WASHINGTON — In the wake of Mark Green’s resignation as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, speculation about a potential successor has begun to build among Washington insiders.
“I think what happens in the Senate is anyone’s guess at this point.”— Conor Savoy, executive director, Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network
Multiple sources with knowledge of the process believe that Jim Richardson, currently the director of the State Department's Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources, could have the inside track on the nomination at this point.
Faced with repeated attacks on his budget, political demands from the White House, and an administration that doubted the basic premise of foreign assistance, Mark Green managed to protect — and maybe even sharpen — USAID's development mission.
Richardson previously served as assistant to the administrator in the Bureau for Policy, Planning and Learning and as coordinator of USAID’s Transformation Task Team under Green, where he helped lead the agency’s internal reorganization, its procurement reform process, and other aspects of the “journey to self-reliance” agenda. As director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources — known as the “F Bureau” — Richardson is tasked with overseeing the foreign aid budget and linking it to the secretary of state’s policy strategy.
According to sources who believe Richardson could be the nominee, the plan would include retaining his leadership of the F Bureau in an arrangement similar to that which existed when Randall Tobias and Henrietta Fore each held both roles during the George W. Bush administration.
Richardson’s nomination would represent a jump from his current director-level position — the USAID administrator is a Senate-confirmed position — but he does enjoy some influential support inside the White House. When Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was in the U.S. House of Representatives, Richardson served as his chief of staff.
After Green steps down on Friday, John Barsa, currently the assistant administrator for Latin America and the Caribbean, will take over as acting administrator. Barsa was a surprise pick for that job, with many assuming that Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick would take the helm until the White House nominated and confirmed a permanent administrator.
Richardson’s is not the only name to surface as a potential replacement for Green.
Rep. Ted Yoho, a Republican from Florida, has also expressed interest in the position, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation. Yoho, once an advocate for ending foreign aid entirely, has become a strong proponent of U.S. development finance, including as a sponsor of the BUILD Act, which created the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation. The congressman has announced he will not seek reelection when his term ends this year.
Sources told Devex that Ed Royce, the former Republican congressman from California and chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has also shown interest in the nomination.
With only seven months left until the U.S. presidential election, and with both the White House and the U.S. Congress consumed by the COVID-19 crisis, it remains to be seen whether a nominee will emerge with enough support — and enough time — to be confirmed by the Senate.
Congress is still grappling with how to hold budget markups in the midst of social distancing concerns, noted Conor Savoy, executive director of the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network. That could make the confirmation process even more complicated than usual.
“I think what happens in the Senate is anyone’s guess at this point,” Savoy said.