March 16, 2020 / 7:54 PM / 19 days ago

UPDATE 1-USAID chief to step down, even as U.S. struggles with global pandemic

(Adds USAID statement)

WASHINGTON, March 16 (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Mark Green, is to step down from the main U.S. organization for humanitarian assistance, even as the Trump administration struggles to deal with the global coronavirus pandemic.

Green, in an article on the Washington Post’s website on Monday, was quoted as saying he would leave his post next month but the move did not stem from any dissatisfaction with the Trump administration’s response to the virus crisis.

“They are not related at all,” Green told the paper.

In a statement released by USAID, Green said he would be leaving to return to the private sector with “with pride, and not a little sadness.”

He added that under President Donald Trump the agency had increased the effectiveness of foreign assistance by carrying out an internal reorganization.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement praising Green as a “brilliant” head of USAID and wishing him well.

Green’s move will deprive the administration of an experienced official in one of the key U.S. agencies responsible for responding to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Post said Green is expected to be replaced, at least temporarily, by deputy USAID administrator Bonnie Glick. USAID had no immediate comment on who would replace Green.

Last month Trump proposed deep cuts in foreign aid as part of a $4.8 trillion budget proposal for fiscal 2021.

The Washington Post and an article in Politico at the end of last week said Green was expected to become president of Arizona State University’s McCain Institute for International Leadership. The institute is named after the late U.S. Senator John McCain, with whom Trump did not always see eye to eye on foreign policy and other issues.

Democratic Senator Robert Menendez praised Green’s commitment to defending aid programs in the face of an administration “that has relentlessly sought to cut foreign development and humanitarian relief programs it incorrectly views as charity.”

Menendez said USAID’s work had “never been more crucial” as the world grapples with the coronavirus outbreak.

“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 well being at home and abroad,” Menendez said in a statement. (Reporting by David Brunnstrom Editing by Leslie Adler and Grant McCool)

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