosely-organized, self-managed teams (e.g. of Volunteers) to make cooperative decisions by sharing knowledge. Socially-constructed, collective knowledge, at the small team level, is recognized as the predominant source of learning, creativity and innovation even in large highly structured business enterprises. Power to the Edge involves the empowerment of individuals at the edge of an organization (where the organization interacts with its operating environment). Empowerment involves expanding access to information and the elimination of unnecessary constraints. Moving power to the edge implies creation of an edge organization, with greatly enhanced peer-to-peer interactions. Edge organizations also move senior personnel into roles that place them at the edge. Industrial Age organizations, like most government agencies, are anything but agile. Agile organizations must be able to meet unexpected challenges and accomplish new tasks in new ways. They are able to tolerate (even embrace) disruptive innovation. Agile organizations depend upon the ability of individual members and organizational entities to get the information that they need to make sense of a situation and to combine and recombine as needed to ensure coherent responses. The Peace Corps should aspire to become an agile edge organization.<ref name="ftn109">= For a review of how the Department and NATO respond to natural and other disasters without reliance on a command and control decision-making structure, see the Defense Department Directive 3000.05 (November 28, 2005) regarding “Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations” and NATO’s Network Enabled Capability (NED) “C2 Maturity Model Overview” (October 16, 2008). The latter includes a detailed description of a NATO NEC Command and Control Maturity Model (NNEC C2MM) for SSTR operations. These doctrines focus on innovative edge organizational strategies like “smart swarming,” “self-triggering,” and “hastily-formed networks” where they find it is possible to achieve a unity of effort when unity of command is not feasible or advantageous. These military organizations find that command and control hierarchies do not work well in the context of natural and other disasters. Certainly, the Peace Corps can learn how to avoid command and control hierarchies in its dealings with the Volunteers. = </ref>
It appears that the Washington headquarters has become bloated, the opposite of an edge organization. In 1966 when Peace Corps had 15,000 Volunteers in the field, the Peace Corps Washington telephone staff directory had about 850 names. Current headquarters personnel are estimated at 790. This estimate seems high for an established program half the size it was in 1966.
Many of the current Peace Corps Washington offices bear familiar titles: regional operations, training, recruitment and selection, Volunteer support, medical, congressional relations. A few reflect programs that did not exist in 1966: Private Sector Initiatives (Gifts in Kind, Partnerships), Crisis Corps, Domestic Programs including Coverdell WorldWise Schools, Fellows USA, and Masters/International, AIDS Relief, IG, Office of Safety and Security. But public relations seems to have exploded: Communications Office, Press Relations, Chief Information Officer.
The traditional management offices also seem to have exploded. They occupy two plus columns in a current Federal Yellow Book while regional operations occupy little more than three columns. Today there are many new management offices: Planning, Policy and Analysis; Planning and Budget; Budget Implementation and Planning and Management. Director Tschetter testified that he had established the Office of Strategic Information, Research and Planning. Clearly, the next Peace Corps Director needs to take a hard look at what appears to be bloated PC Washington staffing.
While the country staff must listen to, respect, and empower the Volunteers, headquarters staff must listen to, respect, and empower the country staff. Some CDs use a colorful term, “feeding the beast” when referring to the endless and duplicative forms, surveys and reports that the Country staff must file. The new Director, Deputy Director and Staff Director should dramatically curtail the agency’s bureaucratic demands on country staff. All forms, surveys and reports should be reviewed and then eliminated unless justified as essential. Another goal of the new managers must be to substantially reduce the size of the bloated headquarters bureaucracy and transfer these resources to the field. The Peace Corps must curb its bureaucratic tendency to aggrandize power and resources. In addition, CDs must have incentives to run their programs more efficiently. One such incentive would be to allow them to retain and reprogram the financial benefits of any savings they achieve. Another would be to allow them to retain a reserve for innovative new programs and widely disseminate their findings.
 Point Fifteen: Implement Tough Evaluation Processes
The Peace Corps should institutionalize evaluation processes so that the search for ways to increase its effectiveness, particularly as an agent of development, is never ending.
The Volunteers should be surveyed annually or biannually regarding the effectiveness of Peace Corps management, programs, and possible reforms. The current annual Peace Corps survey of Volunteers asks whether their service was "personally rewarding," whether they "would recommend service" to others, and whether they "have been successful in helping people from other cultures better understand Americans." The Volunteers should also be asked in detail to what extent the Peace Corps has supported them in their development work and cross-culture immersion. These surveys would complement the 360 degree reviews implemented in each country and Volunteer whistleblower protections. This information could be transmitted to the Congress for its review, showing that the Peace Corps is open to being held accountable for its performance.
The Peace Corps should set non-numeric measures of its First Goal accomplishments. These will be key elements of the doubling campaign. Excessive reliance on quantitative measures will not be productive or persuasive. Volunteers need to tell the Peace Corps story in personal terms, emphasizing their accomplishments in the communities in which they serve.
 Point Sixteen: Increase Transparency of the Peace Corps
The Peace Corps is among the least transparent agencies of the Federal government. It does not utilize the “notice and comment” process of the Administrative Procedure Act to set its procedures, rules and regulations. And it does not publish most of these documents on line.
It should launch a wide-ranging program to become more open and transparent. The agency should publish on line its regulations and manuals; an organization chart and staff directory; explanations of how to solicit grants from the Peace Corps Partnership Program, file FOIA requests and requests for IG investigations; and copies of all reports, legislation, testimony, and news articles about the Peace Corps. It should publish on line the documents it supplies to the public in response to FOIA requests.
In an effort to provide useful information to individuals invited to serve as trainees, one CD gave them access to the “Volunteer only” portion of the program’s website so that the invitees could contact current Volunteers with questions prior to accepting or rejecting the invitation. He found that when the invitees arrived as trainees they were much better prepared and informed and the ET rates dropped. It would be useful for the Peace Corps to provide all invitees with this opportunity and also to publish data regarding the ET rates and Volunteer safety and health data for the country and program in which they are invited to serve.<ref name="ftn110">The most recent Volunteer safety date (Fiscal Year 2006) is published at http://www.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/policies/volsafety2006.pdf. The most recent Volunteer health data (again for Fiscal Year 2006) is published at http://peacecorpswiki.org/The_Health_of_the_Volunteer.</ref> It should give the invitees access to the 360 degree reviews of the personnel and programs for that country.
