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Copyright © 2019 The American Israel Public Affairs Committee

Editorial: The Case for Foreign Aid

The Trump administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 budget request proposes a 32 percent cut in U.S. foreign aid. However, the United States faces significant, ever-evolving national security challenges abroad which necessitate a robust foreign aid budget. At about one percent of the budget, foreign aid is a cost-effective, small investment that enables Washington to engage across the globe and helps preserve America’s safety, security and prosperity.


Foreign aid promotes economic growth at home.


In the current global economy—in which ninety-five percent of the world's consumers live outside the United States and one in five American jobs is linked to U.S. exports—foreign markets are crucial to the growth of American businesses.


By helping countries stabilize their governments and economies, the United States fosters new customer bases for American businesses and creates more jobs at home. And by funding commercial attaches and trade assistance programs, foreign aid helps U.S. businesses create the relationships and the support they need to sell in foreign markets. In contrast, cuts in the foreign aid budget "would deprive American companies of potential new markets and make them less competitive, while also harming the health and productivity of some of the poorest people in the world," according to Bill Gates.


Foreign aid bolsters America’s national security.


American military leaders have repeatedly warned that the United States cannot meet its security challenges through military actions alone—foreign aid, to include American diplomacy, reinforces American military efforts to promote stability in crucial conflict zones.   


According to Secretary of Defense James Mattis in February 2017, “The more that we put into the State Department’s diplomacy, hopefully the less we have to put into a military budget…” That same month, more than 120 retired generals and admirals similarly wrote to Congressional leadership that “elevating and strengthening diplomacy and development alongside defense are critical to keeping America safe.”


Terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida, Hezbollah, Hamas and the Islamic State (ISIS), prey on the world’s disenfranchised to spread their anti-Western ideology and recruit new adherents. A small investment in foreign aid can help avert wars and ensure our diplomats operate safely. By advancing economic, political and social stability in other nations, foreign aid can help prevent these areas from becoming breeding grounds for terrorism. “Prevention—whether of terror attacks, weapons proliferation, pandemic disease, economic meltdown, societal collapse or the spread of radical ideology—is always cheaper and easier,” AIPAC CEO Howard Kohr stated in written testimony submitted to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs in April 2017.


Security assistance to Israel highlights the dividends of a robust foreign aid budget.


In a Middle East that is increasingly chaotic and uncertain, Israel is the one stable, reliable, democratic ally that the United States can consistently count on. Aid to Israel gives the Jewish state the resources it needs to serve as an anchor of stability in the region and deter the combination of forces arrayed against it.


Accordingly, in the over 40 years since the 1973 Yom Kippur War, U.S. support for Israel through annual security assistance has helped deter conflict by making it clear to potential foes that they cannot defeat the Jewish state. In 2007, the United States and Israel signed a 10-year Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) calling for America to provide $30 billion in security assistance over the next decade. And in 2016, the two countries signed a new MOU that pledges $38 billion in security assistance between 2019 and 2028, including $5 billion for missile defense.


This assistance is a key element of Israel’s defense posture and the most tangible way the United States helps Israel maintain its military superiority and defense capabilities in a region full of growing threats: an aggressive Iran, hundreds of thousands of Hezbollah and Hamas rockets pointed at the Jewish state, civil war in Syria, an uncertain future in Jordan and ISIS in the Sinai Peninsula.


Cooperation between the two countries in intelligence, homeland security, missile defense and counterterrorism has also helped the United States meet its growing security challenges. As a result of the strong friendship between Israel and the United States, the Israel Defense Forces and the U.S. military share technologies and techniques that greatly benefit both nations.


In June 2017, Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities Thomas Harvey praised the mutually beneficial, bilateral relationship, stating that “The jointly developed Arrow and David's Sling weapon system programs provide Israel with the capability to defend itself against imminent and emerging ballistic missile threats while benefiting the United States through technology sharing.”


Representing approximately one penny of every budget dollar, foreign aid is a cost-effective investment in America’s national security and economic prosperity.


To this end, Congress should support a robust foreign aid budget and oppose disproportionate cuts in order to ensure America’s strong leadership position in the world.


Congress should also demonstrate America’s unwavering commitment to Israel by supporting $3.1 billion for U.S. security assistance to Israel in FY 18—in accordance with the current Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the two countries—as well as $705.8 million for joint U.S.-Israel missile defense cooperation. 


Tags: Near East Report Near-East-Report