Staffing Problems Plague USAID

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah meets with the staff members in Haiti. Staffing problems plague the United States' aid agency. Photo by: USAID

The U.S. Agency for International Development is understaffed and several of its employees are at risk of burnout for serving more than one position at a time, the Federal Times says.

USAID workforce dropped by 2.7 percent to 7,421 from 7,626 between 2004 and 2009 even as the agency’s funding doubled during that period, according to a Government Accountability Office report cited by the newspaper.

The problem stems mainly from USAID’s insufficient workforce planning as proven by its failure to hire new employees to replace retirees, the Federal Times adds. The paper added that while USAID is currently hiring, the agency lacks mid-level career officials.

The workforce gap is forcing employees to take on several jobs at once. As a result, employees are often burned out. Several of the agency’s projects suffer delays starting from contract approval among other problems, said Mary Beth Zankowski, the agency’s senior adviser for strategic workforce planning. Zankowski told Federal Times that USAID has not been able to replace attrition for more than a decade now.

The official said the agency is trying to address its staffing problems by bringing in contractors and rehiring former employees while trying to train junior employees as quickly as possible.

The number of high-level vacancies at USAID is also a standing concern in the U.S. development community. As reported by Devex, U.S. President Barack Obama has been repeatedly pressed by different groups to fill up key positions within the agency’s management team. 

About the author

  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.