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Veterans at USAID: Continuing to Serve America and the World

In 1978, I was “roaming” the North Atlantic on a guided missile destroyer (USS Luce DDG-38) as a young Naval Officer. During my four years with the Navy, I saw much of what the military’s finest branch had to offer–first as an electronic warfare officer, then as a damage control officer in the engineering department and finally, as the ship’s navigator.

My military service gave me countless gifts that I have used throughout my professional and personal life.  I made lifelong friendships; got accepted to a top business school on the strength of my military career; and gained leadership experience and skills I have used my entire professional life.

It instilled in me a deep sense of commitment and service to our country.  Most recently I was asked to serve President Obama’s Administration as the Assistant Administrator for Economic Growth, Agriculture and Trade (EGAT) at USAID. At USAID, I have made it a top priority for my bureau to hire, develop, and retain our nation’s finest. Military service–my first experience serving our country, helps me fully appreciate the sacrifices and lives of veterans both as warriors and women and men, heroes in our midst–heroes who always deserve, and often need, jobs.

We recently brought on board Dane Thomas who is retired Air Force. He is currently in our office of Professional Development Administrative Management (PDAM) working on personnel matters for EGAT.   We also brought on board Jan Louis Argilagos, a six-year Navy veteran of Operation Desert Storm. He is currently supporting USAID’s Water and Global Climate Change coordinators, and assisting with communications, research and strategic planning for EGAT’s water and climate change teams. Fellow veteran and former Army Chris Holmes serves as the Agency’s Water Coordinator.  Joel Van Essen, currently on active duty with the U.S. Navy and on loan to USAID, is helping to develop USAID’s water strategy. He is engaged with senior leadership to focus on practical resolutions to water issues in the Horn of Africa.

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Why Development and Diplomacy Matter in National Security

U.S. national security rests on three pillars: Diplomacy, Development, and Defense.   Although other departments and agencies of the U.S. government certainly contribute to the nation’s security, these three Ds, represented by the Department of State (State), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Department of Defense (DoD or Defense) provide the foundation for promoting and protecting U.S. interests abroad. Each represents a critical component of national security with unique roles and responsibilities. The functions performed by each of the “three Ds” provide greatest value to the nation when they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

State and USAID’s diplomats and development experts work hand-in-glove with their military counterparts to promote growth and foster stability.  They don’t think about which subcommittee funded them or what their respective agency budget allocations are.  All they know is that they work together, with a common purpose, and often in dangerous and deadly environments.   We need a budget that reflects that reality.

Here are some examples of the integration of our civilian and military efforts in some of the most critical areas around the world:

In Afghanistan, USAID programs are designed to support US foreign policy, with military stabilization programs informed by USAID technical expertise. Funding is provided by USAID/Kabul for Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) activities in the field as well as national-level programs. It would be physically impossible for USAID to operate independently in Afghanistan without close military support. USAID field program officers serve alongside military counterparts in forward operating bases and PRTs, where they undertake jointly planned civil affairs and quick-impact development programs.

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USAID Celebrates 50 years of Saving Lives Across the Globe

As featured on GHTC

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) celebrates 50 years of leadership and expertise in addressing development challenges to improve lives across the globe.  Since it launched, USAID has had a rich history of supporting global health, including research and development (R&D). Some of the major breakthroughs in global health that USAID has supported include:

  • Oral rehydration therapy (ORT). ORT, a treatment for diarrhea, is credited with saving tens of millions of children’s lives. USAID began supporting this effort in the 1960s. In 1979, USAID made the largest donor investment in the establishment of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, where scientists continue to conduct important R&D to improve ORT.
  • Eradicating smallpox. In 1966, USAID joined the global effort to eradicate smallpox, a contagious disease that killed more than 300 million people in the 20th century. In the same decade that USAID began to fight the disease, 10 million to 15 million people contracted the disease a year, and more than 2 million people died from it. Through investing in research that adapted the mechanics of US military jet injectors for application of the smallpox vaccine, USAID played a critical role in achieving global eradication of the disease.

