WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Facing potentially deep budget cuts to U.S. foreign aid, new USAID administrator Mark Green says he needs to do more with less and prove to President Donald Trump that development assistance can further his “America First” agenda.
In a first meeting with Trump back in January, Green made his pitch to the then president-elect, drawing from his experience in Central America to explain how U.S.-funded programs there could help slow the number of immigrants trying to enter the United States illegally.
“I said ‘Mr. President-elect, I believe our development tools can help us achieve just about every one of your strategic priorities,'” Green told Reuters in his first interview since starting last week as head of the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Green had previously worked on U.S-supported projects with indigenous mayors in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador to improve living conditions “so kids hopefully don’t go 1,000 miles through the worst conditions imaginable and jump the border.”
“It works and is a great way to use development,” he said, sitting in a still bare office at USAID headquarters blocks from the White House.
Green brings a unique resume to the job: a former four-term Republican congressman from Wisconsin who served as U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania under President George W. Bush. In his last job as head of the International Republican Institute, he helped promote governance and democracy overseas.
His time on Capitol Hill will be key to his new job. In a sign of his good standing there, Green’s nomination had support across the political spectrum, as well as among aid groups.
Trump staked out his position on foreign aid on the campaign trail, casting it as a waste of U.S. tax dollars. And now his administration has proposed slashing the budget for foreign aid by a third, which could gut programs across a range of issues including health, governance, gender and education.
But U.S. foreign assistance has…