The Peace Corps should provide applicants, nominees, invitees and trainees with links to the social networking website of the National Peace Corps Association and links to the returned Volunteer “friends” groups for each country. It should provide them with links to PeaceCorpsOnLine, PeaceCorpsJournals, and PeaceCorpsWiki and the web-based discussion groups, such as firstname.lastname@example.org. The Peace Corps should monitor these sites to determine how to improve the briefing materials and website information it provides to applicants, nominees, invitees, and trainees.<ref name="ftn111">The PCIEA does not call on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of the transparency of the Peace Corps. We have proposed that the Peace Corps be called upon to assess “actions to increase the transparency of the Peace Corps within the Executive Branch, to the Congress, the volunteers, the returned volunteer community, and others.”</ref>
 Point Seventeen: Ensure Peace Corps Office of Inspector General Again Leads Investigations of Violent Crimes Against Volunteers/Staff
The Peace Corps should re-examine how it handles investigations of violent crimes and lapses in security for Volunteers and staff and put the Peace Corps’ Office of IG (PC/OIG) back in charge.
In 2003-04 the Peace Corps conducted a major restructuring of these procedures in response to criticism in a GAO Report<ref name="ftn112">See “Initiatives for Addressing Safety and Security Challenges Hold Promise, but Progress Should Be Assessed,” July 2002, http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d02818.pdf.</ref> and a seven-part expose in the Dayton Daily News.<ref name="ftn113">See “Casualties of Peace”: Part 1: Mission of Sacrifice (October 26, 2003) (http://www.daytondailynews.com/project/content/project/peacecorps/daily/1026main.html);
Part 2: Missing Without a Trace (October 27, 2003)
Part 3: Danger in the Highlands (October 28, 2003)
Part 4: Mystery Deaths (October 29, 2003)
Part 5: Who Killed Karen Phillips? (October 30, 2003)
Part 6: Marked for Death (October 31, 2003)
Part 7: Trouble in Paradise (November 1, 2003)
(http://www.daytondailynews.com/project/content/project/peacecorps/daily/1101capeverde.html)</ref> As a result of that effort, the Office of Safety and Security (OSS) was established under Peace Corps administrators who are often political appointees. More importantly, in 2008 the Peace Corps political appointees ended the responsibility of the PC/OIG for overseeing criminal investigation of violent crime. The latter move in this restructuring raises doubts about whether investigations—including those involving questions about the culpability of the Peace Corps—will be sufficiently independent to be thorough and credible. At risk is whether perpetrators of crimes against Peace Corps Volunteers and staff will be brought to justice—deterring other would be perpetrators—and giving families and friends of the victims a sense of closure.
These investigations are analogous to those regarding commercial aircraft crashes. Our society does not allow the airline company to investigate the crash nor to report the findings. The National Traffic Safety Administration, an independent agency, investigates the crashes and its findings are credible. Without such independence, questions of bias would arise no matter how the investigation was handled. For this reason some argue that the PC/OIG, not the political appointees at the Peace Corps, should resume its former role as the lead governmental investigative body.
The most recent PC/OIG Semi Annual Report to the Congress focuses at length on its objections to transferring the criminal investigations to the OSS.
http://www.scribd.com/doc/7448352/-Peace-Corps-Inspector-General-Semiannual-Report-to-Congress-2008 and http://multimedia.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/policies/SARC_20080528.pdf. The report states clearly that the OIG opposed this transfer. It argues that the Peace Corps Safety and Security Officers (PCSSOs) “are not trained to conduct criminal investigations,” are not able “to derive investigative authority to forward evidence to the FBI for analysis or present a case to Judicial System,”and “are not recognized law enforcement officials or criminal investigators.” (Italics in original.) It notes that the PCSSOs “may not be able to perform their current work responsibilities in addition to [investigations of] violent crimes.” It noted that the focus on violent crimes “currently consumes 70% to 90% of the time of the OIG’s four person Investigations Unit.” (Italics in original.) It also questioned “how responding to violent crimes will be prioritized with existing [RSSO] work.” OIG emphasized that “protecting and processing crime scenes, collecting and admitting DNA evidence for analysis, interviewing victims and witnesses of violent crimes, coordination with post, headquarters, local authorities, the [Embassy] RSO, and other investigative activities are time-consuming and must be conducted within prescribed time frames according to both U.S. legal standards and the local legal system.” (Italics in original.) It also noted that it was “concerned about notifying [RSSOs] of a violent crime in a timely manner.” The OIG advised the agency that “its proposed reliance on host country law enforcement agencies where Peace Corps programs operate is problematic.” It warned that “any transfer of functions [to the RSSOs] must not limit or prohibit the OIG’s ability to investigate any and all crimes involving Peace Corps and its resources.” The OIG concluded, “Peace Corps management should refrain from policy decisions that can be construed as interfering with the objectives and independence of the OIG.”
The questions regarding the transfer are partly about appearances. The Peace Corps political appointees might be tempted to give high priority to controlling damage to the agency’s image, minimizing reports of their own lapses, and moving on as soon as possible at any cost. The Peace Corps might be tempted to argue—as it does on its website—"health and safety risks are an inherent part of Volunteer service…because Volunteers serve worldwide, sometimes in very remote areas.”
The questions are also partly about training and competence. Non-OIG Peace Corps staff are ill prepared to confer with, question, observe and/or advise host country nationals in the area of criminalistics. As a result, the OSS staff may come to rely on the Regional Security Officer (RSO) attached to the local US embassy, but these officers are often swamped with crimes against American tourists, business personnel and military personnel. Assisting the Peace Corps is not the RSO’s sole or major focus. Some RSOs are not supportive of the Peace Corps mission. In addition, RSOs have a rapid staff turnover. Supplementing the RSO’s role, the OSS may rely on the Peace Corps Regional Safety and Security Officer (RSSO) and other host country staff who often have little or no prior experience in criminal investigations or law enforcement. Some of those who work on these cases are lower level host country nationals or “police buffs” without security clearance.
In contrast, the PC/OIG staff maintains trained investigators who have the title of "Special Agent" within the U.S. government. This title describes any federal criminal or non-criminal law enforcement investigator or detective in the 1811 job series title in the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) handbook. Foreign police agencies have utilized PC/OIG's 1811s to help maintain "the chain of custody" of evidence to forensic labs (Quantico, VA) for analysis or to courts of law; this is a task PC/civilian staff cannot perform. PC/OIG’s 1811s have also accompanied PCVs back to judicial proceedings in their country of service, months or years after their service actually ended. For this reason the FBI—called in on the Karen Phillips<ref name="ftn114">Karen Phillips was murdered in 1998 in Gabon. A botched investigation, involving an eccentric former rock star in Gabon, may have all but assured that her killer will never be found.</ref> and Walter Poirier<ref name="ftn115">Walter Poirier has been missing in Bolivia since 2001.</ref> cases—always believed that PC/OIG Special Agents should be the ones investigating these kinds of cases.
PC/OIG has been especially impressive in attempting to determine the cause of death of a Volunteer, a crucial question from the families who seek closure. Parents want to know how their son or daughter died. The cause of death is also a crucial question in cases involving homicide. PC/OIG was instrumental in establishing an MOU (memo of understanding) with the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology (AFIP). PC/OIG arranged for AFIP personnel (pathologists) to fly to any Peace Corps country to assist/advise/observe the local mortician on any post mortem of a PCV where the cause of death was unknown or due to suspicious circumstances. AFIP also agreed at the request of the PC/OIG, to have PCV fatalities flown to Dover for a comprehensive post mortem. This was no small undertaking, as the PC/IG at the time was an Orthodox Jew and had religious reservations about the practice. The AFIP personnel explained to him and PC/OIG how these concerns are handled for the various faiths in the military. A high-tech CAT scan-type machine could graphically strip away every layer of the human body for a closer examination of damage to internal organs, broken bones and foreign objects. Convinced, the PC/OIG entered into the agreement. This MOU and protocol were five years in the making. (Note: AFIP handles similar matters for incidents in a number of governmental agencies, including both Space shuttle disasters.) Prior to this agreement, the Peace Corps had sent home a number of fatalities in which the cause of death was undetermined and is still unknown to this day. The agency’s political appointees now control the MOU so they will determine if and how AFIP will be utilized.
The reports on the recent death of Kate Puzey, a Volunteer in Benin, state that she “appeared to have been murdered…however, neither the State Department nor the government of Benin have determined the cause of death.” Appen Country Newspapers, March 19, 2009 (article by Jason Wright). http://www.northfulton.com/Articles-c-2009-03-19-177184.114126-sub_Slain_Peace_Corps_volunteer_from_Cumming_a_beacon_of_light_.html Was the AFIP immediately brought into the case under the MOU to investigate the cause of death, as would have been done if PC/OIG had been involved? Prior to the transfer, a Special Agent from PC/OIG would have been immediately sent to Benin to consult (simultaneously as the body was transported back to the U.S.) with the Benin police investigation and advise them on the collection of vital evidence (and supply them with forensic tools if needed, which is often the case) and the interview of potential suspects. Did OSS do this?
Despite the pointed and poignant objections of PC/OIG to the transfer, it was implemented on July 15, 2008. The notice stated that the “change is being implemented with the concurrence of, and cooperation and coordination between OIG and SS.” The acting PC/IG who had raised the objections quoted above was ultimately overruled by the agency’s political appointees and then a newly-appointed IG acquiesced to the transfer to the political appointees who had just appointed her.
With the transfer of violent crime investigations from the PC/OIG to the OSS, investigations are likely to end once a PCV crime victim or the corps leaves the country. This was not the case with the PC/OIG investigations. PC/OIG encouraged but did not force PCVs who were victims of crime to prosecute. PC/OIG agreed with the prevailing thought that seeking prosecution would send a message to the host country and to the populace that justice would be sought in crimes against Volunteers. The investigative cost for PC/OIG to seek prosecution was enormous, but it believed that the safety of the Volunteers required no less. If the transfer results in less follow through in these cases, less advocacy for the victim, and less deterrence, Peace Corps service might become more perilous.
For the most commonly occurring crime of rape, the agency used to medevac the PCV to Washington for 45 days (for rape counseling and medical treatment).<ref name="ftn116">Under the Bush administration, no U.S. dollars were to be expended for abortion fees, even for rape. </ref> The 45-day D.C. medical evacuation also allowed PC/OIG personnel to interview the victim. It was often during the 45 days in D.C., that the RSO would notify PC/OIG that a suspect was being held and the victim was needed back in the country for a lineup; the OIG investigator frequently escorted the PCV back to the country for the line-up and then returned to DC with the PCV for their continued treatment. In 2006, Peace Corps started to institute a new/old policy (that PC/OIG investigators termed the "outta sight, outta mind medevac", whereby the medevac took rape victims directly to their home of record where they then received vouchers for local counseling and medical evaluation). Under the new policy, that type of thorough follow-through no longer occurs.
Another loss in the transfer is that the PC/OIG no longer reports on its investigative work in its Semi-Annual Report to the Congress (SARC). These reports have provided considerable detail about the pending cases. It’s clear that this made the agency’s political appointees uncomfortable as they took every opportunity to “scrutinize, cajole and finagle with each of the IGs about what information [was to be] included in the SARC before it was officially published.”<ref name="ftn117">Quote from affidavit of Peace Corps staff familiar with the report.</ref> Now these political appointees can control both the investigation and the reporting. The OSS produces an annual “Safety of the Volunteer” report, but it focuses on dull statistics, not reports of individual cases. A comparison of the PC/OIG reports with the OSS reports<ref name="ftn118">See http://multimedia.peacecorps.gov/multimedia/pdf/policies/volsafety2007.pdf</ref> regarding violent crimes shows clearly why the Peace Corps is more comfortable with the latter.<ref name="ftn119">The PCIEA does not call on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of its investigations of crimes against Volunteers. We have proposed that the legislation call on the Peace Corps to assess “the organization and effectiveness of investigations of crimes against Volunteers, including an evaluation of whether the Peace Corps Inspector General shall again be given the lead in these investigations.”</ref>
One reason why this transfer took place is that the Peace Corps IG is not sufficiently independent of the Peace Corps political appointees. The Peace Corps Director or Chief of Staff is actually the PC/IG's boss. Some advocate that the President rather than the Peace Corps Director should appoint the Peace Corps IG. Indeed, the independence of the Peace Corps IG would have been granted in legislation that passed the House on June 1, 2004 (H.R.4060), but died in the Senate). This legislation would have “cure[d] the serious independence issue that the Peace Corps IG….currently faces; periodic, but uncertain, reappointment within a set, nonrenewal [nonrenewable] timeframe. This amendment would protect the IG and OIG staff from the restrictions affecting independence that are built into the agency's personnel rules. As in other IG offices, it would permit the development of a core professional staff, increase sophistication about the agency, work on longer term projects and greater insight and complexity and analysis.” (Testimony of Peace Corps IG at hearing of House Foreign Affairs Committee;
http://commdocs.house.gov/committees/intlrel/hfa92743.000/hfa92743_0f.htm). The Project on Government Oversight recommends, “The Peace Corps IG should be excepted from that agency’s five-year limit on time with the possibility of only two extensions. By the time an IG has learned his way around the agency, he is faced with having to ask his agency chief for an extension of time.” http://www.pogo.org/pogo-files/reports/government-oversight/inspectors-general-many-lack-essential-tools-for-independence/go-ig-20080226.html. Just as RPCVs have influence over who is selected to be Peace Corps Director and Deputy Director, they should have influence over who serves as PC/IG through a public confirmation process.<ref name="ftn120">The agencies with Presidentially appointed and Senate confirmed IGs include the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, Interior, Justice, Labor, State, Transportation, Treasury, and Veterans Affairs and the General Service Administration, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Office of Personnel Management, Small Business Administration, Social Security Administration, Tennessee Valley Authority, Agency for International Development, Central Intelligence Agency, Corporation for National and Community Service, Environmental Protection Agency, Export-Import Bank of the United States, and Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. See http://www.ignet.gov/igs/pas1.html. If the Peace Corps is interested in demonstrating its openness to reform, it should make the PC/IG presidentially appointed and Senate confirmed.</ref>
The issues about the safety and security of Volunteers would become immeasurably more important and complex if they were to become victims of terrorism.
