As happens every year, the summer is flying by and I’m already halfway done with my internship. The past couple of weeks have been busy – there have no dull moments so far! Both from working on the day-to-day projects I've been assigned and from information sessions held for the interns, there have been a lot of opportunities to learn both about the Agency more generally and about the General Counsel’s office in particular.
One of the primary takeaways so far has been that the focus on the statutory authority governing USAID's operations. The two key statutes relating to USAID are the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (FAA) and the annual Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Appropriations Act (SFOAA). Those statutes provide both the money for USAID to operate and rules and restrictions USAID assistance to foreign countries. So far this summer, I’ve spent quite a bit of time looking through the SFOAA. In addition to the FAA and the SFOAA, other authorities place restrictions on foreign assistance, such as the sanctions from the Department of Treasury, the International Religious Freedom Act (under which the Secretary of State may designate “Countries of Particular Concern” for severe violations of religious freedom), and the annual Presidential Determination on Major Illicit Drug Transit or Major Illicit Drug Producing Countries.
In addition to learning about the authorities relating to USAID's work, I've also learned a lot about the General Counsel’s office personnel. It is split between lawyers who are in the civil service and the foreign service. The foreign service lawyers are Resident Legal Officers (RLOs) who work at and USAID Missions overseas and offer legal advice for USAID operations in those countries. Although both USAID and the State Department each have a foreign service, USAID diverges from State in this respect, because the lawyers at State’s legal office work from Washington rather than at US embassies and consulates abroad. Prior to working at USAID; sadly, USAID does not hire entry-level lawyers, but working for the Agency (specifically as an RLO) has quickly become a goal of mine.