Mark A. Green serves as a rebuttal to the hyper-partisanship of Washington. From across the ideological spectrum came effusive praise for the Trump administration’s announcement Wednesday that it will nominate the former Republican congressman from Wisconsin and ex-ambassador to Tanzania to head the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Fiscal hawks in Congress said Green would work to make sure programs receiving tax dollars were run more efficiently. Aid groups that focus on development and disaster relief welcomed someone who cares about foreign economic aid to argue on their behalf.
Republicans said Green would promote liberty and human rights. Democrats said he would work in a bipartisan fashion.
“There’s a sense of relief,” said Scott Morris, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Development. “In the environment we’re in, with real alarm being expressed by advocates for foreign assistance and engagement, people were desperate for something like this — to be reassured the whole aid enterprise was not simply going to disappear.”
Green’s nomination comes as the Trump administration is proposing drastic budget cuts of about 30 percent for the State Department. A large proportion of those are expected to come from USAID, the lead agency for U.S. economic assistance.
Less than 1 percent of federal spending goes to foreign assistance, which has strong bipartisan support in Congress. It also is backed by the Defense Department, where the military leadership considers it a way to prevent conflicts that would require U.S. intervention.
Green has spent much of his career in politics and development work. He served four terms in Congress, from 1999 to 2007. While in Congress, he helped create the Millennium Challenge Corp., an independent foreign aid agency that fights poverty.
As U.S. ambassador to Tanzania from 2007 to 2009, he oversaw the management of large development and anti-AIDS programs.
After returning to the United States, he led an organization that worked with business leaders to reduce poverty through economic growth in Africa. He is president of the International Republican Institute, a pro-democracy group that helps aspiring democracies work on governance, leadership and election issues.
“He’s built a reputation in all the various communities — in politics, in development and in diplomacy — of working across party lines,” said Kenneth Wollack, Green’s counterpart at the National Democratic Institute.
Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.), who got to know Green when they were both in the House of Representatives, said members of Congress would listen to Green’s advice because he is known as something of a fiscal hawk.
“We all agree there’s a finite amount of money and we want it to go to people who need it,” he said. “Mark has a very strong record regarding fiscal issues. That’s why the administration is looking to him. They want to stretch the dollars as far as they can.”
Many aid organizations have begun making preparations for big drops in their federal assistance. No one expects Green would be able to prevent that entirely.
“His appointment is not going to change what the president is proposing,” said Tom Hart, North American executive director of ONE, which fights poverty and disease primarily in Africa. “But Mark is an encouraging sign that the administration, despite some pretty severe cuts on the spreadsheet, is investing in strong leadership.”
Nevertheless, many who work in the field expect Green would be willing to advocate for them.
“People are still anxious and concerned,” said Liz Schrayer, head of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a network of groups that urge investing in development aid and diplomacy to complement military spending. “As long as Ambassador Green is given a seat at the table, and they listen to his voice, I think people will be relieved.”