United States

At a glance

ODA funding trends

  • The United States (US) is the largest donor country, with official development assistance (ODA) at US$35.5 billion in 2020 (current prices; US$35.1 billion in constant 2019 prices), according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Development Assistance Committee (DAC).
  • Relative to economic size, the US’ ODA is low, at 0.17% of gross national income (GNI). This ranks the US 24th out of the 29 donor country members of the OECD DAC.
  • The overall US foreign assistance funding level for fiscal year (FY) 2021 (October to September) was enacted at US$57.4 billion. Another US$16.1 billion was added in emergency assistance in FY2021, primarily for COVID-19-related programs.
  • The US House of Representatives passed the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) FY2022 appropriations bill, providing US$62.2 billion in funding for US foreign assistance programs, a 12% increase over FY2021 enacted levels (US$57.4 billion, excluding emergency COVID-19 funding). The Senate Appropriations Committee passed its companion 2022 SFOPS bill with funding of US$60.65 billion. Ultimately, approved levels will likely fund foreign assistance somewhere between the two levels. Both the House and Senate have funded international agricultural programs at approximately US$2.0 billion dollars (for the Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole programs). Funding for US foreign assistance is currently funded under a Continuing Resolution that expires on December 3, 2021.


Strategic priorities

  • With the elevation of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator to a permanent member of the National Security Council, the new US President, Joe Biden, has signaled that he will center global development as a key pillar of his foreign policy, on par with diplomacy and defense.
  • Early indications suggest that the Biden administration’s development agenda will focus on health systems strengthening in response to the COVID-19 crisis, restoring the US’ global health leadership role, supporting democratic reforms and digital development, strengthening US role in the multilateral system, and addressing inequalities in education exacerbated by the pandemic.
  • Biden has signaled that his administration will take development for climate seriously. In his April 2021 ‘Leaders’ Summit on Climate’, Biden announced that the US would double climate finance to low-income countries by 2024. He also elevated the role of US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate to a Cabinet position.
  • Gender has gained greater attention under Biden. He has elevated a representative for gender equality to a Cabinet-level position for the first time, established a White House Gender Policy Council within the Executive Office of the President, and released the first-ever US National Strategy for Gender Equity and Equality, which applies to both US domestic and international policy.




  • The first budget from the US’ new administration was released on May 28, 2021 and called for a US$6.8 billion increase in US foreign assistance from FY2021 levels.
  • In March of 2021, Biden signed a US$1.90 trillion COVID-19 relief bill into law with US$11.3 billion for global pandemic response activities. A large portion of the funding will go to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (the Global Fund; US$3.5 billion) and to USAID (US$3.1 billion).
  • The Biden administration has reversed many of the moves made by his predecessor to withdraw from multilateral health initiatives and cut US funding to global health works. Biden rejoined the World Health Organization (WHO), pledged support to the Access to COVID-19 Tools Accelerator (ACT-A), and joined its COVAX Facility.
  • The new administration also rescinded the Mexico City Policy, also known as the ‘global gag rule’, which prohibits overseas global health organizations from receiving US funding if they offer or refer to abortion or “abortion-related” services.

Policy Priorities

The new Biden administration is elevating development to be on par with defense and diplomacy; COVID-19 response, climate action, and democratic reforms are top priorities

Overarching priorities for US development policy are set by the White House. The Biden administration views global development as necessarily tied to diplomatic and defense priorities. President Joe Biden released an ‘Interim National Security Strategic Guidance’ document in March of 2021, outlining priorities for his administration’s global footprint, including:

  1. Decisively responding to the public health and economic crises triggered by COVID-19, including global health security;
  2. Reinvigorating and modernizing the US’ global alliances and partnerships;
  3. Moving swiftly to earn back the US’ position of leadership in international institutions, to tackle shared challenges including the climate crisis; and
  4. Revitalizing the US commitment to democracy.

In line with these priorities, through its development programs the Biden administration aims to tackle four important and interconnected challenges:

  1. The COVID-19 crisis;
  2. The climate crisis;
  3. Conflict and state collapse; and
  4. The erosion of democratic norms.

