Illustrating the prominent role development has in the Obama administration, the President said, “To ensure that we coordinate our effort, going forward, I have designated the Administrator of the US Agency for International Development Rajiv Shah, to be our government’s unified disaster coordinator.” USAID currently has 15 disaster assistance relief team members on the ground doing surveillance and guiding search and response efforts, according to Administrator Shah. At yesterday’s State Department press conference, a spokesman said that the Departments of State, Defense, Homeland Security are working with USAID to coordinate the government response.
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who oversees foreign aid appropriations for the House, said the United States needs to not only send immediate help but also lay out a commitment for long-term programs to help Haiti rebuild. More than a dozen senators yesterday sent a letter to Democratic and Republican leaders urging that they “include robust emergency funds to assist Haiti in the next legislative vehicle before the Senate.” Other senior lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Wednesday they stand ready to work with the Obama administration to make sure Haiti gets the aid it needs. “A catastrophe of this magnitude highlights the importance of having sufficiently fast and flexible resources at the ready to respond in a meaningful and effective way,” said Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs Rep. Howard L. Berman. D-CA.
Responding to Haiti is a top priority right now, and Secretary Clinton returned to Washington early this morning to help lead the quake relief effort, cancelling the rest of her Pacific trip. Obama last night called George W. Bush and formally asked him to participate, along with former President Clinton, in humanitarian relief efforts for Haiti.