The International Affairs Budget (IAB) is the part of the U.S. budget dedicated to supporting American development and diplomatic programs, including the State Department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Peace Corps. At an estimated $59.1 billion in FY 2017, U.S. foreign assistance represented just over 1% of the total federal budget. Although this funding accounts for a minor proportion of U.S. spending, it is critical for promoting American interests and values around the world.
America’s diplomats are our first line of defense, advancing our nation’s goals without resorting to military conflict. They staff more than 280 embassies and consulates around the world to protect American citizens, promote our businesses, confront our adversaries, and rally allies to our side.
USAID works around the world to alleviate poverty and health crises, promote education programs, advance gender equality, and support democratic governance. U.S. development assistance is also a cornerstone of American national security. In a 2017 op-ed for Politico, Admiral Mike Mullen (Ret.) and General James Jones (Ret.) highlighted the relationship between global stability and U.S. interests, writing that our security is, "advanced by the development of stable nations that are making progress on social development, economic growth and good governance; by countries that enforce the rule of law and invest in the health and education of their own people."
On February 9, 2018, following a months long political standoff between lawmakers, President Trump signed into law a two-year budget deal after its passage by Congress. The deal increases discretionary spending caps for the entire federal budget by about $300 billion over the next two years, allowing for the expansion of both military and non-defense spending, including on international affairs. It did not specify how funding would be directed to the State Department, USAID, or other civilian foreign policy organizations.
Three days later, on February 12, the Trump administration released its own FY19 budget proposal. The proposal calls for a 30% reduction in the IAB compared with FY17. This recommendation received harsh, bipartisan criticism from a number of groups, including lawmakers, military leaders and veterans, and aid groups. As explained in a February 2018 report by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), “A cut of this magnitude would take funding back to levels not seen since 9/11 (inflation adjusted) and would cut funding for the International Affairs Budget as a percentage of GDP to its lowest level since World War II.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
If these budget cuts go forward, it would mean closing USAID missions in countries around the world, laying off diplomats, and reducing our capacity to manage challenges like North Korea and Iran through diplomacy. We can't let that happen. The good news is that Congress is under no obligation to follow President Trump's budget cuts for the State Department and USAID. Call your representatives today at (202) 224-3121 and ask Congress to fully fund the International Affairs Budget at $60 billion. Here's what to say:
- President Trump's budget cuts would impose the largest reduction in resources for the U.S. diplomatic corps and development programs since the 1990s. That means less money to fight infectious diseases, few programs to recruit and retain talented young diplomats, and less resources to provide life saving humanitarian aid in places like Sudan.
- Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis said that if we don't fund the State Department fully, he needs to buy more ammunition. In other words, the chances that military conflicts break out – including in places like the Korean Peninsula, where we still need an Ambassador – are more likely.
- If the State Department is weaker, who gains from that? Not the American public.
- Congress needs to stand up to President Trump's dangerous efforts to destroy our capacity for diplomacy before it's too late.
- Despite Growing Dangers Facing America, Budget Request Once Again Calls for Draconian Cuts to International Affairs – Analysis of the Administration’s FY19 International Affairs Budget request, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, February 2018
- Community Letter Supporting FY2019 International Affairs Budget – InterAction, February 2018
- Leading Humanitarian, Development, And Global Health Organizations Again Join Forces Against Cuts To Foreign Assistance – ONE Campaign, February 2018
- Dismantling the Foreign Service – By Nicholas Burns and Ryan C. Crocker, The New York Times, November 2017
- Foreign Aid Has an Enormous ROI for the U.S. and Boosts Our National Security. Don't Cut It. – By Richard Fontaine, IJR, July 2017
- American Leadership — We Can’t Do It for Free – By Colin Powell, The New York Times, May 2017
- Foreign Assistance Directly in the National Interest – By Alicia Phillips Mandaville, Center for Strategic & International Studies, March 2017
- Rethinking the Battlefield – By Senator Chris Murphy