Kerry & Lugar Deliver Message to Obama: Time is of the Essence for a USAID Administrator

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As part of the Center for Global Development’s newly launched blog – Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance – MFAN Principal and CGD Senior Policy Analyst Sheila Herrling highlights a recent letter from Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry (D-MA) and Ranking Member Dick Lugar (R-IN) urging President Obama to name a nominee to the vacant Administrator post at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

MFAN Principal and former USAID Administrator Brian Atwood also comments extensively about the current state of USAID in Foreign Policy’s The Cable.atwood

In the letter, Kerry and Lugar state they “firmly believe that development is integral to our national security and must be elevated to an equal role alongside defense and diplomacy.”  However, their “efforts to support a bold foreign assistance reform and development agenda are hampered by a leadership vacuum” at USAID.

The Senators further caution the President “that the longer we wait for a new leader for the Agency, the more serious the problems become.”

In her blog post, Herrling writes, “…the letter also communicates a broader concern that development voices are being shut out of major policy decisions and interagency processes at a time when U.S. leadership on development is more needed than ever.  Referencing the greatest foreign policy challenges facing America today — wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and instability in Pakistan — the Senators argue it is ‘essential to empower a single development agency with the appropriate tools, resources and policy voice so that it can undertake its responsibilities in an effective and capable manner.’”

She goes on to say, “The letter’s call for a ‘single development agency’ with a ‘policy voice’ harkens back to a portion of the Senators’ legislation that would restore development policy and planning capacity to USAID, distinct from that of the State Department.  I fear that without that capacity restored and without a healthy degree of budget authority delegated, filling the Administrator and senior management posts with the caliber of experience necessary to present long-term development options into what are typically short-term decisionmaking processes (let alone implement them) will be difficult.”

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