The US supports global health security through its Global Health Security (GHS) Agenda, an interagency initiative by the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and USAID which drives progress on preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease threats. Since the start of the COVID-19 crisis, the US has passed six emergency supplemental funding bills. The vast majority of the funding allocated to pandemic response in these bills was for domestic relief, but a total of approximately US$19.0billion has been allocated to the global response to date.

As part of its efforts related to conflict and state collapse, the US passed the Global Fragility Act in December of 2019.  It included the creation of a 10-year strategy to “contribute to the stabilization of conflict-affected areas, address global fragility, and strengthen the capacity of the US to be an effective leader of international efforts to prevent extremism and violent conflict”. It also included US$200 million for the Prevention and Stabilization Fund and US$30 million for a Complex Crisis Fund over the next five years. 

Gender equality is increasingly central to US development policy

The US is a strong supporter of gender equality, particularly women’s economic empowerment. In December of 2018, the government passed the Women's Economic Empowerment Act (WEEA). The initiative, supported by former White House advisor Ivanka Trump, aims to align US government efforts with the global mission of supporting women's development. WEEA was supported by the 'Women's Global Development and Prosperity Initiative' (W-GDP), launched in February of 2019 to assist 50 million women in low-income countries by 2025. The Biden administration’s new budget will rename this fund the Gender Equity and Equality Action (GEEA) fund and is proposing to fund it with US$200 million.

Gender equality is expected to become even more central to the US’ development efforts under the new administration. In March of 2021, Biden created a Gender Policy Council within the White House that will have both domestic and foreign policy roles. The Council will use diplomacy, development, trade, and defense to promote the needs and roles of women and girls internationally with a specific focus on conflict prevention, peacebuilding, democracy and governance, global health, and humanitarian assistance. Members of the council will include Cabinet-level officers from many US agencies, including the Secretary of the US Department of State and the USAID Administrator. The council will report to Biden.

The White House, USAID, and DFC lead on strategy development

Guided by the broader government priorities for development, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United States Development Finance Corporation (DFC; US’ development finance institution launched in January of 2020) have their own internal strategies and priorities.

USAID operates under the ‘Journey to Self-Reliance’ strategy (released in 2019), which aims to “end the need for” foreign assistance in partner countries. To facilitate this shift, USAID re-oriented its cooperation according to a measure of self-reliance by its partner countries. Partners are scored using ‘Country Roadmaps’, which rank countries on 17 publicly available, third-party metrics. Part of the strategy involves shifting the agency’s spending, currently concentrated on a “relatively small circle of large organizations”, towards more local and/or locally established partners. With a new administration and a new USAID Administrator, it is unclear to what extent the “Journey” will remain the driving policy, although it is not expected to undergo a wholesale change.   

The DFC prioritizes investments in low-income and lower-middle-income countries and makes investments complementary to US foreign policy, national security, and women’s economic empowerment. Its first development strategy (from October of 2020) outlined investment priorities and funding targets through 2025, which included energy, financial inclusion, food security, and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH). DFC initiatives include '2X Women’s Initiative', which aims to catalyze US$1.0 billion to provide women in low-income countries, particularly in Africa, with access to economic opportunities, and 'Connect Africa', largely focused on telecommunications and infrastructure. Enacted figures for the DFC for FY2021 were US$637 million. The Biden administration will review this strategy and put in place new priorities; it has already made climate a major new initiative for the DFC and requested increases to DFC funding in its latest budget.

ODA Breakdown

Bilateral programs receive the vast majority of US ODA

The US provides development assistance mainly in the form of bilateral support to partner countries. According to data from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the US channels US$29.5 billion of its official development assistance (ODA) bilaterally, accounting for 88% of its total ODA in 2019 (including US$7.5 billion in earmarked funding through multilaterals, which is reported to the OECD as bilateral funding). This is far above the OECD Development Assistance Committee (DAC) average of 59%, reflective of the US’ long-standing emphasis on bilateral cooperation. According to government budget documents, bilateral funding is projected to increase in FY2021 and FY2022 in line with overall ODA increases. President Joe Biden has proposed a 22% increase in the economic and development assistance accounts for FY2022.