In addition to controlling the independence of the PC/IG, some Peace Corps political appointees would like to confine the OIG's mandate strictly to the detection of waste, fraud and abuse within the agency, while dismissing the IG's authority to investigate or promote, economy, efficiency and effectiveness in Peace Corps programs. This view is reflected in the July 15, 2008, notice on the transfer of authority for investigating violent crimes, which includes a gratuitous slap at the PC/OIG: “This transfer will facilitate OIG’s focus on responsibilities under the Inspector General Act of 1978, as amended…” The sensitivity of the political appointees to PC/OIG investigating the effectiveness of country programs apparently stems from the politicization of the CD appointments, which is largely responsible for the scathing and heart-breaking affidavits printed in this report. Now, having lost its responsibility for the investigation of violent crimes, it seems that the IG will focus primarily on investigations involving embezzlement, employee misconduct and fraudulent claims under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA), which provides federal employees injured in the performance of duty with workers' compensation benefits for total or partial disability.
There is a website in memoriam for Fallen PCV's: http://www.fpcv.org/fallen_pcvs.htm.
 Point Eighteen: Enhance Congressional Oversight
The best way to ensure that the Peace Corps realizes its full potential and addresses challenges and problems is for Congress to engage in vigorous annual oversight. It is incumbent on the Hill friends of the Peace Corps to ask tough questions and demand high standards. This process will strengthen the Peace Corps and empower the Volunteers.
The best source of information about the performance of the Peace Corps, as stated frequently in this report, is the Volunteers. The Peace Corps is a unique agency; its only accomplishments arise from the service of the lowest ranking, lowest paid, and most remote members of its team. Fortunately, it’s easy for the Congress to directly solicit the views of the Volunteers because the CDs maintain lists of the email address of every Volunteer. Peace Corps headquarters occasionally uses these lists to send notices and conduct surveys. This means that the Congress can use these lists to conduct an annual survey of the Volunteers to determine whether the Peace Corps is listening to, respecting and empowering them. This could be a stand-alone survey or it could dovetail with a survey from Peace Corps headquarters.
Whenever the Peace Corps or the Congress develops a survey instrument, it should ask questions that focus in part on the quality of the Peace Corps managers and their support for Volunteers.
In conjunction with an annual survey of the Volunteers, each House of the Congress should schedule one oversight hearing per year, focusing on a wide-ranging and penetrating appraisal of the Peace Corps’ effectiveness in managing Volunteers and its First and Second Goal accomplishments. Management issues like the Five-Year rule and competition from programs like Volunteers for Prosperity (see below) should be explored. An in-depth investigation and audit, perhaps led by the GAO, should precede the hearings. Current and recent Volunteers should be invited to testify. With this intensified oversight, the Peace Corps will thrive.
As the authors of this report testified at the July 25, 2007, hearing on the Dodd/Kennedy legislation, “We are pleased that you do not assume that the Peace Corps management always speaks for Volunteers. In the private sector, management and labor often have different perspectives on the workplace; the same is true of the Peace Corps managers and the Volunteers. Representatives of management are posted here in Washington so you will hear from them. It's more difficult for Volunteers to make themselves heard.” Listening to the Volunteers should become the hallmark of Congressional oversight.
In their testimony, the authors proposed that the Congress “empower Volunteers to participate in the legislative process for [the Dodd/Kennedy] bill” through a Congressional survey. “It's common knowledge that management and labor often have different points of view. We believe that Peace Corps management and Volunteers also have very different perspectives. We have clearly stated our perspective on this difference, but it's easy for the Committee to determine through a survey of the Volunteers if our view [in favor of the legislation] is typical…The Committee could easily survey the 8,000 current Volunteers regarding the legislation.”
We suggested that the Senate Computer Center “could set up an online survey to automatically tabulate answers to the ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions and collate responses to open-ended questions. The Center could code the responses according to Volunteer country of service, age, sex, etc. to note any demographic differences.” Putting this in context, the authors said, “The Committee survey of Peace Corps Volunteers, a specific and limited population of experts, could be part of a major trend in our democracy as we increasingly use the Internet to empower citizens to participate in the legislative process.” Volunteers could be surveyed “in conjunction with pre-service or in-service training or close of service conferences.”
The surveys could address the issues raised in this report—the Peace Corps budget situation, listening mechanisms, First Goal support and accomplishments, ET rates, recruitment of more older, experienced Volunteers, reconnecting Volunteers for life-long service, building peace, protecting Volunteer rights and safety, and the standard of medical support for Volunteers.
The Congress should also have access to the Peace Corps surveys of Volunteers, including the biennial survey and the 360 degree reviews of staff and programs, which would provide a wealth of information from the Volunteer perspective. It would, in effect, give the Congress the substantive information provided here in the Volunteer affidavits. The survey instrument—be it a Peace Corps or a Congressional survey—and confidentiality for the Volunteers is crucial.<ref name="ftn121">The inadequacies in the Peace Corps biennial survey of the Volunteers and survey of 50+ Volunteers are discussed above.</ref>
With enhanced Congressional oversight, the Peace Corps will be held accountable for listening to, respecting and empowering the Volunteers, producing enhanced First Goal results, reducing the ET rate, and achieving the other reform objectives in this plan.
 Point Nineteen: Meet Competition from New International Service Programs
For decades, in what may turn out to have been a strategic error, the Peace Corps and its supporters have focused on increasing the quantity of Volunteers rather than the quality of their experience. The Peace Corps apparently has believed that only a focus on numbers would provide the leverage to secure increased appropriations. But the Hill has noticed that Presidential pledges to “double” the Peace Corps have frequently been made, but no President has submitted a budget that is remotely sufficient to achieve this goal. The Peace Corps has not developed a plan for doubling. The Hill apparently has concluded that “doubling” is no more than a slogan and that no realistic plan exists to do so. It will be difficult for the Peace Corps now to shift gears and focus on the funding necessary to achieve quality.
Unfortunately, if the Peace Corps continues to focus on quantity rather than quality, its appeal to applicants in the competitive “marketplace” for international volunteers may suffer. This competition may soon intensify as new international service programs emerge that are similar to AmeriCorps. Over the next 5 to 10 years the Peace Corps is likely to find itself in an increasingly intense competition for applicants, alliances and appropriations.
