Three takeaways from the House's USAID spending bill
This month, the House Appropriations Committee passed a bill out of their committee to provide funding for USAID for the 2023 Fiscal Year. Here were three things that stood out to us.
Dear Unlock Aid community,
This month, the House of Representatives’ Appropriations Committee passed a bill out of their committee to provide funding for USAID for the 2023 Fiscal Year.
Here were three things that stood out to us:
It's clear House lawmakers want USAID to become a more innovative agency. Appropriators increased funding for the agency’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) Unit by 33 percent, from $30 million to $40 million, and funding for the Feed the Future Innovation Labs by 12 percent, from $58 million to $65 million. Appropriators also directed USAID to spend at least $50 million to build partnerships with the private sector. Language about innovation was peppered throughout the bill, along with instructions to increase spending for R&D and technology to fight infectious diseases, improve childhood health, and combat food insecurity.
Lawmakers also included language to say they want to see USAID diversify who it works with, and to direct more resources to local organizations. They took the extra step of requiring USAID to provide “regular updates” to Congress on progress made. House appropriators also gave the agency 180 days after bill passage to publish a definition of a “local entity.” The House is sending a strong message with this language – it backs Administrator Power’s vision for reform – and is ready to hold USAID to its commitments.
Finally, the House bill gave USAID an additional $100 million above last year’s allocation for “Operating Expenses.” USAID can use these dollars to invest in systems and surge hiring for contracting officers to bring down average award sizes, simplify application processes, and make awards more performance-based.
With these instructions and funding from Congress, USAID will have more flexibility to lean into creative ways to drive an agenda focused on “Progress, Not Programs” and bring down barriers for non-traditional agency partners to work with USAID – and in ways that don’t require more headcount alone. For example, USAID could sign reciprocity – or “mutual recognition” – agreements with other trusted funders, such as bilateral and multilateral donors, philanthropies, and US Government agencies to co-finance their highest-impact programs. USAID could also accept evidence of other funders’ vetting and impact evaluations to expedite the agency’s ability to work with more high-impact, non-traditional partners.
Now as we wait for the release of the Senate’s proposed spending bill, we’re keen to see if it can match, or exceed, what’s in the House bill. It’s encouraging to see House lawmakers increase resources for the extraordinarily effective DIV unit, for example, but the Senate could take the next step and ensure the very best programs supported by DIV are the first in line to receive additional resources to bring proven solutions to scale. USAID could become the world’s catalyst for innovation to solve global challenges, but only if innovators know they can count on USAID not just for funding for pilots, but for scale-ups, too.
Thanks to all of you for sharing your ideas and for showing up when it matters the most – in meetings with Members of Congress, staff, and others. The Senate’s spending bill is expected to drop any day now, and we’ll let you know when it does.
Unlock Aid Executive Director
P.S. Thank you to those of you who submitted applications to attend our Reimagining Global Development Moonshot Accelerator in Mexico City, hosted in partnership with the Day One Project. We received more than 115 applications from 35 countries! The caliber of ideas submitted was exceptional. We’ll be in touch this week with everyone who submitted a proposal.