Natsios, Andrew S.
Andrew S. Natsios
Administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development
Born September 22, 1949, in Philadelphia, PA; son of Basil and Eta Natsios; married Elizabeth; children: Emily, Alexander, Philip. Education: Georgetown University (bachelor's degree); Harvard University Kennedy School of Government (master's degree in public administration), 1979.
Addresses: Office—U.S Agency for International Development, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20523.
Massachusetts House of Representatives, 1975-1987; executive director, Northeast Public Power Association of Milford, Massachusetts, 1987-89; director of USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, 1989-91; assistant administrator, USAID Bureau for Food and Humanitarian Assistance, 1991-93; vice president, World Vision Inc., 1993-98; secretary for administration and finance, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 1999-2000; chief executive officer, Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, 2000-01; administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development, 2001—.
Awards: Massachusetts Municipal Association Legislator of the Year, 1978; Massachusetts Association of School Committees Legislator of the Year, 1986; Citizens for Limited Taxation Legislator of the Year, 1986.
Andrew S. Natsios is administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). He served in the Massachusetts State Legislature from 1975 to 1987, and has held various offices at USAID, with the state of Massachusetts, and with World Vision, a Christian organization. He is the author of numerous articles on foreign policy as well as two books. He served for 23 years in the U.S Army Reserves and retired from military life in 1995 with the rank of lieutenant colonel. He is also a veteran of the Gulf War.
Natsios' grandparents were Greek immigrants who found work in the mills of Massachusetts; he grew up in Holliston, Massachusetts. His grandparents were avid Democrats, as was his mother, Eta; however, Natsios followed the lead of his father, Basil, who was politically conservative.
Natsios earned a bachelor's degree at Georgetown University. While at Georgetown, he joined the Army ROTC. He went on to receive a master's degree in public administration from Harvard University in 1979. While still at Harvard, he began his political career, serving in the Massachusetts House of Representatives from 1975-1987. He was named Legislator of the Year by the Massachusetts Municipal Association, the Massachusetts Association of School Committees, and the Citizens for Limited Taxation. He also served as chair of the Massachusetts Republican State Committee for seven years.
His service to the Republican party did not go unnoticed, and in 1989, under the first Bush administration, Natsios was appointed director of the USAID Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance. The job proved to be a baptism by fire, since during his first week in office, he had to respond to the Chinese massacre of protestors in Tiananmen Square. Other incidents occurring during his tenure included the worst train accident in Soviet history and a massive famine in the Sudan. Despite these challenges, or perhaps because of them, he found that he loved the work. He remained with USAID until 1993, when the Clinton Democrats came into power. Natsios then became vice president of World Vision, a Christian antipoverty organization. A few years later, he was appointed Massachusetts secretary for administration and finance.
In 2000, Natsios was called in to become chief executive of the "Big Dig," a mammoth project in downtown Boston, Massachusetts. The largest public works project in American history, the Big Dig involved burying a major highway under downtown Boston in order to reduce traffic congestion in the city. The project had gone over its budget and suffered from disorganization. Natsios focused on five areas of the project's management system: procurement, personnel, financial management, computer services, and administrative services. He replaced an 18-year-old contract-writing system with a new electronic one, and replaced paper with computers in hiring and other areas. He did not particularly like this job, as his true interest was in foreign affairs.
In May of 2001, President George W. Bush brought Natsios back to foreign affairs when he offered him the position of administrator of USAID. Natsios faced various minor controversies, such as his decision to combat AIDS by doubling the number of condoms provided to poor countries where the disease was rampant. This decision brought fire from other Republicans who were against birth control. On the other hand, Natsios was attacked by some liberals when he commented that rural Africans had no concept of time.
These troubles appeared trivial when terrorists attacked the United States in September of 2001. The United States subsequently attacked Afghanistan, where many terrorists were hiding, and Natsios was the first U.S. civilian official to arrive in Afghanistan after the attacks. The country suffered from decades of war, disease, poverty, illiteracy, and the threat of famine. In response, Natsios moved a large amount of money through USAID in a very short time to help with these problems.