The Peace Corps is only one model of how to organize volunteer service. Established in 1961, its model is that of a U.S. government agency that pays all of the costs for selecting, placing, training, and supporting its 8,000 Volunteers. This model costs about $45,000 annually per Volunteer for the two years of service. In contrast, a newer model, exemplified by AmeriCorps, places its 71,500 volunteers with NGOs. Most of them, 57,000 volunteers, participate in the Corporation for National Service’s “State and National” program where the cost is $9,600 per volunteer. Another 5,400 volunteers participate in a hybrid-model program, AmeriCorps VISTA, which costs $17,364 annually per volunteer. A small number, 1,000 volunteers, participate in a Peace Corps-model program, the National Civilian Conservation Corps, which costs $25,000 annually per volunteer. These costs include education awards of $4,725. Many volunteers receive a modest living allowance. They are entitled to some education loan forgiveness, and 78 colleges and universities match the education awards.<ref name="ftn122">The PCIEA calls on the Peace Corps to undertake an assessment of “the adequacy of the current program model of the Peace Corps and the feasibility of program models such as the Peace Corps Response Program…” We have proposed that this assessment focus on the “comparative effectiveness and cost of” different models of service and specifically focus on how the Peace Corps compares to the new Volunteers for Prosperity program…”.</ref>
The substantial difference in cost per volunteer between the AmeriCorps and the Peace Corps explains in part why there have been nearly 500,000 AmeriCorps volunteers in the past 14 years versus 200,000 PCVs in the last 47 years.
The AmeriCorps model of service will soon be applied to international service. Congress has authorized a new international service program that places volunteers with NGOs: Volunteers for Prosperity (VfP). See Public Law 111-13.<ref name="ftn123">President George Bush established the VfP program in Executive Order 13317 (September 25, 2003) to encourage international voluntary service by highly skilled Americans supporting major U.S. efforts to promote health and prosperity around the world. Working under the direction of U.S. nonprofits and companies, volunteers are deployed to developing countries on flexible, short-term assignments ranging from a few weeks to a year or more. See www.volunteersforprosperity.gov. The Kennedy-Hatch national and community service bill would provide a statutory authorization for VfP.</ref> Senator Obama supported this program while serving as a Senator and as President. VfP—like AmeriCorps—takes a decentralized, private sector approach. In the early 1960s, international NGOS were few, so it is understandable that Peace Corps was founded as a wall-to-wall government program. However, there are now tens of thousands of NGOs, many founded and managed by host country nationals.
The VfP program provides, through “VfPServ”, “eligible skilled professionals with matching grants to offset the travel and living expenses of volunteering abroad with nonprofit organizations.” The program may provide “matching grants to offset the travel and living costs of volunteering abroad to any eligible organization” including a “a dollar-for-dollar match for such grant—(i) through the organization with which the individual is serving; or (ii) by raising private funds.” There is no dollar limit on the funds that might be provided. Because the authorization states “may,” the managers of VfP may choose to provide matches on a one-for-two or one-for-three or other basis.<ref name="ftn124">The VfP program promotes “short- and long-term international volunteer service by skilled American professionals, including connecting such professionals with nonprofit organizations, to achieve such objectives”; helps “nonprofit organizations in the U.S. recruit and effectively manage additional skilled American professionals for volunteer assignments throughout the developing world”; provides “recognition for skilled American volunteers and the organizations deploying them”; helps “nonprofit organizations and corporations in the United States to identify resources and opportunities in international volunteer service utilizing skilled Americans”; encourages the “establishment of international volunteer programs for employees of United States corporations”; and encourages “international voluntary service by highly skilled Americans to promote health and prosperity throughout the world.” The objectives of the program include “(1) eliminating extreme poverty; (2) reducing world hunger and malnutrition; (3) increasing access to safe potable water; (4) enacting universal education; (5) reducing child mortality and childhood diseases; (6) combating the spread of preventable diseases, including HIV, malaria, and tuberculosis; (7) providing educational and work skill support for girls and empowering women to achieve independence; (8) creating sustainable business and entrepreneurial opportunities; and (9) increasing access to information technology.” Service carried out by the volunteer “may not provide a direct benefit to any— (A) business organized for profit; (B) labor union; (C) partisan political organization; or (D) religious or faith-based organization for the purpose of proselytism, worship or any other explicitly religious activity.”</ref>
The program provides up to $7,500 in support for fellowships lasting between 181 days and one year. This support is to be used to cover the following costs: international airfare, accommodations, and transportation within the host country; reasonable fees assessed by sponsoring organizations to defray international service program costs and administrative costs; subsistence living allowance in accordance with local market conditions; program materials and tools used for service-related purposes; seed funding for local service projects; and language and cultural training and other costs associated with pre-service project orientation.
When the new international service model is fully deployed, potential applicants will compare it to the Peace Corps model; they will “shop around.” Applicants will compare the reputations of the two programs, focusing on which provides the better quality experience. They will compare international service to the expanding range of domestic service programs. One point of comparison will be the two-year service requirement for PCVs and the one-year (or less) requirement for VfP. Another may be differences in the countries where the volunteers are posted. The Peace Corps and VfP may also compete in securing alliances with NGOs. Finally, competition over appropriations is likely in the House and Senate Subcommittees on State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies, which have jurisdiction over appropriations for all three programs.
President Obama was eloquent in explaining the concepts behind VfP in his speech in Cairo on June 4, 2009.
Finally, I want to discuss economic development and opportunity. I know that for many, the face of globalization is contradictory. The Internet and television can bring knowledge and information, but also offensive sexuality and mindless violence into the home. Trade can bring new wealth and opportunities, but also huge disruptions and change in communities. In all nations—including America—this change can bring fear. Fear that because of modernity we lose control over our economic choices, our politics, and most importantly our identities—those things we most cherish about our communities, our families, our traditions, and our faith. But I also know that human progress cannot be denied. There need not be contradictions between development and tradition. Countries like Japan and South Korea grew their economies enormously while maintaining distinct cultures. The same is true for the astonishing progress within Muslim-majority countries from Kuala Lumpur to Dubai. In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education. And this is important because no development strategy can be based only upon what comes out of the ground, nor can it be sustained while young people are out of work. Many Gulf States have enjoyed great wealth as a consequence of oil, and some are beginning to focus it on broader development. But all of us must recognize that education and innovation will be the currency of the 21st century—(applause)—and in too many Muslim communities, there remains underinvestment in these areas. I'm emphasizing such investment within my own country. And while America in the past has focused on oil and gas when it comes to this part of the world, we now seek a broader engagement. On education, we will expand exchange programs, and increase scholarships, like the one that brought my father to America. (Applause.) At the same time, we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities. And we will match promising Muslim students with internships in America; invest in online learning for teachers and children around the world; and create a new online network, so a young person in Kansas can communicate instantly with a young person in Cairo. On economic development, we will create a new corps of business volunteers to partner with counterparts in Muslim-majority countries. And I will host a Summit on Entrepreneurship this year to identify how we can deepen ties between business leaders, foundations and social entrepreneurs in the United States and Muslim communities around the world. On science and technology, we will launch a new fund to support technological development in Muslim-majority countries, and to help transfer ideas to the marketplace so they can create more jobs. We'll open centers of scientific excellence in Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, and appoint new science envoys to collaborate on programs that develop new sources of energy, create green jobs, digitize records, clean water, grow new crops. Today I'm announcing a new global effort with the Organization of the Islamic Conference to eradicate polio. And we will also expand partnerships with Muslim communities to promote child and maternal health. All these things must be done in partnership. Americans are ready to join with citizens and governments; community organizations, religious leaders, and businesses in Muslim communities around the world to help our people pursue a better life. (emphasis supplied)
Clearly, President Obama intends to use programs like VfP to extend the soft power of America.
