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We Need a USAID Administrator Now! Who Should it Be?

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Based on input from experts across the development community, MFAN has created a poll with a simple question: Who should be the next USAID Administrator?  Please take a moment to vote on your choice for who should be the leading voice on elevating and modernizing U.S. efforts to alleviate poverty and hunger, fight disease, and create economic opportunity for struggling people in the developing world.  If you want, you can download this badge and place it on your website, profile, etc to spread the word!

A few things to think about as you vote:

  • Who has the best understanding of development and poverty, particularly from an on-the-ground perspective?
  • Who has the profile and gravitas to help increase political support for development issues in Congress, the White House, the State Department, and beyond?
  • Who has the managerial skills to rebuild an agency that desperately needs to be modernized after years of neglect?
  • Finally, who has the right mix of all these skills to be the leading voice in government for foreign assistance reform?

In the comments section below, we’d like to hear about who you voted for and why.  As President Obama said when he laid out his foreign policy vision during the campaign: “[we] will ensure that [USAID] has the highest caliber leadership and plays a central role in the formulation and implementation of critical development and related foreign policy strategies.”

We have to work together to keep these important issues in the public eye and make sure action is taken now!  Our own security and prosperity, and the well being of millions of people around the world, will be affected by this choice.  We appreciate your vote!

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20 Responses to “We Need a USAID Administrator Now! Who Should it Be?”

  1. Justus Lavi says:

    It s a great idea for the US to reorganise its Foreign Aid Strategy however care should be instituted such that aid goes down to then eedy grassroot poor instead of chanelling through corrupt Governments or deneying the poor if they are being ruled by a corrupt Government
    Justus Lavi

  2. kitty hempstone says:

    Where is Andrew Natsios on this list? He knows the problems, the players and, probably most import right now, how to get things moving again. I don’t see that any of the others have all three and we’re losing ground daily as private funders step in to fill the gaps, experienced USAID employees retire and leadership moves on.

  3. Kris Loken says:

    What happened to Paul Farmer?

  4. Gary Merritt says:

    Hempstone’s comments are well-taken. MFAN’s list of 10 candidates includes people with outstanding representational, academic, executive/bureaucratic, legislative, and board skills but few that bring proven development practitioner’s skills as well. USAID’s most forceful and effective leaders over the past five decades have been those who had practical experience in development assistance combined with leadership skills in Executive and Congressional terrains. I voted in this poll but predict, based on an open-ended poll of about 600 USAID retirees in March, that a good number of people who have extensive experience in development will explore the poll but won’t vote because there was no write-in option. That said, kudos to MFAN for launching this public poll!

  5. Mike says:

    I voted for Lancaster, but would be equally happy with Brainard or Birdsall. What the three have in common is a good understanding of development, and (additionally) a good understanding of the agenda for foreign aid, which includes much more than development. At this point in history there is great lack of clarity and great confusion about the challenge of development, the role of foreign aid in promoting development, and the role of foreign aid in promoting other foreign policy concerns besides development. What we need most need is an Administrator who understands and thinks clearly about these issues, and considers them important. Lancaster, Brainard, and Birdsall are the three candidates that stand out in this respect, based on the work they’ve produced.

  6. There is one possible candidate for Administrator who stands head and shoulders above any other American in qualifications and experience and that is Rufus Phillips !!! He carries no adverse
    political baggage and is available, He resides Arlington County, Virginia. His recent book
    “Why Vietnam Matters” may be the best yet written on that conflict. He initiated the Provincial
    Reconstruction Team Concept for AID in Vietnam which has been transferred, though not completely,
    to Iraq and Afghanistan and aims to get AID thru NGO’s, the UN, and all American agencies, civil and
    military, to the rural masses.

  7. Nancy Wrenn says:

    I voted for George Rupp. I have great respect for the International Rescue Committee and believe his work with refugees, which are a major constituency needing USAID support, will be valuable. Several other candidates look very promising. Who is doing the vetting process?

  8. bob randolph says:

    This is a list of “Known Knowns”, some of whom are very well qualified, others of whom are not, some of whom have been compromised by having been too closely associated with the last administration, and several who are not realistic choices, such as Bill Gates and Zoellick.

