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Clinton pledges to cut red tape

From NBC's Libby Leist
On day two of her new role as America's top diplomat, Secretary of State Clinton again displayed her first-rate political skills in front of hundreds of USAID staff this afternoon at the Ronald Reagan building.

Clinton impressed the audience of development experts using a personal touch and addressing grievances of an agency that felt neglected and underfunded during the Bush years.

She traced her own career path working to provide legal advice to low-income Americans, working on child issues, and traveling the world as First Lady to prove she was committed to their cause.

"I feel so passionately about this, because, of course, it is part of my DNA," she said.

She pledged to help the agency secure more resources.
"It will be very difficult for us to expect you to perform at the very high level of professionalism that we will expect without providing you the resources to do the job we ask you to do," she told those gathered. 

She received loud applause when she promised to help cut through red tape.

"Our diplomats and our development experts have to go through miles of paperwork to spend 10 cents," she said. "It is not a sensible approach."

Clinton stressed that it was up to them to prove that their work is important and needs to be funded even in dire economic conditions.

"You've got to be able to make the case that what you do for America is important even in these tough times," she said.

In a touching moment, Clinton evoked President Obama's mother, as she did in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last week, and her work in microfinance as evidence that the president believes in and is deeply committed to development.

One slight misstep for Clinton today: She twice misidentified the acting Director of USAID, Dr. Kent Hill, as "Dr. Hall"

Friends and Family Plan
Since taking over at the State Department on Wednesday, Clinton has made a flurry of phone calls to world leaders, according to acting spokesman Robert Wood. Wood described the following calls as introductory calls, with limited policy discussion: Israeli PM Olmert, Israeli FM Livni, Israeli Defense Minister Barak, Egyptian FM Aboul Gheit, Jordan's King Abdullah, Palestinian President Abu Mazen, Palestinian PM Fayyad, Saudi FM Saud al-faisal, British FM, David Miliband, French FM Bernard Kouchner, German FM Frank Walter Steinmeier, Japanese FM, South Korean FM, Australian FM, Chinese FM, Afghan President Karzai, Pakistani Pres. Zardari, Indian FM and Mexican FS Espinosa.