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United States Agency for International Development
Agency overview
Formed November 3, 1961
Preceding agency International Cooperation Administration
Jurisdiction Federal government of the United States
Headquarters Washington, D.C.
Employees 1,759 (2006)
Agency executives Rajiv Shah, Administrator
Alonzo Fulgham, Chief Operating Officer
James Michel, Deputy Administrator

The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the United States federal government agency primarily responsible for administering civilian foreign aid. President John F. Kennedy created USAID in 1961 by executive order to implement development assistance programs in the areas authorized by the Congress in the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.[3] An independent federal agency, USAID receives overall foreign policy guidance from the United States Secretary of State and seeks to "extend a helping hand to those people overseas struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country..."[4]

USAID supports economic growth, agriculture and trade; health; democracy, conflict prevention, and humanitarian assistance. It provides assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa; Asia and the Near East, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe, and Eurasia.



USAID's origins date back to the Marshall Plan reconstruction of Europe after World War II and the Foreign Assistance Act. In 1961, an executive order established USAID by consolidating U.S. non-military foreign aid programs into a single agency. To address rising deficits, aid was tied to the purchase of U.S. goods and services, effectively subsidizing the U.S. balance of payments; for example, aid-financed commodities were required to be shipped in U.S. flagships.[5]

As a part of the U.S foreign affairs restructuring laws enacted in 1999, USAID was established as a statutorily independent agency, as 5 U.S.C. § 104 defines independent establishment.


USAID is organized around individual country development programs, each of which is tailored to the recipient country. USAID missions reside in over fifty developing countries, using their contacts with each country's government and nongovernment organizations to identify the programs that will receive USAID's assistance.

USAID missions are led by Mission Directors and USAID Foreign Service Officers who are specialists in international development. USAID Foreign Service Officers are selected competitively for specific job openings on the basis of professional qualifications demonstrated through advanced degrees and experience in development programs.[6] The majority of USAID mission staff are development professionals from the country itself, who work alongside the U.S. staff.

Assistance projects are authorized by the Mission Director, the U.S. Ambassador, USAID and State Department headquarters, and the Congress. The resident USAID mission administers and evaluates the assistance. As countries develop and need less assistance, USAID shrinks and ultimately closes its resident missions. Since USAID's founding in 1961, it has closed its missions in such countries as South Korea, Turkey, Tunisia, and Costa Rica.

USAID's country programs are supported by USAID's headquarters in Washington, D.C., where about half of USAID's Foreign Service Officers work on rotation from foreign assignments, alongside USAID's Civil Service staff and top leadership.



USAID is headed by an Administrator appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The USAID Administrator is Rajiv Shah, appointed by President Obama.


USAID's headquarters in Washington, D.C. is organized into "Bureaus" covering geographical areas, development subject areas, and administrative functions. Each Bureau is headed by an Assistant Administrator appointed by the President.

  • Geographical bureaus:
    • AFR—Sub-Saharan Africa
    • ASIA—Asia
    • LAC—Latin America & the Caribbean
    • E&E—Europe and Eurasia
    • ME—the Middle East
  • Functional bureaus:
    • GH—Global Health
    • EGAT—Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade
    • DCHA—Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance
  • Headquarter bureaus:
    • M—Management
    • LPA—Legislative and Public Affairs.[4]

In recent years, USAID's headquarters closed its bureau responsible for overall budgeting and development policy. In its place, a new State Department official with the rank of Deputy Secretary, the Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance, has set assistance policy and allocated budgets for USAID. (The Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance is also responsible for a number of newly created foreign aid programs outside USAID.) To date, a single person has served concurrently as both Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance and USAID Administrator.


Among USG agencies, USAID has preeminent ability to administer programs in low-income countries through its decentralized network of resident field missions. Missions maintain local contacts, conduct socioeconomic analysis, design projects, award contracts and grants, administer projects (including evaluation and reporting), and manage flows of funds. This ability has made the Agency essential for managing USG programs in low-income countries, not only for development but for a wide range of purposes.

  • 1. Disaster relief
  • 2. Poverty relief
  • 3. Technical cooperation on global issues
  • 4. U.S. bilateral interests
  • 5. Socio-economic development

Disaster Relief

The U.S. Government's earliest foreign aid programs provided relief in crises created by war. In 1915, USG assistance through the Commission for Relief of Belgium headed by Herbert Hoover prevented starvation in Belgium after the German invasion. After 1945, the European Recovery Program championed by Secretary of State George Marshall (the "Marshall Plan") helped rebuild war-torn Western Europe. In our era, USAID leads USG relief efforts after wars and natural disasters through its Office for Foreign Disaster Assistance. Private U.S. relief contributions work through charitable NGOs. The U.S. military also plays a major role in disaster relief overseas.

Poverty Relief

After 1945, many newly independent countries needed assistance to relieve the chronic deprivation afflicting their low-income populations. Since its founding in 1961, USAID has continuously provided poverty relief in many forms, including assistance to public health and education services targeted at the poorest. USAID has also helped manage agricultural commodity assistance provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In addition, NGOs use funding from USAID as well as private donations to relieve chronic poverty.