    Why not open the poll up for nominations from the floor, so we can consider the qualifications of more people like Rufus Phillips who could bring great development and administrative skills to the jobe without all the baggage carried by some of the listed candidates.

    Thanks, in any event, for all that you are doing to bring attention to yawning void at the top of USAID.

  9. jerry pagano says:

    mccoll might be themost viable choice as he is the more likely to compehend the subordinate relationship of aid to state, and thereby the administrator to the secretary in discharging commensurate political operational leadership. for related insights, discuss with doug bennet his relationship with cyrus vance; and with peter mcpherson his relationship with george schulz. another relevant insight would be gained by discussing with jack sullivan governor gilligan’s relationship with vance and getting fired for scheming to gain independence from vance/state. note that usaid’s institutional demise began when it was moved out of the state building, with the misguided enthusiastic support of the atwood administration, thus negating the day-to-day working relationships of the state/aid political leadership. while ngos have long sought usaid independence, it is folly not to recognize aid’s place in the usg’s diplomatic operational scheme-of-things.

  10. Harvey Neese says:

    The only person I can think of to head the infamous USAID at this time is Rufe Phillips. He knows counterinsurgency which is what is needed with all the turmoil in developing countries. We need a program to win the hearts and minds of the people through America’s foreign aid program. I doubt that any of your nominees including the celebs know what counterinsurgency is about. Sorry to be negative, but based on past selections by he Washington bureaucrats, the person will be in with the party politically but have little knowledge of foreign assistance as it should be administered. And whoever is chosen, he or she will be able to foul up continuously without any repercussions. Thank heaven the new administrator won’t be able to destroy again one of, if not the most important program in foreign assistance, and that is agriculture and food systems development. The reason: there is no ag and food assistance program as this was taken care of under the rule of Nastios and his famous agriculture director, Emmy Simmons. !!!!! Please, please, none of these people again.

  11. Jill Buckley says:

    I voted for Carol Lancaster. She has the knowledge, experience, and commitment to development needed by the USAID Administrator. She has traveled the developing world learning and “doing” for years. She is a person of vision and compassion and has management experience. I have worked with her and known her as a friend and colleague. This is a very tough job and Carol could do it extraordinarily well.

  12. [...] course, even with 20 choices in our poll, we are bound to leave somebody out.  In the comments section for our original blog post on the poll, we’ve received some interesting ideas about who else should be considered for the USAID [...]

  13. John Harbeson says:

    There are some good candidates on the list and a number of people I can think of ought to be on the list, e.g. Paul Farmer as someone suggested. I can think of several colleagues in academia who meet all the criteria who ought to be on the list. Tough to choose from those on the list, when good friends are there–Gayle, Emmy, and Carol especially. But on balance I vote for Carol as best meeting all the criteria, Emmy as a close second. Nancy Birdsall looks good, and I’d be happy with her I think, but somehow she seems like a better candidate for the World Bank. Gayle has the grassroots dirt under the fingers experience that it is so important, as does Emmy. I respect Colin Powell but don’t see that he has any business being on this particular list.

  14. bob randolph says:

    Dear Blog,

    Then, why not make the poll truly democratic and open the floor for nominations in order to surface candidates who may truly have interesting ideas, and the requisite energy, for revitalizing, as well as modernizing, foreign assistance. We will no doubt have the time given the glacial pace of the nominations process.

  15. Audrey Quaye says:

    Thanks for setting up the MFAN organisation, website and poll. I am a former Rotary International Foundation Scholar that feels a tremendous need to give back for the gifts that I have received. I am new to the development field so my knowledge of experts in the development field is somewhat limited so I will not comment on my choice in the poll. Still I would like to express my opinion on the subject of development in general and the type of USAID leader that would make a difference.

    After several years and the billions of dollars that the US has spent on poverty eradication and development issues with barely a dent in poverty, I think there is a need for a fresh approach to development. I think USAID needs a leader that understands the need to address the fundamental problems that face people in the developing world. There is an urgent need to address basics such as water, sanitation and energy needs and also climate change issues. The next leader also needs to emphasize education, health care, nutrition and wellness, sustainable agriculture and technology.

