Ken Yamashita

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Ken Yamashita
Interim Counselor

Dr. Ken Yamashita serves as the interim counselor for the United States Agency for International Development.

He began his career in international development in 1975 as a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health. Prior to his retirement from the federal government in December 2016, Dr. Yamashita served for 23 years as a Foreign Service Officer with USAID, attaining the rank of Career Minister, the highest civilian rank for the Agency. On behalf of USAID, Dr. Yamashita served in multiple countries, including Ecuador, South Africa, Peru, Kosovo, Colombia, and Afghanistan. In Afghanistan, Dr. Yamashita was the first country mission director for USAID since the Agency’s re-engagement in 2002 to serve two consecutive years. During his tenure Dr. Yamashita oversaw the surge in development personnel from 250 to 500 and an annual program budget of over $2.0 billion, making Afghanistan the largest USAID bilateral program.
One of Dr. Yamashita’s proudest accomplishments was the initiation of the first ever Women’s Empowerment Program in Afghanistan, and the largest of its kind in USAID worldwide. At the request of the Ambassador, Dr. Yamashita remained a third year in Afghanistan, serving as the Embassy Coordinator for Economic Assistance, Rule of Law, and Law Enforcement. On behalf of the Ambassador and the U.S. State Department, Dr. Yamashita coordinated policy and operations across 13 U.S. departments, agencies, and offices operating in Afghanistan. He was the principal point of contact for NATO and US Military Assistance to Afghanistan and routinely represented the U.S. to the Government of Afghanistan as well as to other bilateral governments and international agencies.
In Colombia, Kosovo, and Peru, Dr. Yamashita worked closely with the U.S. military and civilian law enforcement agencies on matters related to counter-narcotics and counter-terrorism. In Colombia, Dr. Yamashita led his team in coordination with the U.S. military and law enforcement agencies to counter the triple threats of insurgency, narcotrafficking, and pervasive poverty.
In addition to his USAID service overseas, Dr. Yamashita served in numerous senior positions in Washington, including Director of the Office of HIV/AIDS, overseeing the Agency’s contribution to the global AIDS pandemic, known as PEPFAR. Also, in Washington, he served as the Acting Assistant Administrator for Europe and Eurasia. During his tenure the Agency responded to the Russian invasion of Georgia, working closely with the U.S. military to provide urgent humanitarian relief efforts to Georgians who had been displaced as a consequence of the invasion. Immediately prior to Dr. Yamashita’s retirement, he served as White House Appointee to the Peace Corps, as the Director for Global Operations, being responsible for country operations in over 80 countries where Peace Corps its Volunteers are deployed. For his service and contributions, Dr. Yamashita has been recognized with multiple awards, including the Presidential Rank Meritorious Award in 2008 and the Administrator’s Outstanding Career Achievement Award in 2016.

Last updated: February 25, 2022

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