Obama's Spending Freeze Draws Disapproval from Aid Workers

U.S. President Barack Obama stands with members of Congress in House Speaker John Boehner's ceremonial office before his State of the Union address on Jan. 25. Photo by: Pete Souza / White House

Aid workers are voicing displeasure over a five-year domestic spending freeze announced by U.S. President Barack Obama in his second State of the Union Address Jan. 25.

The proposed freeze on nonsecurity, discretionary spending would help trim the U.S. national deficit by more than USD400 billion in the next decade, Obama said.

Obama last year put forward a three-year discretionary spending freeze that exempts defense and homeland security, as well as programs managed by the State and Veterans Affairs departments. It is not yet clear if the same terms will apply in Obama’s latest proposal, Federaltimes.com reports.

The Republican party defines nonsecurity spending as all expenditure aside from funding for defense, homeland security, military construction, and veterans. The Obama administration wants to include diplomacy and development to this list, according to Josh Rogin of The Cable.

The proposed five-year freeze on nonsecurity spending could reverse gains in improving health conditions worldwide, the Global Health Council, an alliance of health professionals and organizations, argues.

Obama’s move to freeze spending in the next five years is seen as less severe than a resolution approved by the Republican-led Congress on Jan. 25 to roll back nonsecurity spending to 2008 levels.

The resolution, H. Res. 38, allows Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), chair of the House budget committee, to fix the amount of funding that the 12 appropriations subcommittees have to spend for fiscal 2011, according to Space and Technology Policy Group.

The Global Health Council is urging the Democratic-led Senate to vote against the nonbinding resolution endorsed by Congress, saying it will reduce U.S. financing for global health and child survival by 15 percent.

Other foreign aid advocates are also expected to follow suit to press Congress to support the U.S. foreign affairs budget.

Obama, in his second State of the Union Address, glossed over several issues contentious to the Republican and Democratic parties including development and the foreign aid budget. He, however, hinted at how “a new level of engagement in [U.S.] foreign affairs” is vital to preserving national security interests.

>> State of the Union: Obama Glosses Over Development

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a former staff writer, Rizza focused mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID.