Details of US Budget Cuts to Foreign Affairs Programs Emerge

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden meet with Office of Management and Budget Director Jack Lew and Rob Nabors, White House director of legislative affairs, on April 5, 2011, at the Oval Office, April 5, 2011. Obama and Biden later held talks with House Republican and Senate Democratic leaders on the federal government's budget. Photo by: Pete Souza / The White House

The U.S. budget deal struck by Congress last Friday (April 8) contains more than $8.4 billion in cuts to the Obama administration’s foreign affairs spending request for fiscal 2011 and is a $504 million reduction from fiscal 2010 levels.

The House and Senate are expected to take up the 2011 spending bill on Thursday (April 14).

According to details published on the House Appropriations Committee’s website, the cuts apply to the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Millennium Challenge Corp., in addition to the U.S. government’s financing of multilateral institutions:

  • The Economic Support Fund, which finances a range of USAID programs received the largest total cut within the State Foreign Operations and Related Programs budget. The ESF fund will get $379 million less than it received in fiscal 2010 and will get $1.8 billion less than the president requested for fiscal 2011.

  • Foreign food assistance will be cut by $194 million to fiscal 2010 levels and is $273 million less than what the Obama administration requested for fiscal 2011.

  • Contributions to the United Nations and other international organizations will be cut by $377 million compared with fiscal 2010 and is $304 million less than requested for the year.

  • USAID’s operating expenses, which cover staff salaries and will therefore impact its ability to hire, will be cut by $39 million compared to fiscal 2010 and marks a $122 million decline from the fiscal 2011 budget request.

  • The Millennium Challenge Corp.’s budget will be cut by $205 million compared with fiscal 2010, and is $380 million less than requested for fiscal 2011. 

  • The Office of the Global AIDS Coordinator will see its budget for fiscal 2011 cut by $14 million, compared to fiscal 2010. The administration had requested $155 million for this body in its fiscal 2011 request.

“These significant cuts to the State Department and foreign assistance will mean we will not meet some of the ambitious goals set for the nation in the President’s Budget,” wrote White House Communications Director Dan Pfieffer on the White House blog.

Reflecting the tense nature of negotiations throughout the fiscal 2011 budget battles, the Senate Appropriations Committee attempted to strike a positive tone with the final budget deal relative to the most extreme cuts proposed in House Resolution 1, while the House Appropriations Committee emphasized the strength of the cuts achieved.

In a press release, the Senate Appropriations Committee noted that “H.R. 1 would have cut funding for the Department of State and foreign operations by $3.8 billion below the FY10 enacted level…It would have caused serious harm to U.S. embassy and consular operations which millions of Americans who live, work and study abroad depend on every day, and to programs that directly protect U.S. national security and other important diplomatic and economic interests, and which provide life-saving aid to victims of disease, war and natural disasters.”

Meanwhile on the House side, committee chairman Hal Rogers noted in a release that “Never before has any Congress made dramatic cuts such as those that are in this final legislation. The near $40 billion reduction in non-defense spending is nearly five times larger than any other cut in history, and is the result of this new Republican majority’s commitment to bring about real change in the way Washington spends the people’s money.”

To be sure, some programs were spared cuts proposed under H.R. 1:

  • International Disaster Assistance. The bill provides $865 million for IDA, which is $20 million above the fiscal 2010 level and $431 million above the amount provided in H.R. 1.

  • Global Agriculture and Food Security. Although it provides less than the administration had requested, the bill provides $100 million for the newly established multilateral fund. H.R. 1 did not provide funding for this fund, which supports agriculture development in countries in Africa and Asia threatened by widespread hunger and famine.

Some elements of the U.S. foreign affairs budget were left intact.

  • The bill provides $7.8 billion for global health programs, marking a $66 million increase from fiscal 2010 levels. It also provides $750 million for the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, which is equal to the fiscal 2010 levels and includes and additional $300 million in funding for the Global Fund.

>> Obama Pushes More Hires at USAID, State Department

>> White House Eyes New $200M Global Health Fund

Eliza Villarino contributed reporting to this article.

Read more about U.S. development aid.

About the author