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Politics Breaking: Rajiv Shah For USAID Administrator

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Politics Breaking: Rajiv Shah For USAID Administrator


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Breaking: Rajiv Shah for USAID administrator

An administration official has confirmed that Rajiv Shah will be nominated to be the next administrator of USAID.

POLITICO reported yesterday that the 36-year-old USDA chief scientist and undersecretary for research, education and economics, a medical doctor and health economist who previously managed vaccine and agriculture programs at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, seemed to be the most intriguing and plausible candidate, despite his youth.

Shah did not respond to a query. Several other officials who have waved off other names in the past did not do so in this case, before an administration official who asked for anonymity confirmed today that Shah will be nominated for the job.

A press release on the appointment will be issued at 3pm, a second official, at the White House, said. Shah's official biography and photo to accompany the impending announcement were provided in the meantime.
Congress was also notified today of the impending nomination, a Hill staffer tells POLITICO.

A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania Medical School, Shah served before coming into the Obama administration last spring at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, directing agriculture development and financial services programs, as well as manager of the foundation's $1.5 billion vaccine fund. He also has political credentials, having campaigned for Obama, served as the former health care policy adviser to Al Gore's presidential campaign, and as a member of Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell's health transition committee. He also previously worked at the World Health Organization.

Also of import to the administration — which got deep into a vet of an earlier USAID administrator candidate, global health pioneer Dr. Paul Farmer, to have the nomination not materialize, to Hillary Clinton's open exasperation — Shah was confirmed in April to his USDA undersecretary job just a month after being announced, without any apparent hitch.
Given a major development review under way at the State Department, and an interagency, National Security Council-led U.S. assistance review, development officials said whoever accepted the job would have to be willing to put up with a degree of uncertainty about how the USAID administrator post would shake out in the evolving org chart. They also noted that the administrator will most immediately feed into the larger administration chain of command through Deputy Secretary of State Jack Lew.

As reported yesterday, Shah does have a connection to Lew. Lew's former deputy when he headed Bill Clinton's Office of Management and Budget, Sylvia Mathews, became the executive director of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2001 when Shah started there, and where he seems to have been extremely well regarded overseeing several programs.
Reaction from the Hill has been very positive so far, the administration official said.

"The churn on the Hill is lots of enthusiasm, despite the young age," the Hill staffer said. "He will be a good antidote to some of the stagnancy currently plaguing the agency and will hopefully have a mandate to fundamentally change the way business is done over there. ... Also hear from the Agriculture Committee staff that he's done a great job thus far and is very well-respected."

He said there was some concern that Shah's youth "may work against him, especially in the interagency context or even in his dealings with State. ... We're hoping he can cobble together a strong coalition to support a strengthened, independent agency that will coordinate with State but remain institutionally separate."

Shah seemed to anticipate working closely with Clinton and USAID when he gave an interview to his hometown Seattle paper in May upon taking the USDA job. "There are times in history when presidents have succeeded in bringing together very powerful people," Shah told the Seattle Post Intelligencer, noting that he was reading Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals. "He anticipates the Ag Department, the State Department, and Agency for International Development 'will work together as a team' on food issues inside and outside America's borders," the paper added.

Speculation on Shah as a "write-in" candidate was floated by the Center for Global Development blog yesterday, which noted that there was only one more week that the Acting USAID Administrator Alonzo Fulgham could still serve with the "acting" title under the Federal Vacancies Reform Act.

Several development groups expressed relief that there was an appointment after such a long wait. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, speaking on behalf of a coalition of development assistance groups, the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network, applauded the nomination in a statement, and urged Congress to confirm Shah quickly, and for the Obama administration to give Shah a seat at the NSC.

UPDATE: Announced: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton applauded the nomination, in a statement: "Dr. Raj Shah is a leader in the development community, an innovative and results-oriented manager, and someone who understands the importance of providing people around the world with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty and chart their own destinies. By nominating Raj to lead [USAID] President Obama has reaffirmed that development must be a core pillar of American foreign policy."

Obama said in his statement: “The mission of USAID is to advance America’s interests by strengthening our relationships abroad. Rajiv brings fresh ideas and the dedication and impressive background necessary to help guide USAID as it works to achieve this important goal. I am grateful for all that USAID has accomplished under the leadership of Acting Administrator Alonzo Fulgham, and the thousands of career men and women who fulfill USAID’s mission day in and day out – particularly their hard work in jumpstarting a landmark initiative to bring more than $20 billion for agriculture development to the world's most food-insecure countries. I look forward to working with Rajiv in the months and years ahead.”

Forwarded by forum member Tejwant Singh ji Malik.

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