Memo to Incoming Director Williams

Peace Corps Online: Peace Corps News: Directors of the Peace Corps: Peace Corps: Director Aaron Williams: Memo to Incoming Director Williams

Memo to Incoming Director Williams Date: August 19 2009 No: 1418 Memo to Incoming Director Williams
PCOL has asked five prominent RPCVs and Staff to write a memo on the most important issues facing the Peace Corps today. Issues raised include the independence of the Peace Corps, political appointments at the agency, revitalizing the five-year rule, lowering the ET rate, empowering volunteers, removing financial barriers to service, increasing the agency's budget, reducing costs, and making the Peace Corps bureaucracy more efficient and responsive. Read the articles and leave your comments.

A Memo to Aaron Williams
Joanne Roll writes: A Memo to Aaron Williams, Director of the Peace Corps

Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director
John Coyne writes: Ten Steps For The Next Peace Corps Director To Take To Improve The Agency, Save Money, and Make All PCVs & RPCVs Happy!

A Twenty Point Plan
Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff write: A Twenty Point Plan to Strengthen and Expand the Peace Corps

Eight Fixes for the Peace Corps
Robert L. Strauss writes: Eight Fixes for the Peace Corps

Let's Reframe Peace Corps service
Joby Taylor writes: Let's Reframe Peace Corps service as lifelong

Revitalize the Five-Year Rule
P. David Searles writes: Revitalize the Five-Year Rule

President Obama's Transition Team's Roadmap for the Peace Corps
President Obama's Transition Team's Roadmap for the Peace Corps

Leave your comments below:
By Joe Ciuffini ( on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 - 11:50 am: Edit Post

The Peace Corps is an idea which has outlived its utility.

The US imperialism has planted more than 900 bases and more than a million troops around the world; the government of the US continues thru
various means state sponsored terrorism; The US foreign policy send food aid that destroys local agricultural enterprise and forces farmers into poverty.

There is nothing inherently good, gracious or altruistic in a Peace Corps volunteer that can break through the onslaught of insane politics foisted on the world by the U.S.

Joe Ciuffini Ethiopia III

By Walter Maurer (cayecaulker) ( on Tuesday, August 25, 2009 - 12:30 pm: Edit Post

If you make political least make sure that have had experience as a Peace Corps volunteer, Agency for International Development or foreign "hands on" experience. Do not choose some "bundler" who raised $1M and owned some company in Colorado as criteria.

By Susan Musich ( on Wednesday, August 26, 2009 - 12:37 pm: Edit Post

I think that one of the missing "most important issues facing the Peace Corps today" is that of supporting RPCVs to implement the third goal of the Peace Corps. Although many RPCVs make a difference in their communities when they return, the ability to make a stronger, national and global impact could be significant if the agency were to better support RPCVs with their transition back home and empower them with resources, tools, and ongoing training (parallel to what is provided PCVs to implement the first and second goals of the Peace Corps). Afterall, one could make the argument that a PCV would make a difference in their community if they were simply recruited and placed somewhere, but the Agency rightly focuses on the PCV making a stronger contribution by providing ongoing training, resources and support. The Agency is heavily focused on the first two goals, but not the third. The office of Domestic Programs(Returned Volunteer Services, has always been underfunded and skeletally staffed. All three goals should be equally weighted, and the numbers of RPCVs now hovering around 200K mean the ongoing work of the Peace Corps "at home" could be much more significant than what currently exists thus impacting how our nation views and interacts with the world as well as the recruitment of future PCVs...and the cycle continues.

By Joanne Marie Roll ( on Saturday, September 05, 2009 - 11:42 am: Edit Post

P. David Searles presents an excellent argument for keeping the five -year rule. I certainly support his position. But, I would like to present a different perspective on his analysis of the original rationale for the five-year rule. Searles states: …The five-year rule was designed specifically to remove the ‘nay sayers’ whose natural inclination was to block new initiatives.” I disagree.

I believe that the five-year rule was originally designed to allow the agency to be staffed by returning Peace Corps Volunteers. The turnover facilitated by the five-year rule assured that there would be continuous opportunity for RPCVs to be employed in the agency. This is what I believed as a new PCV back in 1963; I was surprised and disappointed when that didn’t happen.

