Dr. Shah, USAID and the Hanging “F”

President Obama officially announced his intent to nominate Rajiv Shah as USAID Administrator on November 10. At that time, I did wonder in this post about the “F” bureau. According to the State Department, the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance (“F”) is charged with directing the transformation of the U.S. Government approach to foreign assistance. The Director holds a rank equivalent to Deputy Secretary and serves concurrently as USAID Administrator, ensuring that foreign assistance is used as effectively as possible to meet broad foreign policy objectives.

The last two USAID Administrators had served concurrently during their terms in office as Director of Foreign Assistance. Dr. Shah’s nomination, however, made no mention about the “F” bureau.

In Dr. Shah’s written answers (from The Cable) to the Questions for the Record Submitted for the Nomination of Rajiv Shah to be USAID Administrator, the first two pre-hearing questions from Senator Kerry’s asked precisely about the “F” bureau. Q&A reprinted in full below:

Question: Reporting Relationships

Please provide further information about the role, responsibilities and lines of authority to the position you have been nominated for. In particular, which official will you directly report to – the Secretary of State or Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources? If confirmed, will you occupy the same position as Henrietta Fore – serving concurrently as the Administrator of USAID and the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, with the rank of Deputy Secretary of State? Will you retain operational control and authority over the State Department’s “F” bureau, also like those predecessors?


Under current law, and consistent with conversations prior to my nomination, I will report to the Secretary of State. If confirmed, I am confident Secretary Clinton and I will have a strong and productive working relationship. I also welcome the opportunity to work closely with Deputy Secretary Lew, who has made clear his commitment to elevating development and working to rebuild capacity at USAID.

In terms of the “F Bureau,” as you know the Presidential Study Directive on Global Engagement (“PSD-7”) and joint State/USAID Quadrennial Development and Diplomacy (“QDDR”) are reviewing the question of the best way to organize State and USAID to execute policy effectively. The issue of resources and management is very much a part of these discussions, and I look forward to being an active participant in this conversation if confirmed as Administrator.

Relationship to F

If you do not assume jurisdictional authority over the F Bureau, which official will continue to oversee it? Do you think USAID can effectively run a cohesive and coordinated development program without oversight of the F Bureau and without broader oversight over the budgetary and policy functions that guide its development programming?


I believe USAID needs the capacity to plan budgetary requirements and monitor and evaluate performance to support the Secretary’s goals of formulating and executing programs that focus on sustainable outcomes and align with country-owned strategies. The specifics of resource management, budget and structure will be addressed through the QDDR process. I look forward to working with the Secretary and Deputy Secretary Lew to ensure that USAID has the resources it needs to become the world’s leading development agency.

The Kerry pre-hearing questions also inquired about a proposal reportedly circulating about the establishment of “a second “Deputy Chief of Mission,” reporting through the State Department, who would be responsible for all development activities in a given country.”

Have you heard about this proposal being floated about?

The whole thing is worth reading although one comes away without the answer to the questions we really want answered. The only thing that seems sure from this and from the hearing is that we won’t really know how much change there will be for USAID until the roll out of the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review next year.

In a related note, in case you missed it — the Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act cleared the SFRC on November 17. At that time, Senator Lugar also released a statement excerpted below:

Clearly, the State Department will have ideas about development assistance that will be expressed in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. This Committee will be eager to review the State Department’s ideas when they are ready. But Congress also should be offering proposals on how to improve development assistance. The bill we passed today should be seen as an essential input into this process. It is the product of well over a year of research and analysis by Senators and their staffs. It has attracted the support of most development groups, led by the Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network. It is co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 19 Senators, twelve of whom are members of this Committee. This level of backing for a bill related to foreign assistance structure is extremely rare. It provides an opportunity to build something approaching a consensus on this issue.
Although the State Department declined to participate at our hearing on this bill last July, I am hopeful it will recognize that a bill co-sponsored by a majority of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee should be given substantial weight in their review process. Congress will be making decisions about resources for development programs, and those decisions will be effected by our confidence in how funds are managed and coordinated.

I would underscore that our bill is a relatively modest proposal. There are more than a few members of Congress who would like to see USAID become an independent cabinet level agency.

A warning in soft gloves, but a warning nonetheless, hmmnn?