Peace Corps director Williams resigns

Peace Corps director Williams resigns

U.S. President Barack Obama announced today that Peace Corps Director Aaron Williams has resigned.

"From working tirelessly to improve volunteer support to his leadership in reforming and modernizing the agency, Aaron has been a champion of the thousands of remarkable Peace Corps Volunteers serving across the globe," Obama said in a statement. "I know the positive change that Peace Corps Volunteers make, and under Aaron’s leadership the agency’s work has been at the forefront of this Administration’s efforts to increase global engagement.  I want to extend my thanks to him for his dedicated service and wish him and his family the best."

Williams has been heading the Peace Corps since being confirmed in August 2009. A lifelong development professional and former USAID official, Williams presided over several changes in the aid agency, including its expansion into countries including Sierra Leone, Indonesia, Columbia, Tunisia, and Nepal.

In a statement, Williams cited "personal and family considerations" as the reason for his departure.

But his tenure will likely be remembered for the sexual-assault scandal that rocked the corps in 2011 and brought significant congressional criticism of Williams’s handling of the revelation that the Peace Corps had not properly responded to increased reports of attacks on female volunteers in foreign countries.

ABC News did a series of reports highlighting cases of rape and sexual assault against Peace Corps volunteers in which the victims said that Peace Corps leadership discouraged them from reporting the assaults and failed to take steps to ensure their safety.

After initially resisting cooperating with the ABC investigation, Williams testified before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and pledged to change the policies and culture of the Peace Corps, which several victims testified was focused on blaming the victims of sexual assault.

"There is no doubt that what these courageous women have done has opened our eyes to what we need to correct and we need to correct it now," Williams testified at the May 2011 hearing. "Rest assured, this type of thing, blaming the victim, will not continue in the Peace Corps of today."

Senate Appropriations State and Foreign Ops Subcommittee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT), praised Williams’ handling of the scandal and his time as head of the Peace Corps in a statement today.

“I have great admiration for Director Williams.  I watched him restore the credibility and reaffirm the mission of one of America’s finest organizations.  What he and the Peace Corps have achieved shows the best face of America," Leavhy said.

Carrie Hessler-Radelet, deputy director of the Peace Corps, will begin serving as acting director after Williams departs on Sept. 17.