A new proposal from the Trump administration suggests cuts of nearly 24% to the State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID) budgets, reports the Washington Post. Humanitarian aid, refugee assistance, and global health programs would be hit particularly hard.
2020’s proposed budget would combine 3 funds, totaling more than $9 billion, into a consolidated International Humanitarian Assistance fund of $6 billion, which is a one-third drop. Furthermore, global health program funds are proposed to drop from $8.7 billion to $6.3 billion next year.
The Trump administration has not been successful in passing proposals with deep cuts to foreign spending. Foreign spending has bipartisan support in Congress.
Retired military officers have urged Congress to restore these cuts, which they perceive as a threat to national security.
Tom Hart, director for One Campaign, a global health campaign promoter, said:
“Congress will forget this budget by Friday, but the signal it sends to the world’s poorest will be remembered.”
State Department officials defended the budget by saying that the US continues to be the largest contributor to global health and humanitarian efforts, and that the budget is a way to encourage U.S. allies with similar goals to be more generous.
Mark Green, administrator of USAID, said, “The U.S. will continue its role as the world leader in humanitarian assistance, but we’ll also call on others to do their part, and we’ll work relentlessly to assure that assistance is delivered as effectively and as efficiently as possible.
Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan added, “This budget positions the United States to win.”
The budget’s biggest cut goes to the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, which would lose almost 90 percent of its budget. If next year’s contribution comes out of the new International Humanitarian Assistance fund, it would be administered by USAID, an independent agency affiliated with the State Department.
Humanitarian aid groups have long recommended combining funding streams to respond more efficiently to humanitarian disasters, as keeping them separate and specific can hold up assistance.
As Jeremy Konyndyk, a policy fellow at the Center for Global Development points out, “Putting three accounts into a single account would be a good idea, if it’s not used to cover cuts in collective resources by a third.”
Eric Schwartz, president of Refugees International and former assistant secretary of state for the refugees bureau, agrees that the proposed consolidation could be a pretext for sizable cuts.
“There are millions of women and children who are going to suffer as a result. It’s just infuriating that the president, the secretary of state and people connected to the president talk about America being a leader in the international humanitarian response.”