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AP Looks At USAID Administrator Vacancy

Although there’s “increasing pressure” on President Obama “to fill his administration’s vacant top foreign-assistance post … no candidate is in sight nine months into his term,” the Associated Press writes in an article exploring the absence of a leader for USAID. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton have expressed a desire for “the agency to play a bigger role in U.S. foreign policy … [with] more equal roles for diplomacy and development alongside defense,” according to the AP. “But leaving the top job at USAID open for so long has some worried about the fate of Obama’s goals,” which include “parceling out a foreign-aid budget twice as large as his predecessor’s.”

“White House officials have not explained the delay nor offered a timeline for a nomination. Spokesman Tommy Vietor said Obama wanted to appoint a qualified nominee as soon as possible. He noted that the vacancy had not prevented the administration from launching ambitious development projects,” the news service writes, adding that the “exhaustive series of personal and financial disclosures is taking the largest share of the blame for delaying a nomination.” Without a USAID administrator, Clinton, who “has made clear that she sees diplomacy and development as crucial to U.S. mission overseas,” is “the strongest voice on development,” the AP writes (Pace, 10/24).

Book Examines Privatization Of U.S. Aid

A Boston Globe book review examines “One Nation Under Contract,” by Allison Stanger, director of the Rohatyn Center for International Affairs at Middlebury College. The book recounts “the extent to which the United States has turned much of its most important work over to private contractors whose motivation is profit and level of public accountability near zero,” according to the review. Stanger says, “‘For-profit foreign aid … is now a booming business, with billions of U.S. government dollars flowing into sketchy projects.’ She points to a 2005 congressional study that found that of 286 schools that were to be rebuilt by a private contractor with funds from the US Agency for International Development, ‘only 8 had been completed and . . . only 15 of 253 planned health clinics were operational,’” the Boston Globe writes.

According to the book, “The privatization of American power … blurs the formerly clear divisions between the public and private sectors. … In the past the operative assumption was that the government made policy and told the private sector how to implement it. Within government, some groups devised policy (the ‘what’) and others dealt with the politics of securing policy aims (the ‘how’). Neither firewall is holding up well.” The book also outlines “a postindustrial foreign policy” strategy (Edwards, 10/25).