Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Congressional Research Report on US Foreign Aid

Foreign Aid: an Intro to US Programs & Policy (link here)

Summary Extract

Foreign assistance is a fundamental component of the international affairs budget and is viewed by many as an essential instrument of U.S. foreign policy. Since the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, foreign aid has increasingly been associated with national security policy. U.S. foreign aid policy has developed around three primary rationales: national security, commercial interests, and humanitarian concerns. 

These broad rationales are the basis for the myriad objectives of U.S. assistance, including promoting economic growth, reducing poverty, improving governance, expanding access to health care and education, promoting stability in conflictive regions, promoting human rights, strengthening allies, and curbing illicit drug production and trafficking.

In FY2010, U.S. foreign assistance totaled $39.4 billion, or 1.1% of total budget authority. In real terms, this was the highest level of U.S. foreign assistance since 1985. The U.S. Agency for International Development and the State Department, the primary administrators of U.S. foreign assistance, provided $10.38 billion in security-related assistance; $10.93 billion for health, education, and social welfare programs; $3.64 billion for governance programs; $5.21 for economic growth activities; and $4.98 in humanitarian assistance. Assistance can take the form of cash transfers, equipment and commodities, infrastructure, or technical assistance, and, in recent decades, is provided almost exclusively on a grant rather than loan basis.

Key foreign assistance trends in the past decade include growth in development and humanitarian aid, particularly global health programs, and, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, increased security assistance directed toward U.S. allies in the anti-terrorism effort. 

In FY2010, Afghanistan, Israel, Pakistan, Egypt, and Haiti were the top recipients of U.S. aid, reflecting long-standing aid commitments to Israel and Egypt, the strategic significance of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and emergency earthquake-related assistance to Haiti. Africa is the top recipient region of U.S. aid, at 29%, with the Near East and South and Central Asia each receiving 26%.

This is a significant shift from FY2000, when the Near East received 60% of U.S. aid, and reflects significant increases in HIV/AIDS-related programs concentrated in Africa and the expansion of security assistance to Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Other notable trends since FY2000 include the increasing role of the Department of Defense in foreign assistance and aid targeted at countries that have demonstrated a commitment to good governance, exemplified by the creation of the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

This report provides an overview of the U.S. foreign assistance program by answering frequently asked questions on the subject. It is intended to provide a broad view of foreign assistance over time, and will be updated periodically. For more current information on foreign aid funding levels, see CRS reports on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs appropriations.

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