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New USAID Director, in VOA Interview, Says Development Key to U.S. National Security

New head of USAID talks to VOA on his first day in office

Washington, D.C., January 7, 2010 – The new head of USAID, in an exclusive Voice of America (VOA) interview on his first day in office, said development, along with diplomacy and defense, is a pillar of U.S. national security. <!-- IMAGE -->

Rajiv Shah, 36, the agency’s administrator, also pledged to work closely “in partnership, not patronage,” in countries where USAID has operations.

“I’m excited about the opportunity to better engage our diplomatic corps and to better engage with the Department of Defense to bring all the capacities across this government to the mission and objective of development,” Shah told VOA.

“Often our work is in places that have important foreign policy and national security priorities,” said Shah, a former Department of Agriculture official who is a medical doctor and food security expert. He grew up in the Detroit, Mich., area.

“We hope to spend our resources and apply our expertise and extend our hand in partnership in order to help ensure that the United States remains safe and secure,” he said, adding President Obama has called this approach “enlightened self-interest.”

One of USAID’s top priorities remains providing humanitarian assistance, Shah said.

Turning to relationships with other countries, Shah said, “Too often, programs and ideas and solutions designed in Washington, D.C. have been applied elsewhere and haven’t worked.”

He added: “We want to follow the political commitment and the political will and insights of those people closest to the ground so we can be as effective as possible.” Wherever USAID works, “the goal of our efforts is to create the conditions that allow us to no longer be needed,” he said.

USAID is an independent federal government agency that receives overall foreign policy guidance from the Secretary of State. It supports economic growth, agriculture and trade, global health, democracy, conflict prevention and humanitarian assistance. The Shah interview is available at

The Voice of America, which first went on the air in 1942, is a multimedia international broadcasting service funded by the U.S. Government through the Broadcasting Board of Governors. VOA broadcasts approximately 1,500 hours of news, information, educational, and cultural programming every week to an estimated worldwide audience of more than 125 million people. Programs are produced in 45 languages and are intended exclusively for audiences outside of the United States. VOA is the leading U.S. international broadcaster.

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