Reports: Farmer Will not Run USAID

    Paul Farmer will not lead the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to various media reports.

    The Cable, a blog operated by Foreign Policy magazine, said Aug. 4 that "[s]everal Hill and Washington foreign policy hands" heard from the White House that the Harvard doctor, who was thought by many to be Obama's pick for USAID chief, was in fact out of the running. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof said Aug. 10 that "it's final."

    "I'm not exactly sure what went wrong, but I think the vetters had reservations about things he had said," Kristof wrote, "and he developed reservations about whether he could do more good inside government or outside."

    Devex could not confirm these media reports.

    In recent weeks, some Washington insiders noted that it may be difficult for Farmer to comply with onerous vetting procedures, including a requirement for candidates to list all countries they have lived in since they were 18 and every foreign citizen they know.

    Even Secretary of State Hilary Clinton expressed frustration recently about the difficult vetting process.

    Farmer is currently in Rwanda, continuing his private work.

    If the media reports are correct - and neither the U.S. government nor Farmer or his nonprofit Partners in Health have disputed them yet - it would be yet another setback in the long search for a USAID administrator. Alonzo Fulgham was named interim chief just after Obama took office, but the development community has been expecting a bigger name to take over the agency.

    Wendy Sherman, a close Clinton confidant, was said to be a front-runner earlier this year, but Washington sources said that she began looking for other work about the time Farmer's name began to circulate as a possible agency chief. Now, it's unclear who is in next on Obama's list, and whether that person is interested

    Farmer's withdrawal also comes at a bad time for the Obama administration, which in recent days has outlined a strategy for fighting terrorism that relies heavily on development assistance. Without someone to oversee the agency primarily responsible for providing foreign aid, it might be difficult to accomplish this goal.

    About the author

    • David Francis

      David is a Washington-based journalist and former Devex staffer who spearheaded Devex's "Obama's Foreign Aid Reform" blog. He has written for the Christian Science Monitor, Pittsburgh Post Gazette,, San Francisco Chronicle, Foreign Policy magazine, and the Washington Monthly. David holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago and a graduate degree from Georgetown University.