The Trump Administration recently released its federal budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18), proposing deep cuts for the International Affairs Budget. The proposal includes plans to cut State Department and USAID funding by 31 percent and the Treasury International Programs budget by 35 percent. The proposed $37.6 billion total budget cut for the State Department and USAID starkly contrasts the $54 billion increase proposed for the Department of Defense.
There has already been pushback to the proposal, including a letter signed by more than 120 retired generals and admirals against the cuts, and another opposition letter signed by more than 100 faith leaders.
Top 10 things you need to know about the International Affairs Budget
- It’s tiny. The International Affairs Budget accounts for less than one percent of the federal budget. The amount spent on foreign aid is often overestimated by the general public. A Kaiser Family Foundation poll published in 2015 asked respondents: “What percentage of the federal budget is spent on foreign aid?” — the average response was 28 percent.
- The International Affairs Budget is also referred to as the “150 account.” Foreign aid can be split into two functions: economic and development assistance (151), and security assistance (152). For FY17, the State Department requested $25.6 billion for the 151 account and $16.8 billion for the 152 account.
- Seven out of the top 10 recipients of economic and development assistance are African nations. Afghanistan is the largest recipient of economic and development assistance, as part of the ongoing reconstruction of the country after the U.S. military invasion in 2001.
- Money allocated to help alleviate global poverty is mutually exclusive from money allocated to help fund domestic poverty-reducing programs. In the overall federal budget, the International Affairs Budget is a completely separate account from the domestic expenditure. Therefore, spending money on global poverty does not have to compete with spending money on poverty here at home.
- The U.N. suggests that developed countries put 0.7 percent of their Gross National Income (GNI) toward overseas development and assistance. According to 2015 OECD statistics, the U.S. spends just 0.17 percent on overseas development and assistance — missing the U.N. target by 76 percent.
- The International Affairs Budget funds vital programs that have profound impacts on major global health threats. USAID assistance helped stall the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and continues to partner with local governments and organizations to ensure any further outbreaks are mitigated.
- USAID is the largest provider of food assistance in the world. Nearly 800 million people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger. Since its inception, around three billion people have benefited from USAID’s assistance programs.
- The International Affairs Budget has bipartisan support in Congress. U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD) led three of his bipartisan Foreign Relations Committee members in proclaiming that funding for the budget is “every bit as essential to ensuring America’s national security as funding for the Department of Defense, the Intelligence Community and law enforcement.”
- The soft power of foreign assistance and development is supplementary to the hard power of the military. In 2013, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, as Commander of U.S. Central Command, remarked to Congress, “If you don’t fully fund the State Department, then I need to buy more ammunition.” Foreign aid and development can undoubtedly play a role in fostering positive growth and warm feelings toward the U.S. in societies that are at risk of succumbing to terrorist groups.
- Spending money on international development is not just a moral decision. In an ever-connected world, funding the International Affairs Budget creates jobs for American workers and boosts the American economy. In 1996, 39 percent of exports went to developing countries. Now, more than half of U.S. exports go to developing economies. Through aid and development, people living in developing economies are becoming more wealthy and more capable of affording American products.
The International Affairs Budget is a tiny component of the overall federal budget, but its impact in myriad areas is enormous. American jobs, economic growth, national security, and global health are just a few areas that will be affected if the proposed cuts by the Trump Administration are implemented.
– Michael Farquharson