The Background

The International Affairs Budget (IAB) is the part of the U.S. budget dedicated to supporting American diplomacy and development initiatives, including funding for the State Department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Peace Corps. At just a fraction of the cost of maintaining US military presence around the world, these non-military investments help the U.S. to support democracy and free markets, fight violent extremism, confront poverty and health crises, and promote positive relationships with America’s allies.

With a minuscule price tag, these programs represent the best of American values to the world. US foreign aid programs address health crises, provide life-saving food aid in war torn countries, promote education programs, and help women and girls to thrive. They also protect American national security. In a 2017 op-ed for Politico, Admiral Mike Mullen (Ret.) and General James Jones (Ret.) advocated for fully funding the International Affairs Budget by 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."

The Trump Administration has repeatedly tried to cut funding for American diplomacy and development programs, sending to Congress budgets that would slash funding for non-military initiatives by one-third. The results of those cuts would have been devastating, resulting in a global retreat of American leadership and the closure of US Agency for International Development missions around the world. Fortunately bipartisan majorities in Congress have consistently rejected their plans.

The latest

In March 2019, President Trump released his FY20 budget, which included a drastic 24% cut to the International Affairs budget from FY19 levels. The budget proposed to further increase US military spending, while cutting humanitarian assistance, UN Peacekeeping, and family planning programs to assist vulnerable women and girls around the world.

Fortunately Democrats and Republicans in Congress rejected the cuts: the House Appropriations Committee approved an FY20 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill that provided $56.4 billion in base discretionary funding, $13.7 billion above President Trump’s budget request. Congress made its intentions crystal clear: the U.S. should maintain its principled leadership role in the world and deepen our investments in global stability and American security.

But as soon as Congress left Washington for August recess, the Trump Administration tried another line of attack – they implemented a spending freeze on State Department and USAID, suddenly cutting off billions of dollars in funding and leaving life-saving programs in the lurch. The Trump Administration’s attempt to overrule Congress by freezing already-appropriated funds could be precursor to proposing a rescissions package to Congress: an effort to claw back already appropriated funds. These reckless actions could affect millions of beneficiaries and America’s standing around the world if Congress fails to stand up to the Trump Administration and reject the cuts.


President Trump has targeted America’s non-military foreign affairs programs since he took office. Democrats and Republicans in Congress have always beaten back those cuts – they know they would mean closing USAID missions in countries around the world, laying off diplomats who watch over Americans traveling overseas, and reducing our capacity to prevent new crises before they begin. But now, Trump is taking his attacks one step further: blocking funding already appropriated by Congress.

The good news is that Congress is under no obligation to pass Trump’s dangerous rescissions package. And they won’t if we make our voices heard. Call your representatives today at (202) 224-3121 and ask your representatives to reject cuts to the International Affairs Budget. Here's what to say:

  • President Trump's budget cuts would have massive negative effects on American diplomacy and development efforts. That means less money to fight infectious diseases, fewer programs to recruit and retain the next generation of talented young diplomats, and less resources to provide life-saving humanitarian aid in places like Yemen and Venezuela.

  • We also question the President’s motives. If the State Department is weaker, who gains from that? Not the American public.

  • Former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis made the case for smart, cost-saving investments in State Department and USAID when he said that if the State Department was not fully funded, then he would need to buy more ammunition. In other words, when we don’t invest in diplomacy, it shifts the burden to our military service members and the ballooning Pentagon budget.