Update: White House fires USAID deputy to keep Barsa at helm

Acting USAID Administrator John Barsa at a White House-led roundtable. Photo by: USAID / U.S. State Department

BURLINGTON, Vt. — The White House has fired the U.S. Agency for International Development’s deputy administrator, Bonnie Glick, in an apparent move to allow the current acting administrator, John Barsa, to retain leadership of the agency.

John McEntee, White House director of presidential personnel, on Friday afternoon delivered a termination letter to Glick, which Devex obtained.

“Pursuant to the direction of the President, your appointment as Deputy Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development is hereby terminated, effective immediately,” said the brief note.

The firing comes as Barsa was warned that he was reaching the end of a 210-day legal limit on his appointment as acting administrator, which had appeared to pave the way for Glick, a Republican political appointee, to take over the agency. Instead, Barsa will be made acting deputy administrator and continue to serve as head of USAID, sources told Devex.

Barsa has been leading USAID since former Administrator Mark Green vacated his position on April 11. The Federal Vacancies Reform Act of 1998 limits the amount of time a government employee can perform the duties of an executive agency role that requires Senate approval. Barsa will reach that 210-day limit at midnight on Friday, according to an email sent to him by USAID’s ethics attorney, Jack Ohlweiler, which Devex has seen.

“By operation of law, at midnight, you return to being the Assistant Administrator for LAC,” the message from Ohlweiler says, referring to USAID’s Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, which Barsa previously led.

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The letter from Ohlweiler adds that Glick, who was passed over for the acting administrator job in April, would be the only person “who has all the authorities to act as the Administrator” and would therefore take over as head of the agency.

“Obviously this is going to be very confusing for the Agency and our partners. … In order to maintain calm and stability, I recommend an Agency notice that announces this change,” the message reads.

USAID did not respond to multiple inquiries from Devex.

About the author

  • Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.