Technical Cooperation on Global Issues

Technical cooperation between nations is essential for a range of cross-border problems: communicable diseases, environmental issues, trade and investment cooperation, safety standards for traded products, money laundering, and so forth. The USG has specialized agencies dealing with such areas: CDC, FBI, USTR, EPA, APHIS, CPB, and so forth (using acronyms for brevity). In low-income countries, USAID's ability to administer technical assistance supports international technical cooperation on these vital global concerns, frequently through supporting the overseas work of the specialized USG agencies.

U.S. Bilateral Interests

To support U.S. geopolitical interests, USAID is often called upon to administer exceptional financial grants to allies. Also, when U.S. troops are in the field, USAID can supplement the "Civil Affairs" programs that the U.S. military conducts as short-term "psychological operations" to win the friendship of local populations and thus to protect the troops. In these circumstances, USAID may be directed by specially appointed diplomatic officials of the State Department, as in Afghanistan and Pakistan at present. USAID can also be called upon to support projects of U.S. constituents that have exceptional interest.

Socioeconomic Development

When JFK was still a Senator, his advisors persuaded him that low-income nations could achieve self-sustaining socioeconomic development if they improved management of their own resources. This became Kennedy's fundamental idea when as President he created USAID. USAID's assistance for socioeconomic development centers on providing technical assistance packages to effective local organizations and government agencies. These packages can include technical advice, training, scholarships, commodities, and financial assistance. This assistance draws heavily on experts from the private sector under contract, as well as on experts or retirees from other USG agencies. In recent years, the newly created Millennium Challenge Corporation has provided financial assistance to a number of countries as a reward for good performance in socioeconomic development. The MCC also finances some USAID-administered development assistance projects. NGOs also participate in these efforts.

Programs of the five types above frequently reinforce one another. The Foreign Assistance Act requires USAID to use funds appropriated for geopolitical purposes ("Economic Support Funds") to support socio-economic development to the maximum extent possible.

Budgetary Resources for Foreign Aid

Top Recipients of U.S. Foreign Aid, FY 2004[7]
Nation Billions of Dollars
Iraq 18.44
Israel 2.62
Egypt 1.87
Afghanistan 1.77
Colombia 0.57
Jordan 0.56
Pakistan 0.39
Liberia 0.21
Peru 0.17
Ethiopia 0.16
Bolivia 0.15
Uganda 0.14
Sudan 0.14
Indonesia 0.13
Kenya 0.13
President Marcos tries out a payloader, which was donated to the Philippines through the USAID

The U.S. Government's 150 Account funds the budgets of all International Affairs programs and operations for civilian agencies, including USAID. In FY 2009, the Bush Administration's request for the International Affairs Budget for the Department of State, USAID, and other foreign affairs agencies totaled approximately $39.5 billion, including $26.1 billion for Foreign Operations and Related Agencies, $11.2 billion for Department of State, and $2.2 billion for Other International Affairs.

The request under the FY2009 Foreign Operations budget, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies was:

  • $2.4 billion to improve responsiveness to humanitarian crises, including food emergencies and disasters, and the needs of refugees
  • $938 million to strengthen USAID’s operational capacity
  • $2.3 billion to help Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and West Bank/Gaza achieve economic, democratic, security and political stabilization and to advance their overall development
  • $2.1 billion for State Department and USAID programs in Africa to address non-HIV/AIDS health, economic growth and democratic governance needs and to help promote stability in Sudan, Liberia, Zimbabwe and Somalia in support of the President's 2005 commitment to double aid to Africa by 2010
  • $4.8 billion for the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative, which directly supports the first year of the President’s new five-year, $30 billion plan to treat 2.5 million people, prevent 12 million new infections, and care for 12 million afflicted people
  • $550 million to support the Mérida Initiative to combat the threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime, and terrorism in Mexico and Central America
  • $1.7 billion to promote democracy around the world, including support for the President’s Freedom Agenda
  • $385 million to support the President’s Malaria Initiative to reduce malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 target African countries by 2010
  • $94 million for the President’s International Education Initiative to provide an additional 4 million students with access to quality basic education through 2012
  • $64 million for the State Department and USAID to support the President's Climate Change Initiative to promote the adoption of clean energy technology, help countries adapt to climate change, and encourage sustainable forest management
  • $4.8 billion for foreign military financing to the Middle East, Latin America, Europe and Eurasia, including $2.6 billion for Israel
  • $2.2 billion for the Millennium Challenge Corporation to improve agricultural productivity, modernize infrastructure, expand private land ownership, improve health systems, and improve access to credit for small business and farmers[8]

At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, most of the world's governments adopted a program for action under the auspices of the United Nations Agenda 21, which included an Official Development Assistance (ODA) aid target of 0.7% of gross national product (GNP) for rich nations, specified as roughly 22 members of the OECD and known as the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). The United States never agreed to this target but remains – in real terms – the world's largest provider of official development assistance. However, relative to its economy, the U.S. is the second lowest provider with a 0.17% of GNI in aid[9]. Only Greece, among the DAC countries, provides a lower percentage of GNI in the form of aid.[10]

