The Republican-controlled House Foreign Aid Subcommittee slashed the budget for foreign aid and contributions to international organizations including the United Nations yesterday, failing to meet the Obama administration’s requests on most line items.
The exact effects of the cuts are impossible to know, but the U.S.’ role in the world and international organizations will certainly be curtailed. It’s not even clear how the lead foreign aid vehicle — the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) — will be able to stay afloat with the budget for its operating expenses (paying salaries and keeping the lights on) amounting to less than two thirds of what the administration asked for. At $982 million, that’s a 27 percent decrease from USAID operations spending last year.
Here is a chart looking at other important programs that also took a hit (using statistics from InterAction, a coalition of U.S. non-profits):
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton already fired back at the subcommittee, telling media that the cuts were “debilitating to my efforts to carry out a considered foreign policy and diplomacy.”
Indeed, cuts to foreign assistance and international organizations (which includes the U.N.) will likely lessen U.S. influence. For example, the Economic Support Fund (ESF) allows the U.S. to give development aid to countries like Iraq, where the U.S. seeks to retain some influence as its military presence winds down. But ESF funds were cut by more than $500 million and will amount to more than 40 percent less than what the U.S. spent two years ago.
The massive cuts also run counter to the advice given to Congress in April by 70 retired top military leaders. General Michael W. Hagee, USMC (Ret.), who co-chaired the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s (USGLC) group, said at the time:
We face tremendous challenges around the world, today, and we must have our military working hand-in-hand with diplomats and development experts to meet these challenges. Without the proper resources for our civilian agencies, our national security is at risk.
Indeed, deep cuts to programs like food assistance and disaster relief aid are particularly striking as the worst drought in 60 years caused a U.N-declared famine in Somalia.