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As we reported earlier today, Raj Shah has been nominated by the President to the USAID Administrator. And so starts the press feeding frenzy looking for opinions on his credentials for the job. Views from the development community, who have been pushing hard for a nominee, have been purely positive: see MFAN; U.S. Global Leadership Campaign, ONE. And comments from Senators Kerry and Lugar, Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that will need to schedule Dr. Shah’s confirmation hearing and clear him through Committee, suggest Dr. Shah will have safe and swift passage on his ride from Independence Avenue to 14th Street.
“That ride ticket couldn’t have come at a more timely moment,” says CGD President Nancy Birdsall, “Shah will bring tremendous talents – smarts, passion for development and strategic thinking -- to the helm of USAID. “ When pushed on the issue of sufficient stature to carry out the massive reform agenda at the agency, Birdsall responded, “While a year ago, we all may have been focusing on the issue of high-profile stature, at this point the question should be: what does Raj need to succeed? And what he needs is the Administration to bolster his capacity and authorities to successfully elevate and empower a distinct development perspective and voice in the important interagency debates happening right now – the PSD, the QDDR, rethinking our approach to Afghanistan and Pakistan.” So, concretely, what does that mean? Says Birdsall, “that means the White House needs to give him a seat at the National Security Council and the State Department needs to give him back policy and budget authority of USAID operations.”
Nancy has this wonderful approach here at CGD of encouraging disagreement because she believes better thinking comes from the creative tension in that process. It is that sort of approach that should exist between the USAID Administrator and the Secretary of State and the biggest test to Shah will be the degree to which he can independently represent the development voice and drive the reforms required to tackle today’s global challenges. It just so happens that on the set of issues Nancy and I discussed here for this blog, I couldn’t agree with her more.
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.