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USAID getting staffed up — finally

USAID getting staffed up — finally

More than a year and a half into Barack Obama’s administration, the leadership of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is taking shape, with another top official named this week.

President Obama announced his intention to nominate Nancy Lindborg to be assistant administrator for USAID’s Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Affairs Bureau. Lindborg is currently the president of Mercy Corps, a global relief and development NGO. She also serves as co-president of the board of directors for the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign. From 2000 to 2004, she was chair of the management committee of the Sphere Project, an international initiative to improve the effectiveness and accountability of NGOs, the White House said in its release.

Development community leaders praised the selection, saying that Lindborg’s experience in disaster and humanitarian relief should allow her to play a big role in responding to events like the Haiti earthquake and the floods in Pakistan, though she has less experience in democracy promotion.

The choice is also bolstering confidence around town that USAID is willing and able to play a large role in setting development policy.

"If people really want USAID to assert itself on aid, they need people like this," one development community leader said. "In Haiti, everything was run or shadow-run by State.  Getting someone like Lindborg who’s willing to basically take a demotion to do this job is a good sign."

Meanwhile, two other assistant secretary nominees for USAID also moved forward in the confirmation process this week. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nominations of Mark Feierstein and Nisha Desai Biswal to be assistant administrators for Latin America and Asia, respectively.

One notable vacancy at USAID is the slot for director of the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA). That might be a tough one to fill before State releases its Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR). The report, which is expected to be released in September, will reveal whether OFDA will reclaim its previous influence before the Bush administration gutted it or continue to be subservient to the State Department’s Office of the Director of Foreign Assistance, known as the F Bureau.

UPDATE: Late Thursday afternoon, the White House announced President Obama’s intent to nominate Donald K. Steinberg as deputy administrator of USAID. From the release:

Donald K. Steinberg is currently Deputy President for Policy at the International Crisis Group.  During three decades of U.S. diplomatic service, Mr. Steinberg served as Ambassador to Angola, Director of the State Department and USAID’s Joint Policy Council, Special Representative of the President for Humanitarian Demining, Special Haiti Coordinator, Deputy White House Press Secretary, and Special Assistant for African Affairs to President Clinton on the National Security Council.

That brings the total number of top USAID leadership appointments announced to 5 out of the 12 jobs at the organization that require confirmation by the Senate. Of those 5, only one USAID leader has been confirmed… administrator Rajiv Shah.