President Obama Speaks about the International Affairs Budget

April 5, 2010 By Jordan Smith

President Obama sought to dispel myths about how much the United States spends on foreign assistance, In a discussion on jobs and the economy in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Friday. “A lot of people think if you just eliminated foreign aid we could balance the budget,” he said. Indeed, polls have repeatedly shown than Americans consistently overestimate the levels of foreign aid.  A World Public Opinion poll, for example, found in 2001 that half of all Americans thought foreign aid comprised at least 20 percent of the budget, and the average response was 25 percent.

In fact, as the president explained, the actual amount is much lower. “Foreign aid accounts for about 1.5 to 2 percent of the budget,” Obama observed. (The Administration’s $58.5 billion FY11 International Affairs Budget request represents only 1.4% of the entire federal budget.) “We’re going to have to tackle the big stuff if we’re going to get our budget under control,” the president explained. Indeed, eliminating the International Affairs budget would barely even make a dent in the debt, but it would irrevocably damage our ability to address the growing global challenges and opportunities of the 21st Century.

President Obama’s is just the latest statement from his administration to attest to the importance of the International Affairs Budget. Secretary Gates said in 2008 that “It has become clear that America’s civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long – relative to what we traditionally spend on the military, and more important, relative to the responsibilities and challenges our nation has around the world.” Secretary Clinton has said that “In the face of formidable global challenges, our success requires a robust State Department and USAID working side-by-side with a strong military. To exercise our global leadership effectively, we need to harness all three Ds – diplomacy, development and defense.”

Video Credit: White House