And, now, I am delighted to find that this reason validated in Coates Redmon’s book of the early days of Peace Corps, “Come As You Are” (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, c. 1986). In the chapter on the “In, Up & Out,” policy, pages 129 to 131, he discusses a memo distributed by staff member Franklin Williams advocating an agency staffed solely by returning Volunteers. The five-year plan was proposed as part of this strategy to make that transition, initially and to then maintain sufficient continuing opportunities for returning Volunteers to be employed. This makes sense to me. What doesn’t make any sense is that people would be hired on a five-year rotating basis that did not have to know anything about the Peace Corps.

By anonymous ( on Tuesday, September 08, 2009 - 2:22 pm: Edit Post

The five-year rule falls apart when dealing with very highly specialized fields like international health professionals and security personnel. You do not want inexperienced people managing the health and security of PCVs overseas. A vision of the five-year rule so that all staff will be RPCVs, although admirable, is not practical for these uniquely qualified specialtists. There need to be exemptions to the 5-year rule to maintain Peace Corps medical and security staff expertise.

By Joanne Marie Roll Colombia XI ( on Friday, September 11, 2009 - 9:13 am: Edit Post

I don't know, anonymous, if you ever served as a Volunteer. It would be good for you to post that information, if you had. As a RPCV, I assure you that there is nothing more important to me than the health and physical safety of serving Volunteers. I reject your false assumption that service as a Peace Corps Volunteer is somehow incompatible with also being able to meet the qualifications to be employed in "highly specialized fields like international health professionals and security personnel." I think that successful service as a Volunteer would enhance the ability of medical and security personnel to utilize "these uniquely qualified" skills. It may well be that such skills would be acquired after service as a Volunteer. In my experience, and also reading the comments posted here, there have been real problems with the delivery of health care services because the medical personnel could not understand or empathize with the serving Volunteer or their circumstances. Also, the Internet and the medical consultation it makes possible could enhance the ability of medical personnel to deliver health care services in any developing country.

The security staff also needs to be intimately knowledgeable about incountry conditions. Serving Volunteers and RPCVs know that the one of the strongest protection for Volunteers comes from the web of informal relationships which Volunteers and HC staff have created based on the integrity of their work, over the years.

There is one area in which we may find agreement, anonymous, and that is the transition period between administrations. The number of political appointments must be reduced so that when a new administration is elected, positions are not vacated and left empty until there are new appointments. There must be consistency precisely in the areas of health and safety. But, this only requires good planning.

Finally, anonymous, I must be blunt. I don't like being patronized, belittled or dismissed. I find your statement, "A vision of the five-year rule so that all staff will be RPCVs, although admirable, is not practical," meets all three criteria.
It makes me angry. That statement is crap.

By Joanne Marie Roll Colombia XI ( on Saturday, September 12, 2009 - 10:20 am: Edit Post

To anonymous: Perhaps I was too quick to criticize your conclusions. In rereading the comments, it may be that you assumed that the term "returning Volunteers" meant Volunteers being employed immediately after their service. I think that would be worthwhile in many cases. However, I did not mean to suggest that successful service as a Volunteers should be the only job prerequisite. There are now over 200,000 RPCVs. I believe that that pool is large enough to provide applicants to meet any specialized job requirements.

By Hank Miller (lckt13) ( on Wednesday, November 11, 2009 - 7:48 pm: Edit Post

PC out of the Philippines Now!

Subject: Washington Times Articles about the Philippines
The Washington Times. [Commentary] . Richard Halloran 10/14/2009.

In an East Asia that is generally experiencing political and economic progress from Seoul to Singapore, the Philippines stands out as a running sore that seems to have no cure.

The Asia Foundation, the nongovernmental organization seeking to stimulate development, has reported that the southern Philippines "suffers from poor infrastructure, poverty, and violence that has claimed more than 120,000 lives in the last four decades" of civil strife, terror and insurgencies, and crime that goes unchecked.

A retired U.S. military officer with long experience in Asia said that "the fundamental problem in the Philippines is that the Philippine government has not figured out how to help the people, to pick up the garbage and to educate the children."

An American civilian official agreed, saying a "failure in governance" was the basic cause of the misery in the Philippines. He pointed to "the feudal society in the Philippines" and contended that "until that is changed, the problems will continue to be unresolved."

