Obama names NSC Development and Democracy director Gayle Smith to head USAID

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Gayle Smith

President Obama today nominated a member of his administration whose leadership of health and humanitarian responses included guiding development of the U.S. Global Health Initiative and the Global Health Security Agenda to be the next head of the United States Agency for International Development. Gayle Smith, now director of  Development and Democracy  at the National Security Council, will, if confirmed, succeed former director Rajiv Shah who led the agency for five years before stepping down earlier this year.

A former journalist who spent years in Africa covering events and working with development organizations there, Smith served as  advisor to the USAID administrator from 1994 to 1998, served as Senior Director for African Affairs at the National Security Council during the Clinton Administration, and before joining the Obama administration in 2009, was a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress.

In September, as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released figures indicating the potential for the Ebola crisis to decline steeply if confronted with a swift and steady response, Smith joined CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden to discuss the projections, and the impact they would have on planning.

“The value of data in this entire response,” she said, “is this is something we know how to respond to.”

Her nomination comes at a time when, for a third year in a row, the President has proposed cuts to USAID’s tuberculosis program.

National Security Advisor Susan Rice responded to the nomination today with a statement calling Smith’s input instrumental to administration global health and development responses.

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