    Above all, the approach to development needs to be much more of a multi-disciplinary, integrated, consultative, and bottom-up approach that takes the native wisdom, knowledge and experience of indigenous populations into account in crafting solutions to development challenges. Local ingenuity and resourcefulness needs to be emphasized over imported solutions.

    In addition, there should be collaboration between development experts in various fields. The current “silo approach” where health experts take care of health issues, agriculture experts focus on agriculture issues, and water experts focus on solving water supply issues needs to end. Each development project should have a multi-disciplinary team that works in a collaborative fashion so that they can learn from each other and take into consideration the impact of their decisions on other sectors.

    My organisation, African Integrated Development & Research Group, is still in the development phase of setting up our nonprofit corporation. Our goal is to harness the tremendous talent of educated Africans in the Diaspora; educate them about development issues; and provide opportunities for them to participate in Africa’s development. We look forward to being a part of the solution and hope that a dynamic leader is appointed to lead USAID.

    I will post the URL for my organisation’s website as soon as we unveil the website later this month.

    Thanks again,

    Audrey Quaye
    Executive Director
    African Integrated Development & Research Group

  16. Bob Lester says:

    This is a critical time for USAID as an organization and development assistance as a significant sector for the USG to invest scarce resources. The key issues faced by USAID at this time to me are less developmental in nature than they are political: rewrite of the Foreign Assistance Act, relationships with other agencies particularly State and DOD, internal organization and management. I voted for Colin Powell as someone who knows how State and DOD work and can deal with them, has shown the leadership that USAID desperately needs, boosted morale at State and improved its management capabilities. If a rewrite of the FAA is going to shape the organizational structure of how the USG provides development assistance and what agency is to be the primary actor in making development policy, then it seems to me that Colin Powell would be the best person to influence the debate in a way that best fosters development interests.

  17. Herb Miller says:

    Although I think it unlikely that he would take the job, my vote would be for former senator Chuck Hagel. With all of the present debate about which direction USAID should be going and just exactly where it should be within the administrative hierarchy, the Agency needs someone with the gravitas of Hagel to deal with the Congress and to deal with other departmental political appointees – all of whom want a part of the pie. I was quite impressed with Hagel’s column in the Washington Post of September 3rd. Without explicitly stating such, I believe he has demonstrated insights on the foreign policy implications of a strong USAID and the role it must play in engageing the developing world – from whence our present problems spring. Intimate knowledge of the theories and practice of development work is of secondary importance. There will be numerous Deputies, Assistant Adminstrators, Deputy Assistant Adminstrators. Office Directors, Mission Directors, etc., who will have countless years of experience to advise and counsel him on the nuts and bolts. In fact, a vast knowledge and experience in development work may even be detrimental to the task ahead for a new Administrator which might bring the wrong focus to the necessary political work ahead. In the immediate future, the new AID Administrator must focus his energies and talents on ensuring AID’s strong presence and independence within the bureaucratic hierarchy. This will require a strong personality to interface with Congress, State and the White House on non-development work grounds. I am still haunted by memories of the fate of USIA. The Agency needs someone to protect it from a similar fate. And United States’ foreign policy desperately needs a strong political direction from and for AID.

  18. I vote for Emmy Simmons who has the USAID experience and knowledge of what needs to be done to revitalize the agency. USAID needs an individual who appreciates the cultural, social and political envinroments of developing world and knows the changes which have occurred over the years in the developing world and new challenges he/she has to face. It’s my conviction that new comers are not properly prepared for this work and they take too long to learn. The history of USAID shows beyond doubts that development needs are responded through leaders who turn intuitions and visions into planning and action and lead the people to follow in the process. Hence the need for an Administrator with practical experience in development assistance and a people person.

  19. [...] poll has drawn thousands of votes from around the world.  More importantly, those voters have made their opinions known about who they voted for and why, leaving us with a rich collection of comments that show how [...]

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