According to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (DAC/OECD), the United States remains the largest donor of "official development assistance" at $23.53 billion in 2006. DAC/OECD reports that the next largest donor was the United Kingdom ($12.46b). The UK was followed (in rank order) by Japan ($11.19b), France ($10.60b), Germany ($10.43b), Netherlands ($5.45b), Sweden ($3.95b), Spain ($3.81b), Canada ($3.68b), Italy ($3.64b), Norway ($2.95b), Denmark ($2.24b), Australia ($2.12b), Belgium ($1.98b), Switzerland ($1.65b), Austria ($1.50b), Ireland ($1.02b), Finland ($0.83b), Greece ($0.42b), Portugal ($0.40b), Luxembourg ($0.29b) and New Zealand ($0.26b).[11]

USAID contributed to relief in the 2010 Haiti Earthquake.[12][13]

USAID Bilateral Assistance in the News


USAID has been a major partner in the United States Government's (USG) reconstruction and development effort in Iraq. As of June 2009, USAID has invested approximately $6.6 billion on programs designed to stabilize communities; foster economic and agricultural growth; and build the capacity of the national, local, and provincial governments to represent and respond to the needs of the Iraqi people.[14]

Rebuilding Iraq – C-SPAN 4 Part Series In June 2003, C-SPAN followed USAID Admin. Andrew Natsios as he toured Iraq. The special program C-SPAN produced aired over four nights.[15]


In 2008, the coca growers "union" affiliated with Bolivian President Evo Morales "ejected" the 100 employees and contractors from USAID working in the Chapare region, citing frustration with U.S.[16] efforts to persuade them to switch to growing unviable alternatives. From 1998 to 2003, Bolivian farmers could receive USAID funding for help planting other crops only if they eliminated all their coca, according to the Andean Information Network. Other rules, such as the requirement that participating communities declare themselves "terrorist-free zones" as required by U.S. law irritated people, said Kathryn Ledebur, director of the organization. "Eradicate all your coca and then you grow an orange tree that will get fruit in eight years but you don't have anything to eat in the meantime? A bad idea," she said. "The thing about kicking out USAID, I don't think it's an anti-American sentiment overall" but rather a rejection of bad programs".

Controversies and criticism

USAID states that "U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world." However, non-government organization watch groups have noted that as much as 40% of aid to Afghanistan has found its way back to donor countries through awarding contracts at inflated costs.[17]

Although USAID defends that contractors are selected by their proven abilities, "watch dog" groups, partisan politicians, foreign governments and corporations contend that the bidding process has at times involved both the financial interest of its current Presidential administration and political motivation.[18] An example includes the rebuilding of Iraq during the Bush administration.[19]

Some critics [20][21][22][23] say that the US government gives aid to reward political and military partners rather than to advance genuine social or humanitarian causes abroad. Another complaint [24] is that foreign aid is used as a political weapon for the U.S. to make other nations do things its way, an example given in 1990 when the Yemeni Ambassador to the United Nations voted against a resolution for a US-led coalition to use force against Iraq, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering walked to the seat of the Yemeni Ambassador and retorted: "That was the most expensive No vote you ever cast". Immediately afterwards, USAID ceased operations and funding in Yemen. [25]

It has been said that the USAID has maintained "a close working relationship with the CIA, and Agency officers often operated abroad under USAID cover."[26] The Office of Public Safety, a division of USAID, has been mentioned as an example of this, having served as a front for training foreign police in counterinsurgency methods.[27]

See also


  1. ^ Best Places to Work in the Federal Government
  2. ^ USAID: USAID History
  3. ^ The Congress updates this authorization through annual funds appropriation acts, and other legislation.
  4. ^ a b USAID Official Website
  5. ^ Michael Hudson, Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance, 2nd ed. (London and Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2003), 235-38.
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ Foreign Aid: An Introductory Overview of U.S. Programs and Policy,, Figure 4, Page CRS-13
  8. ^ Factsheet on International Affairs FY 2009 Budget, US Department of State, February 2008, 
  9. ^ US and Foreign Aid Assistance, from, aid data from OECD
  12. ^ HAITI – Earthquake Factsheet January 19, 2010
  13. ^ USAID Responds to Haiti Earthquake
  14. ^ USAID Assistance for Iraq : Accomplishments, United States Agency for International Development.
  15. ^ C-Span: Rebuilding Iraq
  16. ^ Andean Information Network. "Bolivian coca growers cut ties with USAID":
  17. ^ Richard Norton-Taylor 40% of Afghan aid returns to donor countries, says report 25 March 2008
  18. ^ Barbara Slavin Another Iraq deal rewards company with connections USA Today 4/17/2003
  19. ^ Mark Tran Halliburton misses $600m Iraq contract 31 March 2003
  20. ^ [2]
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Hornberger, Jacob "But Foreign Aid Is Bribery! And Blackmail, Extortion, and Theft Too!" September 26, 2003
  26. ^ William Blum, Killing hope : U.S. military and CIA interventions since World War II Zed Books, 2003, ISBN 9781842773697 pp.142, 200, 234.
  27. ^ Michael Otterman, American torture: from the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and beyond (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 2007), p. 60.

External links


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