WASHINGTON — On Feb. 2, 2015, President Barack Obama proposed a budget for 2016’s fiscal year to tackle the deficit, increase government efficiency and advance America’s interests at home and abroad.
The $3.99 trillion budget proposal seeks to reverse the losses resulting from the 2013 sequestration and aims for long-term revenue increases and deficit reduction between 2016 and 2025. It capitalizes on the growth of the gross domestic product and increased revenue from income taxes. Simultaneously, the budget attempts to keep the deficit under 4.1 percent of the GDP by focusing on two key areas: tax reform primarily involving businesses and high-income households, and reduced spending on “Overseas Contingency Operations” mainly involving Iraq and Afghanistan.
The proposed budget comes at a time when America must reconfigure itself to maintain its competitive edge in an increasingly modernized world and to confront terrorism, poverty, and other factors of global instability.
In addition to building a strong economic and technological foundation at home, the budget emphasizes the relevance of global issues to America’s interests at home. It considers foreign aid a long-term investment in America.
To address the current global situation, the budget allocates $612 billion to national defense discretionary funds, a $26 billion increase from 2015. Although less than the $714 billion spent in 2010, the 2016 allocation refocuses America to address the recent changes in Iraq, Afghanistan, Ukraine and Syria and to promote regional security and prosperity.
National defense takes the lion’s share of the $612 billion. The Budget provides the Department of Defense $534 billion in base national defense discretionary spending. Furthermore, DOD has requested $51 billion in OCO spending. OCO spending is separate from base budget constraints and has been primarily concerned with funding “temporary, extraordinary requirements” in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In sharp contrast to DOD, the Department of State and Other International Programs, or State/OIP, receives $53.4 billion. In this sum, the budget includes $7 billion, an eight percent increase from the allocation in the 2015 budget, not including emergency Ebola spending. With this money, the budget supports life-saving humanitarian assistance and counterterrorism programs. Both are means to promote “sustainable security” and “shared prosperity” at home and abroad.
In its Congressional Budget Justification, which was used in the calculation of the President’s proposed budget, State/OIP constantly emphasizes the crucial link between national security and foreign aid. State/OIP plans to set aside $917 million to combat terrorism in Pakistan by assisting in Pakistan’s economic development and making education more accessible to boys and girls. For similar reasons, State/OIP also asks for $1.5 billion to support the Afghan unity government. In its request for $3.5 billion to combat ISIL and resolve the Syrian Civil War, State/OIP recognizes “humanitarian assistance” as an integral part of its counterterrorism efforts.
Regarding strictly humanitarian issues, State/OIP emphasizes that such issues are “long-term” investments meant to “dramatically increas[e]the breadth and reach of American leadership.” It asks for $2.5 billion for Migration and Refugee Assistance, $1.7 billion for International Disaster Assistance, $1.4 billion for assistance related to P.L. 480 Title II (Food for Peace), and $978 million for the Feed the Future initiative.
Recognizing the disproportionate impact global instability and poverty has had on women and girls around the world, State/OIP has requested $250 million to launch the Let Girls Learn initiative. The initiative seeks to invest in healthcare and demolish the barriers preventing women from having quality education.
Despite these investments in both America and in the world, the President’s Budget has to introduce budget cuts in order to make the investments possible. Overall, State/OIP is receiving $2.8 billion for the 2016 fiscal year. However, to arrive that number, State/OIP and USAID’s Global Health Project will lose $274 million in funding. Additionally, even Migration and Refugee Assistance will lose $600 million. In the entire Budget, there are cuts to various departments such as Health & Human Services, the Department of Justice, and the Corps of Engineers.
“[W]e have got to look to the future…and invest in the critical things we need to, to keep folks safe overseas and keep them safe at home,” Shaun Donovan, the director of the Office of Management and Budget, said in an interview with PBS about the President’s proposed budget.
– Dean Delasalas