U.S. Foreign Aid

- April 23, 2021
Will funding increase and priorities change under Biden?
Photo of President Biden at the State Department on February 4, 2021. (AFP/Getty Images/Saul Loeb)
President Biden's inauguration speech promised to “repair our alliances and engage with the world once again.” As he pursues these goals, international development aid will be a key tool. Biden's promise, however, comes in the context of the shock waves created by the COVID-19 pandemic and an American public with divergent views about the country's role in the world. Support for international development assistance has typically been bipartisan and advocates are optimistic about its future, but there are escalating needs that could compete with foreign aid for attention and dollars.

What was the historic connection between the Cold War and U.S. foreign aid programs?

How much of the federal government's budget is devoted to international programs?

1940s–1960sAs Cold War competition with the Soviets intensifies, U.S. international aid also grows.
1980sReagan administration expands aid budget but focuses on military assistance and market-oriented approaches.
1990sAid programs grow at government agencies and external partners as critics call for better evaluation of their effectiveness.
2000–2006Foreign aid budgets increase substantially, focusing on programs related to anti-terrorism and global health initiatives.
2010–PresentObama administration builds on global health, climate change and nutritional programs, but Trump administration calls for significant cuts.

Will the Biden administration use international aid money effectively?


Lisa L. Peña
Director, Policy, Budget and Appropriations, InterAction.


Matt Warner
President, Atlas Network.


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