WASHINGTON – Signing a dramatic new direction for U.S. foreign aid, President-elect Joe Biden is expected to announce on Wednesday that he will appoint former UN Ambassador Samantha Power as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, according to those responsible for the transition.
Biden is also expected to strengthen Power’s role by elevating the position to a member of the National Security Council.
In a prepared statement obtained by NBC News, Biden called Power a “world-renowned voice of conscience and moral clarity.”
“As a USAID administrator,” said Biden, “she will work with our partners to address the Covid-19 pandemic, uplift vulnerable communities, fight for the worth of every human being and advance human rights. ideals and American interests around the world. “
If confirmed by the Senate, Power will have a lot to rebuild. Under President Donald Trump, the agency’s budget was cut and career development experts were replaced with political appointees with little experience in the field.
In the administration’s budget proposal last year, foreign aid and USAID funds were reduced by 22%. Trump officials have defended the cuts, saying they are relying on other countries to meet global needs.
Trump’s budget also slashed other State Department accounts for refugees, global health amid pandemic, and other humanitarian programs, even though foreign aid is less than 1% of the federal budget . Republicans and Democrats in Congress ended up rejecting the proposal, but development experts said the signal sent to poorer countries had already left its mark.
The administration has also been widely criticized for holding key positions at USAID with politicians. On the Friday following the 2020 election, the White House abruptly sacked Deputy Administrator Bonnie Glick, who had been confirmed by the Senate, telling her she had until the end of the day to leave her office.
Officials have not provided any explanation for the dismissal to reporters, but had she not left, she would have automatically succeeded the Trump administration’s acting agency administrator John Barsa, a political attorney, whose the term of interim administrator was to expire at midnight. the same day under the Federal Law on the Reform of Vacancies.
More recently, The Washington Post reported that USAID employees were left out when the federal government dispensed the State Department’s first round of coronavirus vaccinations last month. While the vaccine doses went to 1,100 State Department employees, none went to USAID until last week.
Morale fell further after the attack on Capitol Hill when the agency’s liaison to the White House, former Trump campaign official Catharine O’Neill tweeted to criticize any Trump official who was considering resigning.
Axios also got audio of his statement the week after the election: “The election is still ongoing. The Electoral College has not yet voted.”