Former Ohio governor John J. Gilligan, under pressure from Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance, resigned yesterday as administrator of the Agency for International Development.
In accepting the resignation, the White House praised Gilligan, who once harbored presidential ambitions, and indicated he will be appointed to another post "in the field of international economic affairs."
But AID sources said Gilligan had been pressured to resign by Vance after a series of personality and policy clashes at the State Department.
Asked about this, Gilligan said only that "Vance talked to me about another assignment."
Gilligan, a former congressman who was governor of Ohio from 1970 to 1974, raised bureaucratic eyebrows by heading an AID reorganization effort that recommended the merging of AID, the Peace Corps, and a number of other units into a "super" foreign assistance agency.
He also has been highly critical of nonmilitary "security supporting assistance" given to Israel and Egypt. These two countries, he complained to reporters recently, receive as much of this type of "political" assistance from the U.S. as 63 other nations combined.
Gilligan also placed a major emphasis on moving AID employes out of Washington and into the countries they're supposed to serve -- something he specifically mentioned in his letter of resignation, noting "we have more people in the field than at any time in the recent history of the agency."
AID sources indicated that Gilligan's relationship with superiors at the State Department and in the White House had deteriorated over a period of time as a result of an accumulation of "minor irritations" and political tensions.
Gilligan, the sources noted, had clashed repeatedly with State Department officials over whether foreign aid should be used for development or political purposes.
"He knew he would raise hackles," one source said. "Maybe he talked too loud."
Gilligan leaves AID at a time when its budget is at a record high. In President Carter's budget for 1980, foreign assistance appropriations were increased, even in a time of official austerity, from $1.5 billion to $1.8 billion, and outlays from $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.
But Gilligan pointed out to reporters in a meeting last week that "security supporting assistance," which is basically political in nature, would total $2 billion, of which $1.6 billion would go to two countries -- Israel and Egypt. This is as much as 63 other nations combined would receive.
Gilligan, who served as governor at the same time Carter did, was a surprise choice when he was picked to head AID more than two years ago. He endorsed Carter shortly before the Ohio primary in 1976, but Carter kept his distance from Gilligan in the closing days of the campaign and Gilligan played no public role in the general election in Ohio. His personal relations with Carter have not been close.
After he took over at AID, Gilligan was frequently quoted as saying the problem with the agency was that too many of its employes were "overage, overgrade and over here" -- in Washington. This outraged many career employes, and sent agency morale plummeting.
His undoing, however, apparently had more to do with a turf battle caused by the reorganization plan he pressed than anything else. In advocating his plan, he was challenging the departments of State, Treasury and Agriculture by saying some of their programs ought to go into a new AID agency. This, one source said, was regarded as a "power grab" in bureaucratic circles.
In his letter of resignation, Gilligan said he had accomplished most of what he set out to do at the agency.
"It has been a matter of special pride to me that during the last two years there has not been a breath of scandal in connection with the world-wide operation of some very large and complex programs," he said.