Clinton Says USAID has been Decimated

In a Jan. 13 hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) outlined the priorities for U.S. foreign aid which she would pursue if confirmed as Secretary of State.

Clinton spoke forcefully about the strain faced by the U.S. Agency for International Development in its struggle to accomplish more results with fewer resources: "I think it's fair to say that USAID, our premier aid agency, has been decimated. You know, it has half the staff it used to have. It's turned into more of a contracting agency than an operational agency with the ability to deliver."

To remedy this deficiency, Clinton promised to request more development assistance that would allow the State Department to fulfill its increasingly broad mandate.

However, Clinton assured the committee that this increased funding would happen in conjunction with efforts to substantially reform development assistance. While not revealing the details of any restructuring plan, Clinton emphasized the need to solidify cooperation between "pockets of foreign aid programs" throughout the government. Pointing out that agencies like the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and the Millennium Challenge Corp. already rely on USAID resources, Clinton promised to propose enact a plan which would "maximize coordination, minimize redundancy and make the case for the increased resources that are so desperately needed."

Clinton repeatedly spoke out against the perceived tendency of the Pentagon to usurp control over development initiatives. According to Clinton, this has taken place because the Department of Defense has a tenfold advantage in terms of access to resources, which has been awarded due to the Pentagon's "presumption of being able to move much more quickly." This has led to a wasteful duplication of efforts as the Pentagon attempts to create "mini-State Departments." Clinton did not directly comment on AFRICOM, the U.S. military's controversial aid program for Africa.

In particular, Clinton spoke of the need to bring much of the post-conflict reconstruction work currently handled by DOD under the purview of USAID, in order to more clearly delineate the different roles of the State Department and Pentagon. "When a young Army captain gets cash to go build a school, that's foreign aid," she said. "That's not war fighting."

About the author

  • Ryan Weddle

    Ryan Weddle served as Devex international development correspondent in Washington in 2008-2009 before joining the U.S. foreign service. He has worked in India for a business process outsourcing firm, and in Kazakhstan on U.S.-funded urban development initiatives. Ryan holds a bachelor's in Asian studies from the University of British Columbia and a master's in international studies from the National University of Singapore, where his research focused on aid effectiveness.