The VfP program has already received strong support on Capitol Hill in the House and Senate Appropriations Committee bills. The House report states, “The Committee is aware of the authorization legislation that was signed into law for the Volunteers for Prosperity program. The Committee directs USAID to consult with the Committees on Appropriations not later than 60 days after enactment of this Act on implementation of this program.” House Report 111-187. The Senate report states, “The Committee is aware that the Volunteers for Prosperity program was authorized after the fiscal year 2010 budget request was finalized. The Committee recommends USAID support VFP, and directs USAID to consult with the Committee not later than 60 days after enactment of this act on the implementation of this program.” Senate Report 111-44. With both bills including similar language, this point will undoubtedly survive the conference between the two bills. The Senate bill includes an increase of $356 million in un-allocated Economic Support Funds for USAID. The House bill provides a similar substantial increase in overall AID discretionary funds. This makes it highly likely that there will be sufficient funds to create a substantial new program commensurate with the $10 million line item included in the Kennedy Hatch Serve America Act authorization.
When the legislation for this new program was being developed (which included the introduction of a similar program, Global Service Fellowships, S. 2609 in the 110th Congress), overtures were made to see if the Peace Corps was interested in administering the program. Instead of embracing the new program, the Peace Corps chose to oppose it. This may prove to be a short-sighted choice.
As enacted, VfP will be administered at USAID and it may well be championed by the State Department, which has more clout with the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees than does the Peace Corps. Notably, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is deeply knowledgeable about the AmeriCorps model of service and has been among its greatest champions. She may become a champion of VfP and GSF and, because these programs are so much less expensive, be able grow them to a scale that exceeds that of the Peace Corps. This would be consistent with the views of those who advocate that America enhance its “soft power.” She may draw on her experience with AmeriCorps to structure these new programs to be more transparent and applicant-friendly, and less bureaucratic than the Peace Corps and more effectively focused on development impact.<ref name="ftn125">Jack Lew, the new Deputy Secretary of State, served as Special Assistant to the President under President Clinton in 1993-94 and, according to Wikipedia, “was responsible for policy development and the drafting of the national service initiative (AmeriCorps).”</ref>
To be sure, the VfP program (the AmeriCorps model) may face challenges as it is implemented overseas. The NGOs with whom VfP works will vary in their effectiveness as agents of development and managers of volunteers. It will take time for the “market” to sort out which NGOs are the most effective. But because the VfP service model is so decentralized, any problems with certain NGOS will affect only a few volunteers. The Internet grapevine and volunteer and agency evaluations should serve to weed out problem NGOs from the network.
Reality dictates the mention of one final point of comparison: The respective vulnerability of these international service programs to acts of terrorism. The Peace Corps and its Volunteers might be considered to be a high-value target to terrorists intent on forcing the U.S.to retreat from the world stage. With its substantial and visible institutional footprint overseas, the Peace Corps and its Volunteers could be targeted. In contrast, the VfP and GSF programs would be so decentralized and private sector-oriented that they would have a limited overseas U.S. government footprint.
The analysis in this comprehensive plan leads to the conclusion that the Peace Corps is not well positioned for this competition. In many countries it has failed to adhere to its ultimate core value of listening to, respecting and empowering the Volunteers without whom the Peace Corps accomplishes nothing. This comprehensive plan has reviewed the Peace Corps’ performance and concluded that the agency has major deficiencies in listening to and empowering Volunteers and serving as an effective agent of development.
With an implosion of government finances, increasing reports of mismanagement of the Volunteers, sparse evidence of its development impact, and competition arising from new international volunteer programs, the Peace Corps franchise may be weakening. We have an early warning and time to act, but we must begin with a frank appraisal of the Peace Corps’ performance and the competition it may face. We are not likely to see a sudden crisis; the Peace Corps is not in immediate jeopardy. Unless the process of reform and renewal is institutionalized, however, we may see an erosion of the Peace Corps’ effectiveness and reputation and a decline in its success in the competition for applicants, alliances and appropriations. It is no exaggeration to say that the Peace Corps has one last great opportunity to renew itself.
The authors firmly believe that with an honest assessment of these challenges and issues—and an emphasis on listening to the Volunteers, honoring critics, and implementing reforms—the Peace Corps will thrive in the new competition to recruit and manage international service volunteers. The Peace Corps has the opportunity to renew, update, and strengthen its franchise as an agent of grassroots development and cross cultural exchange. The Peace Corps is justifiably proud of its tradition of taking risks, defying conventional wisdom, and combining the best of American idealism and resourcefulness. In reaffirming these core cultural values, the future of the Peace Corps and its Volunteers will be bright.
With this approach, the Peace Corps will be acclaimed for effectively ameliorating seemingly intractable social and environmental problems in the developing world. It could become an acknowledged leader in developing projects and strategies that work in a world where too many of them have failed. The developing world is littered with relics of these boondoggles and white elephants. Government assistance agents and NGOs are desperate to find development models that work. Because volunteers work at the grassroots, learn the local languages, understand the culture, and serve for two years, they have unique insights about what really works on a sustainable basis. We need to have high expectations for these Volunteers and give them the tools to achieve breakthroughs. In the end the NGOs should look to the Peace Corps and its Volunteers for leadership. The ultimate beneficiaries will be the poor of the world, whose needs continue to fester and escalate.
 Point Twenty: Get Organized to Press for Implementation of Reforms
The authors hope that the recommendations in this reform plan will be fully implemented at the initiative of the Peace Corps. But the evidence is that the Peace Corps does not tend to ask probing questions about its policies and programs, does not establish mechanisms to empower Volunteers, and takes action to silence its critics and quell unfavorable press attention. This means that reform may come only if Volunteers and RPCVs get organized to place political pressure on the Peace Corps, the Members and Committees of the Congress, and the representatives of the RPCVs. Fortunately, the community of interested and knowledgeable advocates and organizers is highly motivated and entrepreneurial and intimately conversant with the modern Internet tools for communicating and organizing themselves. Some Volunteers have already shown considerable courage in speaking out in public against the conventional wisdom and wishful thinking that all is well in Camelot.
