Africa policy watchers can mark September 27th, 2011 as the date the Obama administration finally got around to announcing their intention to nominate an Assistant Administrator for Africa at USAID, effectively the lead development person in the whole USG for the continent. Yes, that’s right, it took 32 months, and even longer if you add the time before inauguration that the transition team would have been considering names. (Our USAID Staffer tracker shows they are still missing two AAs.)
The lucky winner is Earl Gast, an experienced career USAID civil servant. I don’t know him, but by all accounts, he is well-qualified and capable and should easily be able to hit the ground running. That’s good news.
But the shameful delays and his eventual nomination can only be interpreted as the administration’s utter failure to find a candidate. The AA job is a political appointment, but by selecting a career employee after so long, it’s fairly obvious that they couldn’t find an appointee, out of thousands of Obama campaign workers and Democratic Party activists, who was qualified or could get through vetting. So much for a deep bench.
Worse, all the wasted months without an Africa lead could have been avoided if the White House had years ago just named one of the several acting AAs to the job, like perhaps, oh, I don’t know, maybe the guy who did it in 2009 by the name of…wait for it… Earl Gast. So, to Earl, USAID, and the beleaguered staff of the Africa Bureau: Congratulations…or something.