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Outgoing Secretary Of State Clinton Should Recommend Making USAID A ‘Quasi-Independent Agency’

“As secretary of state, Hillary Clinton has been a visible and vocal champion of development … [b]ut her promise to make the U.S. Agency for International Development [USAID] the premier development agency in the world remains a promise in progress,” Nancy Birdsall, president of the Center for Global Development, writes in a Politico opinion piece. While “Clinton has elevated development within, rather than alongside, diplomacy … I wish Clinton had pushed for more autonomy for USAID — if not as a Cabinet-level agency, then at least the status of the Overseas Private Investment Corp., and the Millennium Challenge Corp., as proposed by former colleagues who have since served in the Obama administration — and an explicit policy role for the USAID administrator,” she writes.

“Clinton could still make development a more equal foreign policy partner alongside diplomacy and defense by recommending to President Barack Obama a few key changes,” including providing a permanent seat on the National Security Council for the USAID administrator, moving “some of the major development initiatives — such as global health and the U.S. program in Haiti — … under USAID leadership, rather than keeping them at the State Department,” Birdsall writes. “Along with humanitarian operations, global health is one of several areas in which confusion over leadership the past four years has made a joke of the whole government approach to development,” she adds. “But a more lasting legacy for Clinton would come were she to propose” that USAID become “a quasi-independent agency with a board of both private individuals and public officials chaired by the secretary of state,” Birdsall writes, concluding, “A better USAID, with visibility, prestige and a clear mandate to participate in foreign policy decision making, may in turn be the only way to shore up America’s smart power and restore its leadership on critical 21st-century challenges” (1/22).