WASHINGTON, D.C. — On February 2 of this year, President Obama released his 2016 Fiscal Budget. While the budget generally aims to lower the national deficit, this year it also raises funds for foreign aid and other international programs.
Excluding Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO), Obama’s budget calls for $46.3 billion to be allocated to the State Department and Other International Programs (State/OIP). This is an increase of $6.2 billion from 2015. The budget also includes projections of foreign aid increasing up to $53.9 billion by 2025.
Part of Obama’s 2016 fiscal budget emphasizes “using evidence and evaluation to drive innovation and outcomes.”
This is a call to reform spending allocations. By using more technocratic methods to determine where funds are most needed the government can maximize the effectiveness of spending.
This is particularly important for State/OIP spending. This call to action joins the U.S. with many other countries who recognize a need for better international data, especially when it comes to global poverty assistance. In fact, the budget includes a measure for “using data and evidence to reduce global poverty.”
This measure calls for $1.25 billion to be provided over two years to the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). The MCC is a U.S. organization that was created by Congress in 2004.
The MCC works closely with other agencies like USAID to discuss and help implement policy reforms to increase U.S. foreign assistance. This year the MCC completed building a 157-mile long highway across Senegal, which connects people all over West Africa to the largest market in the region.
In Obama’s 2015 State of the Union Address, he told the American people that we need “to build a more effective global effort to prevent the spread of future pandemics, invest in smart development, and eradicate extreme poverty.”
In the budget message, President Obama makes it clear that global health will be the top priority for foreign assistance. The message stresses the importance of using the Global Health Security Agenda to conquer epidemics like Ebola and polio.
The budget also creates an Impact Fund to support efforts to eradicate HIV/AIDs around the world.
The focus on global health is typical for U.S. foreign aid budgets where a third of foreign assistance funds go towards global health. Humanitarian assistance, which includes education efforts in developing countries, and economic development for foreign countries takes second priority.
This makes up one-third of the foreign assistance funds. The final third of the money is split among all other efforts from assisting elections in new democracies to combating drug trafficking.
While numbers like $46.3 billion may seem large, this amount of money is actually less than one percent of the total fiscal budget.
In comparison, increases in defense spending alone amounted to $38.2 billion this year, $1.9 billion larger than total State/OIP spending in 2015. The total defense budget proposed for 2016 is $534.3 billion.
If the aid budget were increased by just $3.2 billion, the U.S. alone could feed the 66 million school-age children around the world who go hungry each year.
Though funding for State/OIP programs is increasing, there is still more room for improvement and while the U.S. is on track to help eradicate global poverty, more can be done.
– Celestina Radogno