The next federal government budget cycle kicked off this week in Washington, DC, with the release of the President’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2019. This document contains bad news for the international affairs budget overall, as well as for people around the world struggling to overcome extreme poverty, hunger, and disasters. Funding is at risk for many of the programs fundamental to Action Against Hunger’s efforts to enable entire communities around the world to be free from hunger.
The President’s budget—a non-binding document which lays out the administration’s vision—proposes an approximately 30 percent cut to the international affairs budget, which funds the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). At a time when international crises such as threats of famine, conflict-based emergencies, and natural disasters are increasing in many parts of the world, these cuts are deeply troubling.
Such a severe cut to an already tiny portion of the U.S. would greatly harm America’s ability to fulfill its role as a global leader and to confront a complex array of humanitarian and development issues around the world. (Foreign assistance only makes up about one percent of the total annual federal budget.)
The budget also proposes steep funding cuts to specific areas, such as food security and nutrition, which are vital to empowering vulnerable communities around the world. A few examples:
- Development Assistance: In language similar to last year, the President’s budget proposes to eliminate the Development Assistance budget account and to consolidate it along with three other accounts into a new Economic Support Development Fund. This change, if enacted, would result in a steep 43 percent cut to the programs currently contained within the four accounts including Development Assistance, which would mean a sharp overall reduction in funding for development programming. The Development Assistance account funds many international development priorities such as Feed the Future, water and sanitation, and global education. Congress rejected the elimination of the Development Assistance account last year and has continued to fund it, despite the President’s request.
- Food for Peace: The budget recommends eliminating the Title II Food for Peace program, which provides emergency and development food aid to hungry people around the world through the provision of both U.S. commodities as well as vouchers for cash and food. The budget asks that all food aid instead be provided through the International Disaster Assistance account, which would receive a cut of 14 percent itself. This echoes a proposal offered last year by the administration that was rejected by Congress, which has continued to fund Food for Peace in its most recent appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2018.
- Global Health: The Global Health-USAID account, which funds nutrition and maternal and child health programs, would receive $1.928 billion – a cut of approximately 37 percent from FY17 levels.
- Nutrition: Nutrition would receive a 37 percent cut – going from its current level of $125 million to $79 million.
The President’s budget proposal includes language about the need to support efforts to end preventable child deaths—for example, through community management of acute malnutrition—as well as about preventing potential famines by building resilience in sub-Saharan Africa. However, these words will mean little without strong funding levels to back them up.
While all of these proposed cuts add up to an alarming picture, there is hope for a better outcome. The United States Congress, not the White House, controls the budget process. Last year, in response to deep proposed cuts in the administration’s budget request, members of Congress from both parties stepped up to restore sufficient funding levels to accounts like nutrition, water, and Food for Peace, among others, and provided far more funding for the State Department and USAID than the President’s budget requested.
Congress is still wrapping up the FY18 budget process, but it will soon be time for both the House and the Senate to begin drafting their own appropriations bills, which, hopefully, will contain much stronger funding for international development priorities. This is a critically important time to reach out to your U.S. Senators and Representatives to tell them you support for strong funding for international affairs, particularly for global food security; nutrition; water, sanitation, and hygiene; humanitarian response; and other accounts critical to saving lives and ending hunger and malnutrition worldwide.
Thank you for taking action to push for long-term change. With your support, we will never give up. Until the world is free from hunger. For everyone. For good.