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By now you’ll have seen the news that President Obama has nominated Gayle Smith to be the next Administrator for USAID. It took 18 months to nominate former Administrator Raj Shah. It’s a healthy sign of support for USAID that the White House has moved more quickly this time, just two months after the former Administrator stepped down.
We hope for the same sense of urgency from the US Senate in confirming the President’s nominee. It’s critical to have an Administrator with a Congressional mandate and development expertise. Smith knows development after years working in Africa, and she knows how the US government works – or not – after years in the White House. She was a key architect of signature initiatives, like Feed the Future and Power Africa, that a revitalized USAID launched in the last several years — initiatives designed to crowd-in private sector investment to poor countries prepared to undertake business-friendly reforms.
No one has more first-hand knowledge of USAID’s problems and how it has addressed them over the last decade: a long rebuilding of its professional staff initiated by George W. Bush appointee Henrietta Fore in, yes, the final two years of his Administration, and the recovery of USAID’s policy function under Administrator Shah. In her position at the NSC, Smith has been actively involved in these endeavors. The next 20 months should be about institutionalizing and consolidating those initiatives, weaving them into the Agency’s DNA to leave a legacy of thinking and acting at USAID that reflects America’s combined talents in the public and private sectors.
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.