President Barack Obama has nominated Indian-American Rajiv Shah to head US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Shah, a medical doctor who holds a senior position at the agriculture department dealing with food security, will bring “fresh ideas” and an “impressive background” to the US Agency for International Development, Obama said in a statement announcing the nomination.
Shah’s selection, which requires Senate confirmation, would end a 10-month leadership vacuum at USAID, which has been operating with an acting director since Obama took office despite his campaign pledges to have the agency play a greater role in foreign policy.
Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have said USAID is crucial to deploying their preferred “smart power” foreign policy strategy, which envisions more equal roles for diplomacy and development alongside defence. They plan to double the amount of foreign aid.
The agency will play a key role in the administration’s efforts in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The top job at the agency has remained vacant until now, with several prime candidates withdrawing from consideration amid a White House vetting process that Clinton denounced in July as “ridiculous”, “a nightmare” and “frustrating beyond words”.
Shah, 36, whose family immigrated to the US from India, is now the Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics and Chief Scientist at the Agriculture Department where he manages a budget of more than $2.6 billion and more than 10,000 staff around the world. Before that, Shah had several positions at the Gates Foundation, including managing its $1.5 billion contribution to a global vaccination fund and helping launch the foundation’s Global Development program where he oversaw a $1.3 billion investment portfolio.