Our Issues

International Affairs Budget

The Background

The International Affairs Budget (IAB) is the part of the U.S. budget dedicated to supporting American diplomacy and development initiatives, including funding for the State Department, United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Peace Corps. At just a fraction of the cost of maintaining U.S. military presence around the world, these non-military investments help the U.S. to support democracy and free markets, fight violent extremism, confront poverty and health crises, and promote positive relationships with America’s allies.

With a minuscule price tag making up just one percent of the federal budget, these programs represent the best of American values to the world. U.S. foreign aid programs address health crises, provide life-saving food aid in war torn countries, combat fragility and instability in war-torn countries, promote education programs, and help women and girls to thrive. They also protect American national security. In a 2017 op-ed for Politico, Admiral Mike Mullen (Ret.) and General James Jones (Ret.) advocated for fully funding the International Affairs Budget by writing that our security is “advanced by the development of stable nations that are making progress on social development, economic growth and good governance; by countries that enforce the rule of law and invest in the health and education of their own people.”


of Americans think it is best for the future of the nation if the United States takes an active part in world affairs, according to a 2020 Chicago Council poll.

The Trump Administration repeatedly tried to cut funding for American diplomacy and development programs, sending to Congress budgets that would slash funding for non-military initiatives by one-third. The results of those cuts would have been devastating, resulting in a global retreat of American leadership and the closure of USAID and diplomatic missions around the world. Fortunately, bipartisan majorities in Congress consistently rejected the Trump administration’s plans.

The Latest

The Biden-Harris administration has already taken important steps to support the International Affairs budget. In the first hours of his administration, President Biden unfroze $17 billion of foreign aid funding that was withheld by the Trump administration.

James N. Mattis

“If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition ultimately.”

— Fmr. Secretary of Defense James Mattis Hear this quote in context

Senators Chris Murphy and Chris Van Hollen together with Representatives David Cicilline and Ami Bera offered a proposal early in the 117th Congress that called for a 20% spending increase in the foreign affairs budget, calling for $68.7 billion for the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. Their aim was to set the bar for the Biden-Harris administration and start a conversation about how to effectively reinvest in diplomacy and foreign aid.

Unfortunately, numerous continuing resolutions bogged down efforts to make suitable investments in diplomacy for FY2022, resulting in a meager one percent increase in funding for the State and Foreign Operations account. What’s more, our defense budget continues to be raised even beyond what the Pentagon says it needs. We need to have an honest discussion about our defense budget, our International Affairs Budget, and what our national security needs truly are.

What You Can Do

We need to urge Congress to continue to not just hold the line on the International Affairs Budget, but increase funding. Our investments in the International Affairs Budget support our goals abroad and at home. Under the Trump administration, Congress fought back against attempted cuts. Now it is time to robustly fund the International Affairs Budget.

Call your representatives today at (202) 224-3121 and ask your members of your Congress to support the International Affairs Budget. Here’s what to say: