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#150 being Chief of Party

May 14, 2012

Submitted by High Plane Drifter

COP intrepidly wades in through red tape to save the natives and achieve sustainable development. (Photo:

“Chief of Party”, amigos, is the position that all Expat Aid Workers covet, at least among those who do real development work with funding, as opposed to those underpaid dusty guerilla types who rattle around in C-130’s with flour sacks doing relief work, the work of God. Yeah, someone has to do it, but the quicker those cargo-panted pudnockers get out of the way the better. Enter the Chief of Party to get the development job done!

The Chief of Party (COP) is the emissary of development, leader of the mission, the all-powerful director of USAID projects with funding in the gazillions, commanding a staff numbering anywhere from 25 to hundreds, the blessed one who is served tea first and most frequently in the office.

As HQ wants it…. (Photo:

Never mind that the COP has the signing authority of a dachshund. It’s the image and the allowances that count. Illusions aside, what the COP really does is battle with the ever-meddling “home office”. Every field commander throughout history can attest to it. Alexander the Great and Genghis Khan were likely the last field directors in recorded times that didn’t have to put up with a pain-in-the-arse HQ because they were the ones in charge.

Whether it’s the Pentagon or your beloved EAW HQ in Washington or its fabled ‘burbs, it’s no matter, they want to hold “their man or woman in the field” by the short and curlies, primarily due to concerns over “compliance”. They’ve watched in horror as the Office of the Inspector General sent a few unlucky fellow firms in the development aid industrial complex to the gallows, hooded and swinging slowly in the wind, simply due to non-compliance, the evil of all evils within the bureaucratic realm. By Gawd, it won’t happen to them, not on their watch!

The unschooled younger EAW or bushy-tailed project assistant at HQ who aspires to the field may see the storied COP as the master planner and director of all “technical” activities, the diffuser of innovation.

Chief of Party! The toast of the Aid World.

The stark reality is the poor wanker spends most of his or her time “dotting the ‘I’s’ and “crossing the ‘T’s’” in contract “documentation”, going through interminable rounds of combat with HQ to reach compliant nirvana and to get a freaking VP to sign on the bottom line of a paltry value contract to get a few development thingies done. Best not to complain though, just salute the snapping corporate flag, and continue to comply.

To be sure, it’s a great title, Chief of Party. Who wouldn’t want that one? Anyhow, the home office thinks the COP is busy stirring pink gin and tonics just about all the time, living high off the hog with all those tasty but taxable allowances. You might as well comply with the image, folks. Where’s dinner tonight? Be sure to serve the toddies with ice please, shaken, or stirred…it really doesn’t matter, because life is hell in the tropics, sniffs the ruddy-faced COP, dreaming of retirement in a villa in Phuket, with daily massage scheduled at noon (not a minute before). Now that’s compliance…

One Comment leave one →
  1. May 14, 2012 6:25 am


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