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Former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green Responds To Natural Disasters As USAID Head

USAID Works To Provide Economic Development, Disaster Relief

Mark Green

Former Wisconsin Congressman Mark Green took lead of USAID — the U.S. Agency for International Development — in August, and has since grappled with a series of natural disasters.

His agency has workers on the island of St. Maarten in the Caribbean due to damage from Hurricane Irma earlier this month and in Mexico City after a 7.1 magnitude earthquake hit Tuesday.

A rapid response team is in Mexico with search dogs and heavy equipment to try to find survivors.

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While disasters have plagued Green’s short tenure as head of USAID, disaster response and relief is only part of the organization’s mission.

After being sworn in, Green — a Republican who represented Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District from 1999 to 2006 — traveled to Africa, visiting both North and South Sudan. During that trip Green, who also served as ambassador to Tanzania after his stint in Congress, called the country a “very troubled land.”

“I not only went to take a look at some of the work we’re doing there and supporting in the internally displaced persons camps, but also to meet with president Salva Kiir Mayardit of South Sudan and send some strong messages about the security of humanitarian workers and the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” Green told WPR.

Despite tensions in places like South Sudan, Green said Africa is home to seven of the world’s 12 fastest growing economies. Besides humanitarian and disaster assistance, USAID has a mission to relieve extreme poverty. Green said trade is one way to accomplish that.

“In terms of trading partners and markets for Wisconsin goods, if we can help those countries rise, if we can help them take on their own challenges so they can become closer trading partners and consumers of goods, that’s good for us back home,” Green said.

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has a proposal to have the State Department work more closely with USAID. Tillerson submitted a reform plan in mid-September, which he said could save taxpayers up to $10 billion over five years.

Green said he has a good working relationship with Tillerson and that the proposal is aimed at reducing bureaucracy and improving Informational Technology systems.

Any changes will not affect services “on the ground,” Green said. “We’re the lead development arm of the U.S. government. Of course development, foreign assistance, humanitarian assistance are an important part of our diplomatic strength.”

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