Lewis Lucke Biography

United States government official

Born c. 1951, in North Carolina; married Joy; children: three. Education: Earned degree from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; American Graduate School of International Management, M.B.A., 1977.


Office —c/o United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Department of State, 2201 C St. NW, Washington, DC 20520.


U.S. State Department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), junior program officer in Mali, late 1970s, posted to Senegal and Costa Rica; assistant mission director for Tunisia, 1990–92; also served as special assistant to the USAID assistant administrator for Europe and chief of project development and finance for South America; USAID deputy mission director in La Paz, Bolivia, after 1994, and mission director in Amman, Jordan, 1996–2000, and Port–au–Prince, Haiti, 2000–01; retired from State Department post and worked for Carana, an economic development company; returned to government service in the fall of 2002 at the State Department; named to staff of newly created Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, a branch of the Pentagon, as coordinator for reconstruction, January, 2003; U.S. Agency for International Development, Iraq mission director, July, 2003—.


Presidential Merit Service Award, 2000; Administrator's Distinguished Career Award, U.S. Agency for International Development, 2001; five U.S. Agency for International Development Superior Honor and Meritorious Honor Awards.


Lewis Lucke serves in one of postwar Iraq's most essential executive posts as local mission director for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Lucke's task is to coordinate the necessary resources to fix the war–torn country, and which includes rebuilding power stations, roads, and schools. Giving Iraqis a sense of permanency and confidence in the postwar transitional regime was his office's primary objective, and Lucke was optimistic about the end result. "They're special people, smart, talented, and artistic," he said in an interview with Dick Stanley of the Austin American–Statesman. "The more you deal with them the more you know we'll go home and they'll be fine."

Born in the early 1950s in North Carolina, Lucke earned an undergraduate degree in international studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He spent his junior year in Lyon, France, and took part in an archeological dig in Israel after college, which piqued his interest in the Middle East. In 1977, he graduated from the American Graduate School of International Management in Arizona with a master's degree in business administration, and landed a spot in a training program for foreign–service officers with USAID, the branch of the State Department responsible for administering the economic and humanitarian aid for countries around the world.

Lucke's first USAID posting was in Mali, and he went on to serve in Senegal and Costa Rica before becoming assistant mission director in Tunisia in the early 1990s. In 1994, he was USAID's deputy mission director in La Paz, Bolivia, and named head of the agency's Jordan office in Amman in 1996. He served there for four years, during which time his wife—whom he had met in graduate school—and three children also lived with him. They moved to Texas when he accepted his last posting, to Port–au–Prince, Haiti. As USAID mission director in the troubled Caribbean nation, he headed the largest United States aid program in the western hemisphere.

Lucke retired from USAID in 2001 and spent some months working for Carana, an economic development company, before returning to government service after 9/11. As a State Department veteran with a working knowledge of Arabic, he was a highly sought–after bureaucrat at the time. His job in Iraq actually began in October of 2002, as U.S. President George W. Bush and his administration considered taking military action to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, and were seeking United Nations approval for it. Lucke began drawing up a post–war plan and signing contracts with companies that could help with reconstruction efforts. In January of 2003, when Bush signed the executive order that established the U.S. Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, Lucke joined it. The office was set up within the Department of Defense, which vetted all personnel, and minor internecine battles plagued its first months in operation: the State Department had submitted eight names for the job of reconstruction coordinator, and Pentagon officials rejected all of them before Lucke's was submitted.

Lucke arrived in Baghdad from Kuwait not long after the Iraqi capital was captured by American forces. His new office was located in the Baghdad Convention Center, and during his first few months on the job he often worked 16–hour days for seven days a week, as did many of his 90–member staff. Lucke was responsible for coordinating the work of some 500 independent contractors working to rebuild the country, and the task was enormous. In the waning years of Hussein's three–plus decades in power, the country's infrastructure had been poorly maintained, and international sanctions against Hussein's regime meant that legitimately obtaining crucial electronics components or construction equipment from the rest of the world was almost impossible. Even the vital port city of Umm Qasr had to be dredged before ships carrying direly needed cargo could enter. "We're putting back together a system abused by years of neglect," Lucke told Stanley in the Austin American–Statesman. "It was incredibly degraded."

The first major goal of Lucke's office was to restore full electricity, water, and phone service in Baghdad and the rest of the country. It also worked with international agencies to staff and supply hospitals, and with UNICEF set a target of re–opening 1,000 schools by September of 2003; Lucke was immensely pleased that his team and many others surpassed that number by almost 600. He credited some of the success for his office's undertakings to the resourcefulness of the Iraqis with whom they worked, describing them as a "very capable people," in an interview with Newsweek 's Christian Caryl and John Barry. "They kept all these systems going for decades with very little outside assistance."

Lucke's office also oversaw the immunization of children and encouraged Iraqis to form neighborhood advisory councils that could take care of trash collection and other badly needed services. Fixing rail lines and the highway system was next on his office's agenda. "It has been humbling," he admitted to Forbes writer Nathan Vardi. "However much time you spend planning something like this, being able to put it together on the ground is complex and depends on things that are not in your control."

In the fall of 2003, Lucke returned to Austin for a brief respite—noting it would be his only chance to see his son play with his high school football team that season—and was dismayed by the grim tone of the news coverage about the rebuilding of Iraq. "There's just an incredible amount of productive stuff going on over there, with a lot of Iraqi participation," he told the Austin American–Statesman 's Stanley. "To come here and see it portrayed as a failure in the making—it's very superficial and inaccurate."

The dangers of Lucke's job intensified when he returned, with hostilities reaching a crisis point in April of 2004, the first anniversary of the White House–declared victory in Iraq. Lucke's office is located inside the heavily guarded Green Zone, and when outside of it he usually wears a bulletproof vest and travels in an armored vehicle. He had no plans to leave, and cautioned that the United States should not, either. "The thing we have to struggle against is the American tendency to think this is like a baseball game, you play a few hours and you win or you lose," he told the Newsweek journalists. "This is a long–term process."

Selected writings

Waiting for Rain: Life and Development in Mali, West Africa, Christopher Publishing House, 1998.



Austin American–Statesman, October 4, 2003, p. A1.

Forbes, May 26, 2003, p. 62.

Newsweek, November 3, 2003, p. 34.


"Lewis W. Lucke," http://www.whitehouse.gov/government/lucke–bio.html (April 26, 2004).

Carol Brennan

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Does Mr Lewis W Lucke still have an active interest in the reconstruction effort in Haiti? 09/02/2011

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