U.S. President Barack Obama has nominated Indian-American Rajiv Shah to head the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The post of Administrator of the federal agency responsible for all non-military aid by the U.S. had been kept vacant by the Obama administration so far.

If Congress confirms the nomination of Dr. Shah — who is the Under Secretary for Research, Education and Economics and Chief Scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture — then he would become the highest ranking Indian-American in any U.S. administration.

“Rajiv brings fresh ideas and the dedication and impressive background necessary to help guide USAID as it works to achieve this important goal,” said Mr. Obama in a statement announcing his decision.

The mission of USAID is to advance U.S. interests by strengthening relationships abroad.

“I look forward to working with Rajiv in the months and years ahead,” said Mr. Obama.

Dr. Shah manages the Agricultural Research Service, the Economic Research Service, the National Agricultural Statistical Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture in the US Department of Agriculture with more than 10,000 staff worldwide including 2,200 federal scientists and a budget of more than $2.6 billion. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Dr. Shah is “a leader in the development community, an innovative and results-oriented manager, and someone who understands the importance of providing people around the world with the tools they need to lift themselves out of poverty and chart their own destinies”.

''A trained medical doctor and health economist, Raj has the skills and experience to lead a reinvigorated USAID in the 21st century,'' Clinton said. ''He has led and worked with many of the initiatives that are defining best practice in the field of development.''

He has a record of ''delivering results in both the private and public sectors, forging partnerships around the world, especially in Africa and Asia,'' she added.

Prior to his work at the Gates foundation, Shah worked on health care policy for the 2000 presidential campaign of former vice president Al Gore.

Dr. Shah is a co-founder of Health Systems Analytics and Project IMPACT for South Asian Americans. In addition, he has served as a policy aide in the British Parliament and worked at the World Health Organisation.

Dr. Shah earned his MD from the University of Pennsylvania Medical School and his Master of Science in health economics at the Wharton School of Business. He has attended the London School of Economics and is a graduate of the University of Michigan.

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