Natsios also faced a heavy load of responsibility in administering part of the rebuilding of Iraq after the United States' destruction of that country that began in 2002. He commented to Kris Frieswick in CFO, "No one's life was at risk on the Big Dig. There are millions of lives at stake in Iraq." In addition, Natsios' predecessors in the job had not been as interested in management and finance as he was, so some of the administrative systems within the agency were not efficient.
In his new position, Natsios quickly stirred up controversy. Critics charged that he gave preferential treatment to Bechtel Group Inc., which won the contract to rebuild Iraq's infrastructure. Natsios had previously worked with Bechtel, which was one of the contractors that worked on the Big Dig. According to CFO's Frieswick, Natsios said that Bechtel had been working on the Big Dig for more than a decade when he entered the project. He also said that when bidding for the project, Bechtel had put in the lowest price of seven bidders and also had the highest technical score. To further counteract the criticism, Natsios ordered a review of the bidding process by the Inspector General. However, in an interview on ABC's Nightline, Ted Koppel pointed out that when Natsios took over, Bechtel was under investigation for excessive charges of more than a billion dollars in the Big Dig. Natsios told Koppel that when he took the job, he fired his predecessor and was asked by the governor of Massachusetts to "clean up the mess." However, he did not comment on the charges against Bechtel, repeating that the company had the highest quality and the lowest bid.
In addition to criticizing his choice of Bechtel in the rebuilding process, some observers were also angry because the lucrative rebuilding contracts in Iraq were only given to American companies, and because the contracts were awarded before any attacks on Iraq ever took place, leading some to believe that the decision to bomb Iraq was tied into the fact that certain companies could profit greatly from the war. In the Nightline interview, Natsios admitted to Koppel that the planning for Iraq's postwar reconstruction began six months before the country was attacked. He also said that because of the logistics of the planning process, it was easier to remain with American companies. He also claimed that the entire rebuilding process would cost American taxpayers no more than $1.7 billion, a figure that was met with widespread skepticism.
Despite these controversies, Natsios focused on improving USAID. In the Foreign Service Journal, Natsios told Ben Barber that he wanted to reform the agency's "personnel, the financial management system, computers, the procurement system and the system of grants and contracts." He also noted that the agency needed to look carefully at why some foreign aid projects worked and others did not: "If there are venal and predatory governments, foreign aid can keep people alive but the country won't develop," he told Barber.
In an interview with Newsweek's Michael Hirsh, Natsios commented on the perception that the United States was not doing enough to help other countries, noting that the nation applies only 0.1 percent of its gross domestic product, or $10 billion per year, to foreign aid. If the United States spent, for example, 0.7 percent, this would amount to $70 billion. Natsios said that if this occurred, "We would be bigger than all the banks put together. It would distort the economies in the Third World to an extraordinary degree."
Despite the criticisms that are inevitable with any high-profile position, Natsios loves his job. He told Chris Black in Boston Magazine, "On any given day at (USAID), you save hundreds of thousands of people's lives. It must be nice on your deathbed to look back on your life and realize you did something."
U.S. Foreign Policy and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Center for Strategic and International Studies, 1997.
The Great North Korean Famine, U.S Institute of Peace, 2001.
Carroll's Federal Directory, Carroll Publishing, 2004.
CFO, June 2003, p. 80.
Foreign Service Journal, September 2002, pp. 20-27.
Newsweek, December 30, 2002/January 6, 2003, p. 8.
"Andrew Natsios," World Food Prize, http://www.worldfoodprize.org/Symposium/speakers/natsios.htm (August 3, 2004).
"Biography of Andrew S. Natsios," USAID, http://www.usaid.gov/about_usaid/bios/bio_asn.html (August 3, 2004).
Biography Resource Center Online, Gale Group, 2003. "Interview with Andrew Natsios," Nightline, http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intel/iraq/koppel.htm (August 3, 2004).
"Our Man in Afghanistan," Boston Magazine, http://www.bostonmagazine.com/ArticleDisplay.php?id=124 (August 3, 2004).