An influential senator warned the official U.S. overseas aid agency: come down to earth with the impoverished people or see your funding cut.
Senator Patrick Leahy said he was concerned that the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) had become “distant from the trenches,” sometimes more eager to deal with foreign elites than the suffering masses who had no voice.
Leahy’s opinion matters because he chairs the Senate appropriations subcommittee that oversees the budget for USAID, which the Obama administration hopes to transform into an important tool to boost the U.S. image abroad.
“There is a disturbing detachment between some USAID employees at missions overseas who spend much of their time in comfortable offices behind imposing security barriers, living in relative high style — and the impoverished people they are there to help,” Leahy told the agency’s administrator, Rajiv Shah.
“USAID needs to change its culture, and change the way it does business, if it wants the kind of money you are asking for,” Leahy said during a hearing on USAID’s budget request, which is roughly $21 billion for the fiscal year starting in October.