John Kerry's interest in USAID contractors

Sen. John Kerry, (center, back to the camera) testifies during his confirmation hearing for the U.S. Secretary of State post on Jan. 24, 2013. Photo by: Glyn Lowe / CC BY

Shortly after Hillary Clinton assumed the post of top U.S. diplomat four years ago, her comments about the government’s “overreliance” on contractors created a stir within the foreign aid community. Will her successor be as interested in that topic? The answer appears to be yes.

At his confirmation hearing for secretary of state on Thursday, Massachusetts senator and former Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry suggested that Washington could do more to improve the relationship between the U.S. Agency for International Development and its implementing partners.

“There have been obvious problems with our contractor relationships in the past,” he told his colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which he chaired over the past few years. “The committee, I think, has done some superb work in putting out a report last year. But I think we can do more than we’re doing today.”

Kerry did not elaborate.

Would he consider conditioning aid to Pakistan on the release of Shakil Afridi, the Pakistani physician who allegedly helped the CIA confirm Osama bin Laden’s location in 2011? At the Jan. 24 hearing, Kerry said no.

Cutting aid to Pakistan is a “pretty dramatic, draconian, sledgehammer approach to a relationship that really has lots of interests,” he argued.

Would he support withholding U.S. funding to U.N. organizations that grant membership to the Palestinian Authority?

Kerry said: “If we cease to pay the dues and so forth and take a diff attitude, then we sort of lose the opportunities to protect our friends, which we want to have.”

Much of the hearing centered on Kerry’s diplomatic plans on a number issues, such as U.S. involvement in Syria, addressing women’s rights in Afghanistan, advancing U.S. economic interests in Africa, threats of terrorism in sub-Saharan Africa, Iran’s nuclear program and climate change.

Kerry barely touched on the U.S. foreign aid budget during the hearing, but in his testimony, he said he looks forward to discussing it further with his colleagues on Capitol Hill.

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About the author

  • Jenny Lei Ravelo

    Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.