Fight for a Stronger Foreign Affairs Budget

As of Tuesday, fiscal year 2014 bills have now been proposed from the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. These bills decide how much is allocated to the International Affairs Budget, which funds overseas development and diplomacy programs. Among these programs are many United Nations programs, USAID, international development banks, and the Overseas Contingency Operations.

These programs, which have an enormous impact on global and domestic wellbeing, make up a mere 1% of the total United States federal budget. The House Appropriations Committee, which released its fiscal year bill on May 17th, cut $10 billion from the already minimal amounts, which have fallen 4% since 2012.

This cut came as an enormous shock to the international development community. “These cuts represent a potential retreat of U.S. leadership in the fight against extreme poverty and preventable disease,” says CEO Tom Hart.

While the general focus of the fiscal year 2014 conversation is on belt-tightening and domestic improvements, it must not be forgotten that the 1% of the budget going towards international development has an immeasurable impact on the lives of millions worldwide while also benefiting the economy and national security of the United States. “We urge [the House] to keep in mind the disproportionate effect these cuts will have on global stability and U.S. leadership,” says Hart.

The recent release of the Senate Appropriations Committee bill comes closer to following Hart’s recommendations. The Senate committee allocates $52.2 billion for the International Affairs budget, in comparison to the House’s proposed $41.9 billion. This closely resembles the FY 2013 in total budget amounts, but with slight shifts in fund direction.

In his request for the FY 2014 budget, President Obama called for expansions in international peacekeeping activities, food aid, USAID, and global health as well as calling for greater efforts toward international political stability, post-Arab Spring democratic transitions, empowerment of girls and women, and expanding the US presence in Asia. Alongside these expansions, the President called for a downsizing in frontline assistance to the Middle East, scaling back on USAID in 11 countries, and reducing the number of focus nations under the Feed the Future and Global Health programs.

The gap between these two proposed budgets is enormous, and will require much deliberation come fall as the FY 2014 budget is finalized and enacted. The House budget offers $0 to the UN Development Program, UN Women, UN Population, the Strategic Climate Fund, Clean Technology Fund, International Fund for Agricultural Development, Global Agriculture and Food Security Fund, and the Asian & African Development banks. Losing these programs could mean thousands of women without education, a dangerously increased carbon footprint, and millions worldwide going without food and clean water.

These conditions make these countries more susceptible to violence and political instability, which pose a security risk to the United States. In addition to fostering climates of instability, pulling funding from development organizations limits the economic potential of developing nations as potential consumers of US exports. Although an initial money-saver, the $10 billion in question between the House and Senate budgets offers enormous payoffs in the long run for the United States and the developing world.

The Borgen Project urges support for the Senate Levels of the Foreign Affairs Budget, which allocates greater funding to Foreign Aid and Development Programs, and urges people to call their congressional leaders in support for the Senate Levels of the Foreign Affairs Budget.

– Melanie Mazza
Sources: USGLC, ONE, White House
Photo: Global Solutions