Presented here is a description of the principal options for organizing this Peace Corps reform campaign. The authors of this plan are committed to this reform effort over the long run, but so far it’s been a lonely effort. We need many more Volunteers and RPCVs to become engaged. Without their engagement, the Iron Law of Bureaucracy at the Peace Corps will dominate and the agency’s pervasive sense of self-satisfaction will prevent implementation of fundamental reforms.
1. Dissemination of this Report: We invite Volunteers, RPCVs and staff to disseminate this report and reform plan. We urge them to offer comments and additions to it. We urge others to compile and publish their own reform recommendations. We hope that there will never be a time when there are no comprehensive reports recommending reforms for the Peace Corps. The ultimate goal of this plan is to foster a continuous, penetrating and wide ranging reform process at the Peace Corps.
2. Affidavits: We invite current and recent Volunteers to send us affidavits about their Peace Corps experiences. We will collect them and disseminate them to key decision makers. Volunteers and RPCVs could post their affidavits on line and disseminate them to other Volunteers and RPCVs, to the Peace Corps, the Congress and the media. They comprise compelling evidence of the need for reform.
3. Country-by-Country Reforms: In each country Volunteers have ready access to email lists of their fellow Volunteers. They should use these lists to get organized to press for reforms. Basically we urge them to “unionize” and engage in collective bargaining with their employer.
We urge them to press first to establish 360 degree review mechanisms with whichVolunteer views about programs and personnel are solicited on a confidential basis. They should disseminate these reviews within the Volunteer community and insist that the managers take action based on these views to reform programs and improve management practices. If the managers retaliate against those who lead these reform efforts, the Volunteers should band together to defend their leaders.
4. Country-by-Country 360 Degree Reviews: If the management of a program in a given country refuses to establish 360 degree reviews, the Volunteers should band together to create their own system. They can set the format, solicit the views of the Volunteers, and protect the confidentiality of the Volunteers who submit reviews. They can then email the reviews to the Peace Corps managers in that country, to the Regional Peace Corps Director and others at headquarters, and, if necessary, to the Hill and the media. One way or another, these 360 degree reviews are the key to securing reforms.
5. Banding Together Worldwide: It should be relatively straightforward for Volunteers in one country to secure access to the lists of emails for Volunteers in other countries. Volunteers in every country maintain blogs and a list of them is available through PeaceCorpsJournals.com. Once a Volunteer in one country has an email for a Volunteer in a second country, they can create a merged list of the emails of all of the Volunteers in the two countries. Indeed, with some effort, it’s possible to develop a list of EVERY Volunteer worldwide. The Peace Corps has ready access to such a master list but cannot reveal it due to Privacy Act constraints. Once a master list exists, it should not be difficult to maintain it over time. The same results can, of course, be achieved establishing a group within FaceBook or PeaceCorpsConnect (NPCA’s social network) or another social network. Once these lists and groups are created, it’s easy to set up chat groups on Peace Corps reform, the provisions of the PCVEA, the reform recommendations in this report, and every other proposed reform. With the power of the Internet, the current generation has potentially more political power than any preceding generation.
6. RateMyPeaceCorps: We urge Volunteers to set up a RateMyPeaceCorps site where Volunteers may confidentially post reviews of agency programs and personnel.
7. House and Senate Authorizing Committees: We urge Volunteers and RPCVs to press the House and Senate committees with oversight authority over the Peace Corps to enact legislation mandating fundamental reforms at the Peace Corps, especially 360 degree reviews.
So far Senator Chris Dodd is the key Member who has championed enactment of fundamental reforms. His PCVEA was landmark legislation. He is chairman of the “authorizing” subcommittee of the Senate for the Peace Corps—the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps and Global Narcotics Affairs. The message for Senator Dodd is that if the Peace Corps does not implement fundamental reforms, he should reintroduce the PCVEA and secure its enactment into law. He should engage in vigorous oversight of the Peace Corps.
The contact information for Senator Dodd is U.S. Senator Chris Dodd, 448 Russell Building, Washington, D.C., 20510. It’s a waste of time submitting comments on a Member’s website; writing letters is just as ineffective.<ref name="ftn126">Due to new security screening procedures, letters to Washington, D.C. offices take an average of seven weeks before they are read. </ref> The most persuasive course is to call his office (202-224-2823) and ask for the name of the staff person or persons who handle Peace Corps affairs for him. You can ask to talk with them or you can send them an email. The staff are busy so ask to speak with them only if you have an urgent message about the Peace Corps. The offices won’t give out the staffer’s email address, but when you have the name, it’s easy to deduce their email address. The style used in the Senate is “first name” + underline + “last name” @ “name of Senator” (e.g. Dodd) + dot + “Senate.gov.” If the staffer works on the committee staff (in this case the Foreign Relations Committee, where Senator Dodd sits and which has jurisdiction over the Peace Corps), the email address for the staffer is the same except that instead of the name of the Senator, insert “foreign” (a reference to the committee).
| You can also target the other Subcommittee Members, who are Robert Menendez (NJ), Benjamin
Cardin (MD), Jim Webb (VA), Kirsten Gillibrand (NY)—all Democrats—and John Barrasso (WY),
Johnny Isakson (GA), James Risch (ID), and Richard Lugar (IN)—all Republicans. Because
Senator Dodd served as a Volunteer, the other members of this subcommittee will undoubtedly
defer to his judgment about Peace Corps reform.
In the House, the authorizing subcommittee is the Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. None of this subcommittee’s members is an RPCV. The Chair is Bill Delahunt (MA) and the members are Russ Carnahan (MO), Donald Payne (NJ), Robert Wexler (FL)—all Democrats—Dana Rohrabacher (CA), Ron Paul (TX) and Ted Poe (TX)—all Republicans. The main phone number for the Committee and Subcommittee is 202-225-3121. The style of the emails used in the House is “first name” + dot + “last name” @ “mail.house.gov”. This works for staffers in the offices of Members or on committee staff.
8. House and Senate Appropriations Committees: We urge Volunteers and RPCVs to press the House and Senate committees that appropriate funds for the Peace Corps to mandate fundamental reforms at the Peace Corps.
These committees have crucial leverage over the Peace Corps—they hold the purse strings. The Peace Corps comes begging to them. And the committees can ask penetrating questions, press for implementation of reforms and even steer the funds towards reform.
