To: Friends of the Peace Corps
From: Chuck Ludlam and Paula Hirschoff (RPCVs)
Re: Peace Corps Reform Plan
Date: July 2009
With President Obama’s nomination of Aaron Williams for Peace Corps Director which we strongly support and the probable Congressional approval of increased appropriations, the Peace Corps is poised to embark on a journey of renewal and reform. We have developed a detailed and comprehensive plan (attached) providing a roadmap for Peace Corps reform with twenty priority initiatives.
Overall, our recommendation is that the agency must listen to, respect, and empower the Volunteers, without whom the Peace Corps accomplishes nothing. We loved being Volunteers, and we still believe in the ideals that drew us to serve in the 1960s and called us to serve again when we retired. We strongly believe that the Peace Corps could be playing a more crucial role in fostering grassroots development and serving the needs of both the U.S. and the host countries in the 21st century.
We have been working over the past four years, beginning during our second tenure as Volunteers (2005-07), to document the need for change and to research the policy options. Our effort gained momentum in July 2007 when Senator Dodd invited us to testify in favor of reform on behalf of the Volunteers then serving. Since our testimony we have communicated with many Volunteers about current conditions in the field and their affidavits are presented in this plan. We have been circulating drafts of this plan within the Peace Corps community since last December and have incorporated innumerable edits and ideas that have been submitted to us. We have also secured voluminous documents from the Peace Corps via Freedom of Information Act requests, including the results of the 2008 Peace Corps survey of the Volunteers and data on the number of qualified applicants.
Our conclusion is that the first priority at the Peace Corps must be to implement fundamental reforms rather than to increase the number of Volunteers. Quality before quantity. Indeed, considering the pervasive mismanagement in the agency that we have documented, we fear that rapid expansion would jeopardize the performance and reputation of the Peace Corps. We support additional appropriations for the Peace Corps above the level recommended by President Obama with most of the increase to be utilized for reforms. For details on our recommended allocations, see Appendix D. The plan makes clear that we support Senator Dodd’s Peace Corps Improvement and Expansion Act (S. 1382). Amendments to strengthen it are included in Appendix E.
We know we have no monopoly on Peace Corps reform proposals. We hope that the dissemination of this plan will prompt a debate about how best to transform the Peace Corps for the 21st century. As part of that process, we invite you to forward the plan to PCVs, RPCVs, Peace Corps staff, Members of Congress, and the media. We invite RPCV Friends’ groups to post it on their websites and forward it to their members.
We welcome comments on this plan and recommendations for reform, which we will compile and submit to the Congress and to the Peace Corps. Requests for anonymity will be honored.
Finally, we are looking to recruit an RPCV entrepreneur to establish a “RateMyPeaceCorps” website – a proposal discussed at length in our plan.
We take full responsibility for the contents of the report, for any errors or omissions, and for any excess of zeal or enthusiasm in our quest for reform.
Retired Counsel to Congressional committees/White House and lobbyist
RPCV: Nepal, 68-70, and Senegal, 05-07
Founder, Friends of Nepal
Advisor to Obama/Biden Peace Corps Transition Team
Member, National Peace Corps Association Board of Directors
Writer, editor, and teacher
RPCV: Kenya, 68-70, and Senegal, 05-07
Former Board Member, Friends of Kenya