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.
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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.
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“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.