From all accounts, Philippine and foreign, corruption is pervasive throughout the archipelago. Renaud Meyer, a representative of the United Nations Development Program in Manila, was quoted in the Philippine press earlier this year as saying corruption "is a primary obstacle in the effective delivery of public services and fulfillment of basic rights."

He predicted it would get worse. "These are challenging times for all of us in our fight against corruption, especially in the next two years," Mr. Meyer said. "For one, we are in the midst of an impending international economic crisis, which is affecting both developed and developing economies. Second, 2010 is election period in the Philippines. "

The central government in Manila has appeared hapless in the face of repeated natural disasters in recent months.

The Philippine archipelago, which form the eastern rim of the South China Sea, not only have experienced a breakdown in basic law and order; the country provides a haven and training site for terrorists and insurgents to move into the rest of Southeast Asia. They travel from the southern Philippines along island chains through the Sulu and Celebes seas into Malaysia, Indonesia and beyond.

In the Philippines itself, the terrorists of the Abu Sayyaf, Jemaah Islamiya, and the Rajah Solaiman Movement, plus the communist New People's Army, operate with near impunity. A contingent of U.S. special operations forces, usually numbering 600 troops, has been assisting the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) for about seven years in the southern Philippines but with little visible success.
"The AFP," said a longtime Philippine hand, "are glad to have other people do their fighting."

A U.S. State Department report four years ago asserted, "The major, and disturbing, trend in the Philippines has been the growing cooperation among the Islamist terrorist organizations operating in the country: Jemaah Islamiya, the Abu Sayyaf Group, and the Rajah Sulaiman Movement." The latter comprises Christian converts to Islam, which allows them to pass undetected in other parts of the Philippines.

In a similar report in the spring, the department said Philippine troops, with the intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance help of U.S. forces, "continued to marginalize the remaining numbers" of the Islamic terrorists. But the report said the 5,000-strong New People's Army "continued to disrupt public security and business operations with intermittent attacks" on communications and transportation everywhere.

Late last month, two American soldiers were killed in the southern Philippines by a roadside bomb believed to have been planted by terrorists linked to al Qaeda. The Associated Press said they were the first American troops to die in an attack in the Philippines in seven years. The U.S. Embassy said they were on a resupply mission for a school construction project on the island of Jolo.

An obvious and disturbing question: Were their deaths an omen of things to come?

Richard Halloran is a freelance writer and former New York Times correspondent based in Honolulu.
Another Washington Times Article about the Philippines The World Bank issued a report years ago about the biggest cause of the endemic poverty and lack of progress: Corruption on BOTH ENDS of the government revenue and disbursement system. On the revenue side, the BIR collects less that fifty percent of maximum possible collections. The customs function is world famous for its corruption, taking in probably even a lower percentage of total possible receipts. On the disbursement side, funds that go to public works, education and national defense are stripped of "commissions" and "bribes" to grease the palms of government officials. Hence the roads and flood systems are in a state of disrepair, police are not paid enough and public school children have to wallow in the midst of substandard facilities and materials.

Other Asian countries where corruption exists can afford these peccadilloes because they possess natural resources like petroleum which compensates for the "withdrawal" of funds from the public system. The Philippines has also not made it past the import substitution phase and is unable to feed its own people with its agricultural output. It can thank the oligarchies that have dominated the sugar, coconut and lumber industries over the past fifty years; oligarchies whose main objective was to enrich their families, maintain private armies and withhold revenues from the government. Worse, these oligarchies operate as countries within a country, hundreds of miles from Manila with citizens so attached to the teats of the Robber Barons that they don't care a whit about who is in political power, just as long as the agricultural powers that be provide them with their daily subsistence. Presidential elections are a Metro Manila fashion fad, the rest of the 80% of the country does not care because they feel that whoever sits in Malacanang will not make their lives any better. And they are right.

There is no cure for this problem unless one hundred million palms descend from the heavens and slap every citizen on the side of the head as a wake up call. The political powers that be will remain there for the rest of time, regenerating descendants who will serve to continue their forbears' efforts. Martial law would have been good, but BEEN THERE DONE THAT. Filipinos can just sit back and wait for the next natural disaster where they again will be ill prepared due to lack of civil infrastructure. Sit back and pray.

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