Madam Secretary

Clinton calls vetting for USAID job a ‘nightmare’

Clinton calls vetting for USAID job a ‘nightmare’

USAID container, Aug. 11, 2005 | ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images 

Secretary Clinton yesterday revealed some of the frustration she is having with the White House when it comes to finding a director the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). In a town-hall meeting with USAID employees yesterday, here’s how she described the vetting process:

  • “The clearance and vetting process is a nightmare.”
  • “It is frustrating beyond words.”
  • “I mean, it is ridiculous.”

Just how bad is the vetting process? Candidates have to list every foreign citizen they know (imagine how many that would be if you’re involved in international development). They have to provide details about every place they’re lived since they were 18 (once again quite onerous if you’ve globe-trotted the world). It’s to the point where candidates have to hire accountants and lawyers in some cases to meet all the financial and personal disclosure requirements.

Clinton said several people had declined the job due to the overwhelming vetting process.

Understandably, candidates should be carefully vetted, but this is over the top. We’re nearly half a year into the Obama administration. The White House even declined Clinton’s request to say that someone would be nominated soon. “The message came back: We’re not ready,” Clinton told the audience.

The “smart power”/”soft power” work of USAID is supposed to be critical to creating stability in troubled areas such as Afghanistan and Iraq. Well, it doesn’t seem so “smart” to keep an important U.S. agency leaderless for so long.

Photo: ALI AL-SAADI/AFP/Getty Images