After a month’s long, aggressive oversight campaign of the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) humanitarian response to Putin’s brutal war against Ukraine, Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has forced the agency to concede they are understaffed and that their humanitarian efforts have not kept pace with the rapid surge in funding.
Ernst’s oversight efforts have centered on questions over the speed at which the $11 billion that USAID has been awarded is being allocated and the internal distribution of contracting officers (COs) for the Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA), the bureau within USAID that is handling the broad Ukrainian humanitarian response. USAID only spent 62 percent of the emergency supplemental appropriations that Congress provided, well below the agency’s own goal of spending 75 percent of the appropriated funds. In a response to Ernst, USAID concedes that: “There is no question that BHA staffing, and associated CO support, has not kept pace with the growth in humanitarian budget.”
Senator Ernst issued the following statement in reaction to USAID’s concession:
“I am pleased that USAID has recognized my concerns and is committed to addressing their staffing shortages. The agency’s response demonstrates how aggressive and effective congressional oversight can make important change, in this case, helping U.S. humanitarian aid move more efficiently and protecting the American taxpayer,” said Senator Ernst. “Adding a few additional contracting officers is a start, but with the recent surge in funding and ongoing humanitarian crisis, the agency still lags behind. I remain committed to working with my colleagues in Congress to ensure that USAID is fulfilling its obligation to effectively and wisely steward hardworking taxpayers’ dollars.”
Senator Ernst has led two oversight letters to USAID Administrator Samantha Power regarding concerns with the speed and efficiency of the agency’s efforts. On July 12, 2022, she led a bipartisan letter highlighting concerns with the speed of aid being delivered and with the resources allocated to BHA, which has been tasked with leading much of USAID’s response to Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis. On September 9, 2022, she led another letter focusing on USAID’s slow distribution of emergency supplemental funding provided by Congress.