The Foreign Service Journal, September 2019

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | SEPTEMBER 2019 53 USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER AFSA NEWS Views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the AFSA USAID VP. Contact: | (202) 712-5267 My Journey to … AFSA VP I decided my first column should be a bit about me (no eye rolling, please)—an introduction that can give you a sense of where I’ve come from and why I am so invested in USAID and this job. But please note: this will also be the last column about me. Future columns must and will keep the focus on us and the Foreign Service as a whole. First, let me be clear: I want to support all Foreign Service officers and house- holds. Families come in all shapes and sizes—including single-member households— and I am committed to sup- porting them all. My father retired as a USAID FSO in the mid-1990s after a long career, including stints with the Peace Corps, CARE and other organiza- tions. At various posts, my mother taught English as a Second Language, volun- teered and enjoyed being an active member of the local and expat communities. I grew up moving around (mostly in Africa), working summer jobs at embas- sies moving furniture for GSO, serving as acting CLO, supporting USAID and the Regional Housing and Urban Development Office, and generally enjoying life as a Foreign Service kid (ask me about being a Boy Scout in 1980s Zaire). After graduating from the International School of Kenya (Go Lions!), I came back to the States for college. Being an FS kid has given me great opportunities but also great challenges—and now as an FSO father, I know what my parents went through! Professionally, I’ve enjoyed various stints in the (semi-) private sector, includ- ing in management consult- ing, investment banking, with the African Development Bank and implementing part- ners. As a result, I not only value the private sector’s dynamism, dedication and strengths, but also recognize some of the risks of its at times heavy-handed transac- tional approach. As an implementing partner, I saw the Automated Directives System, Federal Acquisition Regulation, Foreign Affairs Manual and overall USAID bureaucracy in a whole new light. At the same time, I’ve also seen USAID’s perspective on the private sector evolve over the decades to where we now recognize its potential for advancing development. There is a realistic balance to be achieved. My public sector history has been similarly varied, starting with being thrown into the bureaucratic and interagency deep end. I started in Treasury’s interna- tional affairs division during the Asia financial crisis. Later, I covered a Middle East portfolio until the morn- ing of 9/11. The powers that be then put me on Afghani- stan, where I collaborated with my USAID and State colleagues to establish the Afghanistan Reconstruction Steering Group and set up the Afghanistan Reconstruc- tion Trust Fund. I was subsequently detailed to the National Security Council where, again, I worked closely with USAID, State and interagency colleagues on a range of efforts. And then I made the move to USAID. Let’s face it: I’ve been around. I joined USAID as a private enterprise officer in 2003. My family and I moved to Jakarta where, within six months, my supervi- sor resigned and I was put in charge of the Economic Growth Office. Soon there- after, I was charged with establishing a new Millen- nium Challenge Corporation Threshold Office to oversee a control-of-corruption project and separate immunization project. I’ve served in USAID’s Office of Budget and Resource Management and have been detailed as the senior development adviser to the U.S. Executive Direc- tor’s Office at the World Bank and the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review Office at State. I served in Afghanistan (leaving my family behind, as we do) and then in India as a general development officer. With the support of mission leadership, the Human Capi- tal and Talent Management office and Staff Care, we left India in 2017 after one tour so I could help my dad look after my ailing mom. I was fortunate to serve as head of the Policy, Planning and Learning Bureau’s Policy Office and later worked with the Economic Growth team in the Europe & Eurasia Bureau. Since February, I’ve been part of a great and dedicated team in the Center of Excel- lence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance. I have been an FS kid, served in a Critical Priority Country, faced eldercare challenges, been an imple- menting partner, led projects in virtually all sectors and for- mally served as a Backstop 01, 02, 12, 21 and 76. I have worked in multiple executive branch agencies, multilateral institutions and the NSC. I have a couple of kids and a spouse who loves her not-very-portable profes- sion. And I’m a proud USAID FSO, who believes that this agency embodies the best of America and Americans. These are my experi- ences—but what are yours ? We all have our own unique stories. Please let me hear from you so that I can serve you to the best of my abili- ties. n