Trump's 'America First' budget slashes foreign aid, multilateral funding

U.S. President Donald Trump. Photo by: Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA

Read in-depth analysis of how Trump's budget affects everything from local jobs to foreign stability.

President Donald Trump’s first budget proposes 28 percent cuts to the United States Agency for International Development and the State Department and recommends slashing funding to the United Nations.

The draft budget, which was released Thursday morning, reveals plans to stop U.S. funding for U.N. climate change deals, but will preserve support for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief and meet commitments made to the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, and to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

The budget also proposes scrapping a number of independent agencies, including the U.S. African Development Foundation, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the United States Institute of Peace.

There is likely to be fierce debate in Congress about the level of the cuts to foreign aid, which many observers believe means the budget is unlikely to pass in its proposed form. Before firm details were announced, Trump’s cuts to State and USAID had already sparked opposition, including from senior Republicans such as Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina, who said a rumored 37 percent cut would be “dead on arrival,” and Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, who gave a speech on the Senate floor outlining his arguments for foreign aid.

UN calls for continued engagement as Trump budget aims to slash funding

Secretary-General António Guterres has called the proposed budget "complex and lengthy." It aims to cut U.S. support to U.N. agencies and peacekeeping operations, fulfilling a pledge of President Donald Trump to decrease foreign aid.

Trump asks for a $54 billion increase in defense spending in his draft budget, which is called “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again.” This budget is an outline of his policy priorities and are recommendations for Congress, which ultimately makes decisions about government spending. This proposed budget would take effect October 1, only after approval by Congress.

“It is time to prioritize the security and well-being of Americans, and to ask the rest of the world to step up and pay its fair share,” Trump said in a statement included in the budget, justifying what he described as “deep cuts” to foreign aid.

The 2018 budget requests $25.6 billion in funding for the Department of State and USAID, a $10.1 billion reduction from the previous year. The draft budget includes language indicating a closer relationship between the two departments, saying the budget "recognizes the need for State and USAID to pursue greater efficiencies through reorganization and consolidation in order to enable effective diplomacy and development."

The document also calls for an $803 million, or 35 percent reduction, in funding for Treasury International Programs, which includes multilateral institutions, and international funds.  Funding to multilateral development banks, including the World Bank, would be cut by approximately $650 million over three years.

U.N. agencies would see their funding cut and are expected to “rein in costs,” according to the budget. The U.S. also plans to cap contributions to U.N. peacekeeping to no more than 25 percent. The budget does allow for “significant funding of humanitarian assistance, including food aid, disaster, and refugee program funding,” but no specific numbers are given. The budget proposes eliminating the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance account.

The budget also calls for the U.S. to withdraw from all U.N. climate change programs, including the Green Climate Fund and Climate Investment Funds.

Global health programs including Gavi, PEPFAR, and the Global Fund escaped cuts and their funding is to be preserved at current commitment levels under the budget. However, the Fogarty International Center at the National Institutes of Health, which focuses on global health, is also earmarked for elimination.

Cuts to the State Department’s Educational and Cultural Exchange budget could see funding for the programs such as the Young African Leaders Initiative cut — while maintaining funding for the Fulbright Program.

The budget also includes $3.1 billion for “ensuring that Israel has the ability to defend itself from threats and maintain its Qualitative Military Edge.”

Stay tuned to Devex for more news and analysis of what the Trump administration means for global development. Read more coverage here and subscribe to The Development Newswire.

About the author

  • Sophie Edwards

    Sophie Edwards is a Reporter for Devex based in London covering global development news including global education, water and sanitation, innovative financing, the environment along with other topics. She has previously worked for NGOs, the World Bank and spent a number of years as a journalist for a regional newspaper in the U.K. She has an MA from the Institute of Development Studies and a BA from Cambridge University.