One crucial issue here is whether the funds should be used to expand the number of Volunteers—doubling the quantity—or to improve the quality of the Peace Corps experience and impact. The authors believe that the latter is the higher priority. The National Peace Corps Association (NPCA) has launched a MorePeaceCorps campaign that emphasizes quantity rather than quality. We urge Volunteers to insist that the MPC campaign emphasize quality, not just quantity. They should focus their effort on the Board of Directors, some of whom are elected by the NPCA membership. In addition, they could work through the Friends Groups who are major players in setting NPCA priorities.
As explained above, there is often tension and conflict between the House and Senate authorizing committees and the appropriations committees. In general the latter do not amend the substantive legislative mandates for the agencies, but they can do so by designating which elements and programs of an agency receive funding and which do not. They can also make demands on the agencies to file reports or take other actions. These commands might appear in the text of the appropriations bill or in the committee report accompanying the appropriations bill. The authors have urged the House and Senate appropriations committees to become deeply engaged in the cause of Peace Corps reform. We have suggested that the committees require the Peace Corps to submit reports and plans on a variety of subjects:
a. ET Rates: A report on ET rates using the cohort accounting. Submit plan for growing the Peace Corps organically by reducing the ET rate. Submit estimate of the direct and indirect cost (with an explanation of the accounting method utilized) of the early terminating Volunteers, including an appropriate portion of Peace Corps overhead.
b. Biennial Survey: A report on how the Peace Corps uses the ET rate data (cohort rate) and the 2008 Biennial survey to focus on improvements in the countries and programs that are substandard.
c. New Countries: A report on where the Peace Corps proposes to open new programs (or relaunch programs) and expand programs. Explanation of the standards the Peace Corps uses to determine which countries are eligible/appropriate for programs and which countries have graduated from these standards.
d. Ratio of Staff: A report on the appropriate ratio of APCDs and PCMOs per Volunteer in each country. Provide report on whether the ratio meets the Peace Corps standards.
e. Connecting Volunteers: A report on how the Peace Corps is connecting Volunteers worldwide and country-by-country so that they can share experiences, post Best Practices Guides, and otherwise work together to achieve greater sustainable development results.
f. Relationship with USAID and NGOs: A report on how the Peace Corps is working cooperatively with AID and NGOs.
g. Organic Growth of the Peace Corps: A plan to grow the Peace Corps organically by fully funding Volunteers who extend, without any reduction in training slots.
h. Ratio of Qualified Applicants to Trainees: Detailed information on ratio of Volunteers who have completed the medical and legal clearance process as compared to the number invited to training and detailed information on the substantive selection process that determines which of the medically/legally “qualified” applicants are invited to training.
i. First Goal Accomplishments: An evaluation of the First Goal accomplishments of Volunteers, including an explanation of the methodology utilized.
j. Seed Funding: An explanation of the policy and practices of the Peace Corps in reimbursing Volunteers for their work-related expenses, including reimbursement for the cost of mounting demonstration projects.
k. Fund Raising Policies: An explanation of Peace Corps policy regarding fund raising by Volunteers and whether Volunteers should be permitted, with the CD’s permission, to fund raise from persons personally known to them, including family members, friends, and members of their home community in the U.S., and from government and nongovernmental agencies, including but not limited to working through the Peace Corps Partnership Program.
l. Decentralization: A report on the extent to which the Peace Corps might substantially reduce the personnel and expenditures of headquarters staff and transfer these to the country posts.
m. Reconnecting Volunteers: A report on ways the Peace Corps might reconnect RPCVs as resources for current Volunteers and for the communities in which they served.
n. Medical Support Standard: An evaluation of the recommendations to strengthen medical support for Volunteers in this plan.
o. IG Investigations: A report on Peace Corps transfer of authority away from Peace Corps IG for the investigation of violent crimes against Volunteers.
p. VfP Competition: A report on how the Peace Corps intends to meet the competition from the new Volunteers for Prosperity program, including an explanation for how the Peace Corps can justify expending more than four times as much per Volunteer.
q. Political Appointees: A report on the number of political appointees at the Peace Corps together with recommendations for limiting the number.
The members of the House appropriations subcommittee are Nita M. Lowey (NY), Chair, Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. (IL), Adam Schiff (CA), Steve Israel (NY), Ben Chandler (KY), Steven R. Rothman (NJ), Barbara Lee (CA), Betty McCollum (MN), David R. Obey (WI), Ex Officio—all Democrats, and Kay Granger (TX), Ranking Minority Member, Mark Steven Kirk (IL), Ander Crenshaw (FL), Dennis R. Rehberg (MT), and Jerry Lewis (CA), Ex Officio—all Republicans.
The members of the Senate appropriations subcommittee are Patrick Leahy (VT), chairman, Daniel Inouye (HI), Tom Harkin (IA), Barbara Mikulski (MD), Richard Durbin (IL), Tim Johnson (SD), Mary Landrieu (LA), Frank Lautenberg (NJ), Arlen Specter (PA)—all Democrats—and Judd Gregg (HH), Ranking Minority Member, Mitch McConnell (KY), Robert Bennett (UT), Christopher Bond (MO), and Sam Brownback (KS)—all Republicans.
9. Whistle Blower Protections: We urge Volunteers to press for enactment of legislation giving Volunteers the rights of whistle blowers who are government employees. The Senate Homeland Security Committee is the lead on this issue.
10. Peace Corps PCIEA Assessment and Strategic Plan: We urge Volunteers to press the Peace Corps to publish its plan in response to the Dodd PCIEA for public comment and submit detailed comments on it to the Peace Corps and the Congress.
11. GAO Report: We urge Volunteers to submit detailed information to the GAO for inclusion in its study of the Peace Corps (mandates by the House Appropriations Committee).
12. Independence of Inspector General: We urge Volunteers to press to give the Peace Corps Inspector General true independence. Now the IG is appointed by the agency’s political appointees. Again, the key committee is the Senate Homeland Security Committee.
13. Funding for Volunteers for Prosperity: We urge Volunteers to press for full funding and rapid expansion of the VfP program. The competition it will provide for the Peace Corps is the ultimate incentive for Peace Corps reform.
14. Applicants: The results of the 2008 Biennial Survey of the Volunteers have been published on a country-by-country basis. Applicants should review these results for the country to which they have been invited to serve and consider declining invitations to serve in countries with particularly poor Volunteer reviews. If Volunteers set up 360 degree review systems or a RateMyPeaceCorps site and post the reviews on line, applicants should review this data with the same options in mind. Another key indicator of the quality of the program is the ET rate. Applicants should demand to know the ET rate for the country to which they have been invited and consider their options if the rate is particularly high. In all of these ways, applicants can put pressure on the Peace Corps to reform the poorly managed programs.
With this concerted political campaign, the prospects for securing implementation of fundamental reforms is substantial. Implementation of 360 degree reviews is the single most critical reform. It empowers Volunteers to participate in the personnel decisions of the Peace Corps. Ultimately, reform will come and become continuous only if we successfully shift political power away from management in favor of the Volunteers.