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Home  > Article

Making a Difference Around the Globe

By Partnership for Public Services

Barbara Turner- Deputy Assistant Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development

Barbara Turner should be the poster child for career advancement opportunities in the federal government. She's living proof that even when starting at the lowest rung on the ladder, if you are talented and work hard, there are no limits to what you can achieve. More important than proving that you can move up the ladder, Ms. Turner has proved that when you work in government, you can improve countless lives all across the world in the process.

Barbara Turner began her career in government 40 years ago as a part-time clerk when she was still in high school. Today, she is a senior executive and one of the highest ranking officials at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Her journey to the top has been a remarkable one.

As a young health officer, she implemented a new approach to fighting childhood diseases in Egypt which led to the successful implementation of USAID's Child Survival Strategy worldwide. She was one of the pioneers in USAID's work with the nations that emerged from the breakup of the former Soviet Union. She led the Agency in opening a mission in Sarajevo a scant six weeks after the Dayton Accords were signed in 1995. And she skillfully positioned USAID to play a global leadership role in HIV/AIDS during the late 1990s.

As Director of Policy at USAID, she played a critical role in the drafting and overall conception of Foreign Aid in the National Interest. This report, perhaps the most forward looking in USAID's history, helped redirect the agency toward the tasks it faces in the 21st century, with a focus on democracy, economic growth, fragile states, anti-corruption and counter-terrorism.

As the top civil servant in the new Europe/Eurasia Bureau, she built this office's staff from scratch, identifying the risk takers and hard chargers needed to do this politically complex new job.

She helped overhaul USAID's strategic budgeting process, earning a green progress rating - the highest mark under the President's management agenda. And she acted immediately to design USAID's Supplemental Budget request after the Asian tsunami, pushing for a robust USAID response and crafting a request that resulted in a $950 million appropriation.

And one of her latest initiatives is her promotion of the "Global Development Alliance." This effort links government spending to corporate and foundation money. It currently includes more than 300 partners and has leveraged about $500 million in USAID funds into $2.5 billion in private resources. She believes that creating partnerships between USAID and private sector organizations will lead to more effective performance on the part of USAID and a better appreciation of its work.

For all her remarkable accomplishments, she seems proudest of her work mentoring hundreds of staff during her career, and she successfully fought for additional funding to increase the hiring of young professionals.

USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios summed up her service best. "No single officer in the Agency has had the impact she has had over the course of her career," he said. "Ms. Turner's distinguished career should be held up as a model for future government leaders."

Turner's contributions were recognized when she received the Career Achievement Medal, one of the Service to America Medals, on September 28, 2005.

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