News and analysis
February 16, 2012

Global Programs See Mixed Picture in Obama Budget

President Obama has proposed a slight increase in spending on international aid in his 2013 budget plan but is also proposing cuts to global-health and humanitarian-assistance programs that could affect charities working overseas.

About $15.9-billion in the budget for the State Department, including the Agency for International Development, would go to humanitarian aid and development assistance for people in poor countries, down about 4 percent from 2012, according to analysis by InterAction, an alliance of international-development nonprofits.

The cuts include $314-million to global health programs, a decrease of 4 percent, to $7.9-billion, from 2012, and a proposed 26-percent reduction, to $13-million, in the displaced-children and orphans fund, which provides money to nonprofits that care for children in conflict zones.

In addition, migration and refugee-assistance programs would decrease 13 percent, to $1.6-billion, though emergency refugee assistance would see an 84-percent increase, to $22.8-million.

The Food for Peace grant program, which provides money for emergency food and goods overseas, also faces a proposed cut of 5 percent, or $66-million, to $1.5-billion.

InterAction calls the proposal a “mixed bag for the world’s poor.”

“Disasters are not predictable,” says Mark Lotwis, senior director for policy and advocacy at InterAction. “But they occur with such regularity that the U.S. budget needs to account for that by making sure that the State Department has the resources that it needs to meet the U.S. commitments that are made publicly for these disasters when they happen.”

Other aid groups were also concerned by the potential cuts.

“We recognize that budget is under considerable strain, but foreign assistance makes up less than 1 percent of the total U.S. budget,” said Andrea Koppel, vice president for global engagement and policy at Mercy Corps, an international aid charity. “While these cuts significantly reduce our ability to help the world’s poorest people, they do virtually nothing to put a dent in the nation’s deficit.”

Mr. Lotwis said he was pleased that the State Department’s Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria would receive a 57-percent increase, to $1.65-billion in the president’s proposal.