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We are in volatile times,

and the decisions we make,

both inside and outside

of the U.S. Agency for

International Development,

matter. Although evaluation

is a complex endeavor—how

does one accurately measure

how much of USAID’s

work generates goodwill or

helps people avoid difficult

situations?—we should, in the

words of Mother Teresa, “do it


A recent article in the

Quarterly Journal of Political

Science , “DoingWell by Doing Good: The Impact of Foreign Aid on Foreign Public Opinion,” provides compelling

evidence that USAID’s work

in the President’s Emergency

Plan for AIDS Relief, or

PEPFAR, has significantly

and positively affected how

recipient countries regard

the United States. This, in

turn, has made it easier for

the United States to make

progress on its foreign policy

goals in these countries.

The authors’ findings

imply that when the United

States seeks cooperation on

an issue important to foreign

audiences, the consequences

could lead to—imagine

this—a virtuous race to

the top for other emerging

powers providing foreign aid.

As a superpower, the

United States has had the

luxury to assume a foreign

policy approach that has not

always included a thorough

self-evaluation process.

But, the effort to evaluate is

Reflections on Human Capital and Talent Management



Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA USAID VP.


or (202) 712-1631

worth it. As the PEPFAR case

illustrates, a changing world

and the welcome expansion

of democratic governance

suggest that public opinion

abroad will become

increasingly important to

the practice of international


Meanwhile, USAID is in the

midst of a different sort of

self-evaluation. Mass hiring

under the Development

Leadership Initiative led to

growing pains within the


With increasing numbers

of non-career employees

occupying policymaking

positions, USAID was placed

under intense pressure

to support the expanded

workforce. Consequently,

management made the

controversial decision to hire

a professional, non-FS chief

human capital officer (CHCO)

as the director of human


As many know, the CHCO

has abruptly departed. This

experience has taught us

that, though there are many

great government personnel

experts, FS expertise and



be a

requirement for this job.

Even long-term USAID

civil servants have opined

that, as the HR head of a

foreign affairs agency, the

CHCO should understand the

unique aspects of the Foreign

Service assignment and

promotion system at USAID

(e.g. Foreign Service officers,

locally employed staff, Foreign

Service limited appointees,

personal services contractor

authority) and not just the

Civil Service system.

Acting Administrator

Alfonso Lenhardt recently

affirmed his belief that when

you take care of people, they

take care of everything else.

The CHCO’s departure is an

opportunity for USAID to live

up to that belief and rebuild

trust among its FSOs.

A diverse team headed

by Senior Foreign Service

Officer Sharon Cromer is now

completing an assessment of

the Human Capital and Talent

Management Office: The goal

is to ensure USAID is taking

care of its people to the best

of its ability.

At this critical juncture, it

would be wise to “get back to

the basics” by looking to the

Foreign Service Act of 1980

as the cornerstone of agency


Congress made it clear,

through Section 101 of the

act, that a career Foreign

Service is necessary. The

objective of the act was to

strengthen the U.S. Foreign

Service by “assuring, in

accordance with merit

principles, admission through

impartial and rigorous

examination, acquisition of

career status only by those

who have demonstrated their

fitness through successful

completion of probationary

assignments, effective career

development, advancement

and retention of the ablest.”

Section 307 further

stresses the career aspect by

stating that a candidate for

appointment as a career FSO

may not be initially assigned

to a grade higher than FS-4.

In addition, the act calls

for members of the FS to

be “representative of the

American people, aware of

the principles and history of

the United States, informed

of current concerns and

trends in American life,

knowledgeable of the affairs,

cultures, and languages of

other countries, and available

to serve in assignments

throughout the world.”

FSOs need to know that

their leadership is fighting

for them, not against them,

and that all actions taken will

be in accordance with the

Foreign Service Act of 1980

to strengthen and uphold the

integrity of the career Foreign


A stronger, more united

USAID is possible, if only

we learn from our past and

use the basics in the Foreign

Service Act of 1980 as the

foundation for our future.


A stronger, more united USAID is possible,

if only we learn from our past and use the

basics in the Foreign Service Act of 1980

as the foundation for our future.