The head of the US Agency for International Development, Mark Green, will step down, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Monday.
Green’s departure, which sources at USAID say has been long planned, comes as the US ramps up its domestic and international response to the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected more than 168,000 people worldwide and killed more than 6,000, according to the World Health Organization.
USAID, the primary agency overseeing global US humanitarian aid, has been a central part of US efforts to aid other countries as the coronavirus has spread to 146 countries and territories.
“It is with pride, and not a little sadness, that I announce my plans to leave USAID and return to the private sector next month,” Green said in a statement. “The purpose of foreign assistance is to end the need for its existence. The work of USAID every day provides a powerful return on investment to the American taxpayers for our national security, our economic growth – this generosity is simply in our DNA as a country.”
Pompeo described Green as a “brilliant administrator,” while lawmakers praised him as an official who “never shied away from speaking truth to power.”
Pompeo’s statement made no mention of a replacement for Green.
“It is with deep gratitude and respect I wish him well as he returns to the private sector next month,” the secretary of state said in the statement.
“He has shown American leadership and heart by responding to natural disasters and public health emergencies around the world, such as earthquakes in Mexico, cyclones in Mozambique, Hurricane Dorian in The Bahamas, the outbreak of Ebola in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the plague of locusts in East Africa, and now COVID-19,” Pompeo said.
He also praised Green for his work to aid the Venezuelan people and his efforts with Vice President Mike Pence to coordinate with international and local faith-based organizations in order to get aid to victims of the Islamic State.
The Trump administration has repeatedly tried to cut the USAID budget during Green’s tenure, efforts that Congress has resisted. As lawmakers thanked Green for his service, they noted that the coronavirus pandemic underscores the need for international engagement.
“Faced by an Administration that has relentlessly sought to cut foreign development and humanitarian relief programs it incorrectly views as charity, I sincerely appreciated Administrator Green’s commitment to defending programs and funds that are proven to advance US national security, help lift up the world’s most impoverished, and build resilient and prosperous communities that in turn promote global stability,” Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, the leading Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement.
“As the United States and the world continue to grapple with the COVID-19 crisis, it is more apparent than ever that smart investments into foreign countries – whether it is their healthcare or governance systems – can have a direct impact on Americans’ safety and wellbeing at home and abroad,” Menendez said.
Green “leaves a legacy of working honestly and transparently across the Executive and Legislative Branches to do what is in our collective interest,” Menendez said. “He will be sorely missed, and I wish him well on his next endeavor.”
This story has been updated with a statement from Green.