Management top priority for new USAID deputy administrator

Alfonso Lenhardt replaced Donald Steinberg as the new deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. What is on his agenda? Photo by: Center for Strategic & International Studies / CC BY-NC-SA

Alfonso Lenhardt will prioritize management and work to “institutionalize” recent reforms as new deputy administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, he said Tuesday in the keynote address to the Council of International Development Companies.

Referring to management as a “core discipline,” Lenhardt pledged that he will “work to make sure our partnerships are more nimble, creative and effective, and [that] our agency’s operations are efficient and consistent.”

The position of USAID deputy director has been vacant for more than a year and a half. Former Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg left the agency in May 2013 to join World Learning as president and CEO.

The last four years have seen significant changes in agency operations, Lenhardt told development professionals gathered to discuss the future of private sector development at CIDC’s second annual conference. He praised recent reforms and initiatives like Feed the Future and the creation of the Global Development Lab, saying he hopes to institutionalize those changes so that they persist beyond the current administration.

“We’ve rebuilt our policy and budget capabilities, adopted a rigorous approach to evaluations and transparency, hired more than 1,100 new staff and prioritized a strong focus on partnering that has enabled us to achieve outstanding results,” Lenhardt said.

USAID’s implementing partners have long desired a shift in USAID operations, calling particularly for a reduction of procurement administrative lead times — which averaged at 513 days in 2009 — as well as more accurate business forecasts, better training and more staff in procurement operations.

The return of the sequester?

Projections of the U.S. foreign aid budget tempered outlooks somewhat, as Senator Tim Kaine from Virginia warned that a return of the congressional sequester could hinder progress.

Still, foreign aid advocates in congress are working against the sequester, he told professionals from DAI, Chemonics and Tetra Tech, among others.

“CIDC’s goal should be to raise the development profile among those who don’t already feel strongly about the development budget,” Kaine said.

Kate Eltrich, a partner at government and business development consulting firm Sixkiller Consulting, remained optimistic that supplemental funding — particularly from the Overseas Contingency Operations account, money earmarked for the global war on terror but which has recently shifted to cover other emerging crises like Ebola — could be a key source in the changing congress.

“Look out for the omnibus appropriations bill after Thanksgiving, this is legislation that could shape next year’s budget,” she suggested, adding that development professionals will see few large funding shifts, and that “the fight will be in the details of how it’s spent.”

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About the author

  • Molly Anders

    Molly Anders is a former U.K. correspondent for Devex. Based in London, she reports on development finance trends with a focus on British and European institutions. She is especially interested in evidence-based development and women’s economic empowerment, as well as innovative financing for the protection of migrants and refugees. Molly is a former Fulbright Scholar and studied Arabic in Syria, Jordan, Egypt and Morocco.