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USAID in the News: Weekly Briefing (10/31/2011 – 11/04/2011)

October 31: Over the weekend, the Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) posted audio from a town hall held to recognize USAID’s 50th anniversary. Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah was joined on stage with former USAID Administrators, who shared their unique view and experience leading America’s development agency.

November 2: In an op-ed published in A href=”/cgi-bin/goodbye?http://www.politico.com/news/stories/1111/67453.html”>Politico, former USAID Administrators highlighted the success and value foreign aid has had over the past 50 years. “Using less than 1 percent of the U.S. budget annually, the American people have demonstrated their deepest values through USAID programs. Because of the efforts of the American people, more than 1 billion people now have safe drinking water, smallpox has been eradicated and tens of millions have been saved though USAID’s famine relief efforts.”

November 3: Look to the Stars, which publishes stories on celebrities making a positive impact on the world, wrote an article on USAID’s FWD Campaign. The story highlighted USAID’s work with the Ad Council, which launched a national PSA campaign featuring Josh Hartnett, Uma Thurman, Geena Davis, Chanel Iman, and Dr. Jill Biden. The ads call on the American public to forward the facts on the famine in the Horn of Africa.

From the Field

In Kosovo, RTK Public TV filmed an episode of  “Classroom Makeover”, in which parents and teachers use materials donated by the community to update and improve classrooms. The show was inspired by a USAID project of same concept.

In Nicaragua, we are supporting fair elections.   In the face of this complex, non-transparent environment for the November 6th national elections, USAID’s election program is focusing on supporting civil society groups that will demand a fair and transparent process.  Etica y Transparencia (ET) and the Instituto para el Desarrollo y la Democracia (IPADE), while not accredited, will deploy citizen observers who conduct crowdsourcing via an interactive election website (www.vivaelvoto.com) to document any complaints, irregularities, and violence that may be detected. 

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USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (10/24/2011 – 10/28/2011)

October 26: USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah was interviewed on Fox 5 News to discuss the launch of the new Public Service Announcements highlighting the FWD Campaign. Advertising Age also wrote an article on the videos that feature Dr. Jill Biden, Uma Thurman, Josh Hartnett, Geena Davis and Chanel Iman.

October 26: The White House Blog reports that during a livestreamed video webchat at the White House, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah joined Senior Director of the NSC Gayle Smith and John Carson, Director of the Office of Public Engagement, to discuss the latest developments in the Horn of Africa and take questions from viewers online.

October 27: Devex reported on USAID’s public-private partnership week and the important role businesses can play in development. In the article, Devex highlighted Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah’s economic growth speech. “I’m talking about helping support the work of markets that can deliver profits and create opportunities for women, minorities and the poor,” Shah said. “In short, we must embrace a new wave of creative, enlightened capitalism.”

Making Progress in the Fight Against Hunger: World Food Day 2011

Jonathan Shrier serves as Acting Feed the Future Acting Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy/Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security, and Ertharin Cousin serves as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture.  Originally posted on DipNote, the U.S. Department of State Official Blog.

Today, World Food Day, reminds us that hunger is a reality for nearly a billion people worldwide. Rising and volatile food prices since last year have pushed tens of millions of additional people into the ranks of the hungry.

This is a particularly poignant day as we have just returned from the Horn of Africa, where there more than 13 million people are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. In Somalia, a lack of effective governance and the actions of the al-Shabaab terrorist group in preventing humanitarian aid from reaching those in need have turned a bad drought into outright famine.

We traveled to Ethiopia and Kenya with USAID Administrator Raj Shah, where we met with our partners in the region, including government officials, civil society, and private sector representatives, to discuss improving food security over the short, medium, and long-term.

With our partners, we’re making progress.

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USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (10/10/2011 – 10/14/2011)

October 8: Over the weekend, The New York Times published an editorial supporting the budgets for the State Department and foreign aid. “Savings squeezed from the State Department and foreign aid — which together are less than a tenth of the basic Pentagon budget — would be a tiny share of the $3.8 trillion federal budget. Yet the effects would be hugely damaging to American foreign policy.”

