Some are questioning if Dr. Rajiv Shah will succeed as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Some lawmakers see that vacancy as a – glaring vacancy – on a key foreign-policy front. Development experts praised the young doctor but said he needs more authority to revive the beleaguered agency, known as USAID.
"I hope he has assurances he'll have the authorities he needs to get a very difficult job done," said J. Brian Atwood, who led USAID in the 1990s. "The agency has been weakened in recent years as its budget and policy functions have been folded into the State Department."
President Obama, who appointed Shah, has pledged to double foreign assistance to $50 billion a year, make economic development a pillar of his strategy in Afghanistan and push for a $20 billion program in conjunction with other countries to fight hunger.
Shah's nomination, which must be approved by the Senate, comes as the White House and the State Department are studying how to redesign the U.S. aid system. At the same time, Congress is considering overhauling the 1960s-era legislation governing assistance.