Still Cleaning Up: White House Replaces USAID Administrator Kent Hill

Jodi Jacobson

White House starts to clean house at USAID; "faith-based" administrator Kent Hill gets the boot.

Kent Hill is gone.

This morning the White House reported that Kent Hill, Acting Administrator of USAID under President Bush since the departure of Henrietta Fore, was replaced effective immediately and until further notice by Alonzo Fulgham, Chief Operating Officer and Executive
Secretary.  Fulgham will perform the duties of the Office of the Administrator of
USAID pending choice of a successor.

Hill, who as USAID Administrator oversaw all funds for reproductive health, contraceptive delivery, maternal and child health and related issues, was no friend of women’s rights or evidence-based programs.  But he was very cozy with the religious right. 

During his tenure, Hill met or held phone calls weekly with New Jersey Republican Chris Smith (the architect of the global gag rule, prostitution pledge, and other useful policies) and at least quarterly with Austin Ruse (president of the anti-choice Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), while declining any meetings with progressive groups.  He was a big supporter of natural family planning…not that there is anything wrong with that, unless you deny people other options.

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He did. 

For example, seeking to placate the Family Research Council and other bastions of women’s rights, Hill created havoc with the delivery of emergency contraception in Peru in part by deciding to redefine EC as an abortifacient, despite defintions to the contrary by the World Health Organization, and despite USAID’s own policy of funding and supporting training in delivery of the method.

At international AIDS conferences he defended publicly the separation of family planning services from HIV prevention and waxed long and not-so-eloquently about the abstinence strategy under PEPFAR. He created hi-tech computer games to teach HIV prevention in Kenya, where the majority of youth have no access to computers.

Hill also brought religion to USAID.  In the crazed effort to give as much money as possible to "faith-based groups" without regard to their ability to carry out the work for which they were being funded but for a wing and a prayer, Hill, for example, insisted that a group known as the Children’s
AIDS Society get $10 million dollars in PEFPAR funding even after they were denied a contract because they
completely failed the technical review.  The group was founded and run by Anita Smith, who was given a seat on the President’s Advisory Council for HIV and AIDS, and whose husband, Shepherd Smith, was a big supporter of the President.  After those nasty technical review people turned down the CAS proposal for lack of merit, Hill made a
call to then-Global AIDS Coordinator Randall Tobias and insisted the group be funded anyway.  They got the money.  Hill then loaded the technical review committees with faith-based representatives to, you know, level the playing field.

He will not be missed.

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Reproductive rights are a public health issue. That's a fact.

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