Gates: Congress Part of USAID, State Problems

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates. Photo by: Jim Greenhill / CC BY Jim GreenhillCC BY

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, an advocate for an expanded budget for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development, said Congress is partly to blame for the two institutions’ shortfalls. 

“I will tell you, Congress is part of the problem,” Gates said Aug. 19 before an audience of Marine Corps veterans in San Francisco. “There has to be a change in attitude [in Capitol Hill] in the recognitions of the critical role that agencies like State and [US]AID play, for them to play the leading role that I think they need to play.”

Gates pointed out that Congress continues to nitpick at the foreign affairs budget, unlike the defense budget that was passed largely untouched.

The defense chief also said in the 1990s USAID has 16,000 employees, but plunged to 3,000 in 2006, with the aid institution becoming “a contracting agency.”

“This is a capability we have denied ourselves…but these institutions need to be rebuilt and re-strengthened,” Gates said.  

USAID said there were 11,400 total employees in 1990, 9,152 in 1995 and almost 8,015 in 2006, Stripes Central reports. These figures include civil service, Foreign Service, Foreign Service nationals, American personnel service contractors, and others, but not “institutional support contractors,” according to a USAID press officer.

Explaining the discprecancy in numbers, Pentagon press secretary Geoff Morrell was quoted by Stripes Central as saying, “The 16,000 figure goes back to the Landon Lecture in November 2007, which referred to the number of USAID employees at the height of the Vietnam War. We’ve used that formulation in a couple of speeches since (though not for a couple of years).”

He added: “As for the present – depends on how you count but as of the time of the [Kansas State University] Landon Lecture the number of full time true full time USAID employees was between 2,000 and 3,000.”

About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.