Foreign Aid: An Introduction to U.S. Programs
National Security has been the predominant theme of U.S. assistance programs.
Plan (1948-1951) and through the Cold War, U.S. aid programs were viewed by
secure U.S. base rights or other support in the anti-Soviet struggle. After the Cold
regional issues, such as Middle East peace initiatives, the transition to democracy
illicit drug production and trafficking in the Andes. Without an overarching
security rationale, foreign aid budgets decreased in the 1990s. However, since the
reconstruction programs in Afghanistan and Iraq. As noted, global development
has been featured as a key element in U.S. national security strategy in both Bush
Commercial Interests. Foreign assistance has long been defended as a way to
either promote U.S. exports by creating new customers for U.S. products or by
improving the global economic environment in which U.S. companies compete.
Humanitarian Concerns. Humanitarian concerns drive both short-term
brought on by more systemic problems. Providing assistance for humanitarian
public and policymakers alike.
The objectives of aid are thought to fit within these rationales. Aid objectives include promoting
economic growth and reducing poverty, improving governance, addressing population growth,
expanding access to basic education and health care, protecting the environment, promoting
stability in conflictive regions, protecting human rights, promoting trade, curbing weapons
proliferation, strengthening allies, and addressing drug production and trafficking. The
expectation has been that, by meeting these and other aid objectives, the United States will
achieve its national security goals as well as ensure a positive global economic environment for
speaking, different types of foreign aid support different objectives. But there is also considerable
overlap among categories of aid. Multilateral aid serves many of the same objectives as bilateral
development assistance, although through different channels. Military assistance, economic
security aid—including rule of law and police training—and development assistance programs
may support the same U.S. political objectives in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Military assistance and alternative development programs are integrated elements of American
counter-narcotics efforts in Latin America and elsewhere.
Depending on how they are designed, individual assistance projects on the ground can also serve
multiple purposes. A health project ostensibly directed at alleviating the effects of HIV/AIDS by
feeding orphan children may also stimulate grassroots democracy and civil society
additionally meeting U.S. humanitarian objectives. Microcredit programs may help develop local
Water and sanitation improvements both mitigate health threats and stimulate economic growth
by saving time previously devoted to water collection, raising school attendance for girls, and
facilitating tourism, among other effects.
around five strategic objectives, each of which includes a number of program elements,
22 U.S.C. 5401); the FREEDOM Support Act of 1992 (P.L. 102-511; 22 U.S.C. 5801); the United
States Leadership Against HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-25; 22
U.S.C. 7601); the Tom Lantos and Henry J. Hyde United States Global Leadership Against
HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria Reauthorization Act of 2008 (P.L. 110-293); the
Millennium Challenge Act of 2003 (Division D, Title VI of P.L. 108-199); and the Enhanced
Partnership With Pakistan Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-73; 22 U.S.C. 8401).
considered annually within the State-Foreign Operations spending bill have assumed greater
significance for Congress in influencing U.S. foreign aid policy. Not only do appropriations bills
set spending levels each year for nearly every foreign assistance account, State-Foreign
Operations appropriations also incorporate new policy initiatives that would otherwise be debated
and enacted as part of authorizing legislation.