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Robert M. La Follette
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La Follette School Alumni Profiles


’82 alum Speckhard to lead Lutheran World Relief


Daniel Speckhard

1982 alum Daniel Speckhard will become the next president and chief executive officer of Lutheran World Relief in July.

Currently a senior advisor at Palantir Technologies and a non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, Speckhard has served in various high-level diplomatic roles in both Republican and Democratic administrations. Most recently, he was U.S. ambassador to Greece from 2007 to 2010, when he retired as a career diplomat.

He notes that his studies at what is now the La Follette School “really helped me consolidate my thinking and create a deep foundation of understanding of what others have been doing and what has been successful in other parts of the world — a foundation I have called on in many ways throughout my career.”

“I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to come to Lutheran World Relief and can’t wait to get started,” Speckhard says. “The organization is doing incredible work around the world to alleviate suffering and attack the root causes of poverty, and it is inspiring to see how many Lutherans want to make a difference and are contributing to this great cause.”

Lutheran World Relief improves the lives of smallholder farmers and people experiencing poverty in Africa, Asia and Latin America, both in times of emergencies and for the long term. With the financial support of U.S. Lutherans and other donors, Lutheran World Relief strengthens communities through programs in agriculture, climate, and emergency support.

Speckhard served in Iraq from 2005 to 2007, first as director of the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, where he oversaw the $18.4 billion Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund. He then was deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“In Iraq, the training I got in graduate school was critical,” Speckhard says. “I had learned management skills that helped me understand how to how to connect budgets, personnel and policy together to reach a goal. In a large government program like the Iraq Reconstruction Management Office, a strong policy framework and a comprehensive and integrated approach are critical to success. Without this, no matter how well any individual piece is done, success will be elusive.”

“Iraq was particularly difficult as there was enormous pressure to deliver results quickly, while still building local capacity, and doing it all with a staff that was changing every year,” he adds. “Leading in this environment required all aspects of the education and training I was fortunate to receive at the La Follette School of Public Affairs.”

He advises students to take advantage of the opportunity to develop a data-driven approach to policy development. “The tendency when faced with the pressure of the work world is to rely too heavily in shaping policies and programs on political biases, intuition, and the need for quick results, and not enough on hard evidence,” Speckhard says. “The pressure to respond to political imperatives often leaves insufficient time for deep research and thoughtful reflection, and the time you spend at La Follette will be an important base which you can draw upon to understand what research has shown with respect to the most successful approaches in public policy and administration, and conversely, where policies and government institutions have failed people and why.”

From 2003 to 2005, Speckhard served as NATO’s director of policy planning responsible for advising and assisting the secretary general, senior NATO management and the North Atlantic Council in addressing strategic issues facing the alliance. From 2000 to 2003, he was NATO’s deputy assistant secretary general for political affairs, covering political relations with the countries of Eastern Europe, the Balkans, the former Soviet Union and the Mediterranean. During this period, Speckhard received the NATO Service Medal for his crisis management work.

As U.S. ambassador to Belarus from 1997 to 2000, Speckhard worked closely with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the European Union to promote democratic reform, human rights and institutional development. From 1993 to 1997, he was a deputy to the ambassador-at-large for the New Independent States at the State Department in Washington. He was responsible for a broad range of political, security and economic issues facing large parts of the former Soviet Union.

Earlier in his career Speckhard was an expert on foreign assistance programs and the challenges facing countries in transition. From 1990 to 1993, he served as an advisor and then director of policy and resources for the deputy secretary of state, coordinating and overseeing foreign aid funding in support of U.S. policy objectives. He received special recognition for his role in reorienting these programs to meet the new challenges of the post-Cold War era. From 1981 to 1990, when he joined the U.S. State Department, his assignments included positions in the International Affairs Division of the Office of Management and Budget, the U.S. Agency for International Development, staff member in the U.S. Senate, and in state and local government.

Speckhard was one of the first La Follette students chosen for the Presidential Management Fellowship, a two-year training program that builds leadership skills and offers experience across functional areas, offices and in some cases different agencies. “I highly recommend that students who want to get involved in federal government service look into the PMF,” he says. “I have the La Follette School to thank for preparing me for this intensive entry into federal service and the fast track to a leadership role.”

Throughout his career, Speckhard has kept in mind a lesson he learned from Dr. Clara Penniman, who founded the Center for the Study of Public Policy and Administration, a precursor of the La Follette School. “She taught me the importance of understanding the role budgets and resources will always play in policy development,” Speckhard says. “She noted that the ‘green eye shade’ perception of budgeting and finance often are viewed as less interesting and exciting than the broader policy issues that generate passion and interest in public policy wonks. But in terms of how government works in practice, money drives policy.”

“Dr. Penniman encouraged me to make sure I really understood the budget process, and as a result of that advice, one of my first jobs was in the White House’s Office of Management and Budget,” Speckhard adds. “While still in my twenties, I was negotiating with senior agency representatives on funding and policy approaches to international development, which gave me experience and a deep understanding of the international affairs that was instrumental in shaping a successful career.”

— posted June 16, 2014