October 9: Ethiopia’s Addis Fortune published excerpts of an interview with USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah, on his meeting with Ethiopia Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and his visit to the region.

Nobel Peace Laureates Awarded for their Work in Promoting Women’s Rights and Peace

I was thrilled to learn that this year’s Nobel Peace Prize winners Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Liberian activist Leymah Gbowee, and Yemeni leader Tawakkul Karman.

President Johnson Sirleaf, Gbowee and Karman were announced as recipients of the prize today by the Norwegian Nobel Committee in Oslo. They were honored for “their non-violent struggle for the safety of women and for women’s rights to full participation in peace-building work.”

Elected in 2005 as Africa’s first female president, President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has worked tirelessly to rebuild Liberia after 14 years of devastating civil wars that killed an estimated 250,000 people. USAID had the honor of hosting President Johnson Sirleaf at a development forum this year, where she spoke about her mission to move Liberia past the need for development assistance by 2020. Johnson Sirleaf is involved in the Council of Women World Leaders, an international network of current and former women presidents and prime ministers whose mission is to raise awareness of issues of critical importance to women.

A social worker and mother of five, Leymah Gbowee is head of the Accra-based Women Peace and Security Network Africa, which works to build relationships across the West African sub-region to build women’s capacity in preventing, averting and ending conflicts. She organized the non-violent movement that eventually ended the Second Liberian civil war in 2003. Gbowee is also the central character in the 2008 documentary film Pray the Devil Back to Hell, which has been used as an advocacy tool in post-conflict zones like Sudan and Zimbabwe, mobilizing African women to petition for peace and security

And chairwoman of Women Journalists without Chains, Tawakkul Karman, is a human rights activist and journalist. At 32, she is one of the youngest Nobel Prize recipients. Karman has been among the leaders of the peaceful protests challenging the rule of Yemen’s President Ali Abdulla Saleh, arguing for women’s rights, democracy and peace. In January this mother of three, took to the streets of the capital with about 50 university students demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
I applaud the Nobel Committee for recognizing these extraordinary leaders and for shining a spotlight on the role women peace-builders play in creating more stable, prosperous societies around the world.

At USAID, we remain proud to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment as integral components of all our development initiatives. As we continue our commitment to improving the lives of women and girls everywhere, we should recognize these living heroes as critical partners and allies.

USAID in the News

Weekly Briefing (10/2/2011 – 10/7/2011)

October 3: Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” blog reports that USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah is traveling to Ethiopia and Kenya this week to visit areas affected by the drought. Administrator Shah will be visiting heads of state and senior leadership, as well as pulling together the humanitarian and NGO communities, to assess progress on the challenges that the drought has brought to the Horn of Africa.

October 3: In a blog posted on ABC News’ website, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah calls on readers to take the Million Moms Challenge, which aims to help mothers and newborns around the world who are at high-risk of complications and death during the first 48-hours of childbirth.

October 4: The Associated Press and Voice of America reports that while visiting Ethiopia this week, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah pledged an additional $127 million in aid on behalf of the American people. The three new aid grants, including a major food security program, will help reach 1.5 million Ethiopians who are suffering from chronic hunger conditions.

October 4: In an op-ed published in The Huffington Post, singer-songwriter and actress Mandy Moore writes of her work as an Ambassador for PSI, a global health organization that works closely with USAID. Moore writes, “When our country invests in global health, we are doing the right thing. When USAID succeeds, we all benefit. We invest less than 1% of the federal budget in strengthening the health and economic development in other countries, and we get incredible results.”

October 5: The Associated Press reports that countless lives have been saved as a result of interventions to stop famine spreading throughout the Horn of Africa. During his visit to the region, USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah explained that nearly 4.5 million people have been able to withstand the drought as a result of inoculating their livestock against diseases. While in the region, Administrator Shah also encouraged the governments of Ethiopia and Kenya to make reforms in their agricultural sectors to boost agricultural growth and food self-sufficiency over time.

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