Rethinking Foreign Aid

April 14, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 14
Should the U.S. cut back on assistance?
By Patrick Marshall


Children wait for food aid (Getty Images/Lynsey Addario)
Children wait for food aid during a lull in fighting in famine-plagued South Sudan on March 17, 2016. The United States spent about $48 billion on military, development and humanitarian aid in 2015, or about 1.3 percent of the nation's $3.7 trillion federal budget. A large percentage of Americans think far more is spent on foreign aid. (Getty Images/Lynsey Addario)

Candidate Donald Trump promised to cut aid to countries that “hate us,” and in February, a month after becoming president, he proposed slashing foreign aid by nearly a third. Advocates of a robust aid program point out that foreign military and economic aid represents a mere 1.3 percent of the federal budget and say it is vital in protecting U.S. security interests, spreading democracy and promoting U.S. exports. More than 120 retired military officers wrote to Congress opposing cuts in foreign aid, saying it prevents conflict and helps keep poor countries from breeding terrorism. But critics of U.S. aid policy argue that too much is spent on programs that fail to produce results or winds up funding despotic regimes. With aid programs scattered across two dozen agencies, both critics and advocates of foreign assistance agree the U.S. aid bureaucracy could be more efficient. Some suggest reducing the number of agencies managing aid programs; others want more privatization of U.S. aid efforts.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Foreign Aid
Feb. 18, 2022  Fragile States
Apr. 23, 2021  U.S. Foreign Aid
Mar. 29, 2019  U.S. Foreign Policy in Transition
Apr. 14, 2017  Rethinking Foreign Aid
May 16, 2014  U.S. Global Engagement
Oct. 02, 2012  Rebuilding Haiti
Mar. 23, 2012  U.S.-Europe Relations
Jun. 17, 2011  Foreign Aid and National Security
Apr. 26, 2002  Foreign Aid After Sept. 11
Sep. 27, 1996  Reassessing Foreign Aid
Sep. 23, 1988  Foreign Aid: a Declining Commitment
Dec. 01, 1965  Development Aid for Poor Nations
Dec. 19, 1962  Foreign Aid Overhaul
Jun. 19, 1957  Population Growth and Foreign Aid
Dec. 12, 1956  Extension of Foreign Aid
Jan. 26, 1955  Aid to Asia
Feb. 04, 1953  Trade Policy and Foreign Aid
May 03, 1951  Future of Foreign Aid
Feb. 09, 1949  American Aid to Greece
Oct. 17, 1947  Conditions for American Aid
Jun. 11, 1947  Financial Aid to Foreign Countries
Aug. 06, 1940  American Relief of Famine in Europe
Feb. 16, 1940  Loans and Credits to Foreign Countries
Economic Analyses, Forecasts, and Statistics
Economic Crises
Economic Development
Global Issues
Humanitarian Assistance