Mark Green, new administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, speaks to staff during his first day at the office. Photo by: Michael Igoe / Devex

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Mark Green, who was confirmed as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development last week, spoke to his new employees for the first time Monday after being sworn in.

“I can't tell you what an honor — and relief — it is to finally be here with you,” Green told the dozens of USAID officials who gathered in the lobby of the Ronald Reagan Building to welcome the U.S. aid chief on his first day in office. Green had been President Donald Trump’s rumored pick to lead the development agency since January and he was officially nominated to the post in May, but his confirmation took several months to unfold.

Green takes office at a time when USAID’s future role and standing among U.S. federal agencies is uncertain. In May, President Trump proposed cutting U.S. foreign affairs spending by one-third. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, meanwhile, is overseeing an open-ended reorganization process that has the development community on edge, and USAID continues to operate with few politically appointed leaders in place.

USAID is changing its mission statement

The United States Agency for International Development is changing its mission and vision statements for the second time in under four years. The rebranding effort is part of the Trump administration's broader effort to reshape U.S. foreign affairs agencies.

Many at the agency and throughout the U.S. development community have welcomed Green’s arrival as a badly needed injection of leadership at an otherwise tumultuous time for U.S. development professionals. Green, a former Republican congressman from Wisconsin, is well known and well connected on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers ultimately hold USAID’s purse strings.

Green told his colleagues that he plans to challenge them — and that he expects them to answer with their judgement and opinions. “I don’t want the ‘company line,’” he told them.

He explained his leadership style to his new colleagues. “First you can expect leadership that is honest with you,” Green said. “As we go along, if you ask me a question, I'll do my very best to give you an honest, straight answer. It might not always be the answer you want to hear, but it will be an honest answer.”

The new U.S. aid chief also invoked the agency’s duty to American taxpayers, who he said deserve an agency “built around continuous improvement.”

“Each week, I want us to be just a little bit better than the week before, a little more effective, a little more innovative,” he said. “The taxpayers deserve it. Our government partners deserve it. And our partners all around the world have come to expect it.”

Finally, the new USAID chief told his colleagues that the agency should measure success in terms of progress toward making foreign assistance unnecessary.

In Trump's US aid shake-up, advocates see a window for long-sought reforms

United States President Trump has proposed slashing development programs and restructuring foreign affairs agencies — but could the president's rejection of the status quo be an opportunity for real reform?

“I believe the purpose of foreign assistance should be ending its need to exist,” Green said “Each of our programs should look forward to the day when we can end it. And around the world we should measure our work by how far each investment moves us closer to that day.”

After delivering his remarks in the lobby and shaking hands along an enthusiastic rope line, Green made his way to a bank of elevators and disappeared for meetings with his assistant administrators.

“Let's get at it. We have work to do,” he said before leaving.

What's the future of U.S. aid and development policy under the Trump administration? Read Devex news and analysis and subscribe to The Development Newswire.

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.