Bilateral spending focuses on health and is channeled entirely as grants 

The largest share of US bilateral ODA to went humanitarian assistance (US$8.2 billion, or 28% of bilateral ODA in 2019), after a significant increase of 13% from 2018 levels. The second-largest sector was health and populations, which received US$6.5 billion in 2019, or 22% of US bilateral ODA that year, down 25% from 2018, likely driven by delays in funding disbursements. Budget documents suggest global health funding will increase further in FY2020 and FY2021. A significant portion of the US’ bilateral funding for health is channeled through the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR; see sector: ‘Global health’).  

In line with the US’ policy priorities, other major spending areas in 2019 included government and civil society (US$3.6 billion or 12% of bilateral ODA), in-country refugee-hosting (US$2.0 billion, or 7% of bilateral ODA), and education (US$1.4 billion, or 5%). Spending for agriculture has taken major cuts in recent years, with funding dropping at an average of 15% annually between 2016 and 2019.  

US bilateral ODA is provided entirely in the form of grants. In 2019, the US distributed 29% of its bilateral ODA funding through the public sector (DAC average 47%), 25% through multilateral organizations (as earmarked funds, considered bilateral; DAC average 22%), and 22% through NGOs and civil society organizations (CSOs; DAC average 20%). Both the administrations of former Presidents, Barack Obama and Donald Trump pledged to work with more local development partners; the Trump administration focused on conservative Christian organizations, to the concern of many development advocates. Details of how the Biden administration will prioritize partnerships are not yet clear, but a continued push toward locally-led development is expected. 


US ODA focuses on the world’s poorest countries, particularly in ‘sub-Saharan Africa’

The US focuses its ODA on the world’s poorest countries: 28% of bilateral ODA went to low-income countries in 2019 (DAC average 24%), a share that has remained essentially stable for the past five years. Regionally, the US concentrates its bilateral ODA on ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ (meaning the countries of Eastern, Western, Central, and Southern Africa, as designated by the African Union). Between 2017 and 2019, the US provided an average of US$10.7 billion (35% of its bilateral ODA) to the region per year, followed by Asia and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA region), which both received an average of US$3.7 billion or 13% in that time. Under the Biden administration, ‘sub-Saharan Africa’ will remain a high-priority region.

In 2019, Afghanistan was the largest recipient of US bilateral spending. It received US$1.4 billion in ODA, a dramatic 54% increase over 2018, likely tied to US efforts to extract troops from the region, and a coordinated parallel effort to increase the presence of development actors.  Jordan received the second-largest allocation (US$1.1 billion, a 4% decrease over 2018, when it was the largest recipient), followed by Ethiopia (US$870 million; +4%) and Kenya (US$689 million; -19%). 



Multilateral spending centers around health, with strong support for the Global Fund 

As a result of its focus on promoting national interests and strengthening bilateral relationships, the US channels a lower share of its total ODA to multilateral organizations than other OECD DAC donors. Core funding to multilateral organizations stood at US$4.2 billion in 2019, up from US$3.9 billion in 2018 but lower than 2017’s US$4.9 billion. Core contributions to multilateral organizations accounted for 12% of the US’ total ODA (DAC average: 41%).  

In absolute terms, however, the US was the fourth-largest provider of core contributions to multilaterals in 2019, behind the UK, Germany, and France. According to OECD preliminary data, the US became the third-largest provider of core contributions to multilaterals in 2020 (US$6.2 billion), behind Germany and the UK. Top recipients in 2019 were the International Development Association (IDA; US$1.1 billion), the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund; US$1.0 billion), and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi; US$290 million).

The US is the single largest donor to the Global Fund. By law, the US cannot contribute more than 33% of total Global Fund financing. Historically, its contributions have hovered very close to this ceiling at around 32%, far beyond the closest runners-up. The US pledged US$4.7 billion for the 2020-2022 replenishment period.  

The US was also one of six original donors to Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance (Gavi) in its founding year of 2000 and has remained a solid supporter since then. The US pledged US$1.2 billion to Gavi for 2020-2023.

Unless otherwise indicated, all data in this section is based on the cash-flow basis measurement system. For more information, see our Donor Tracker Codebook.

For more granular and up-to-date development finance data on the US, including information on where and in which sectors it is spending both ODA and non-ODA funds, please consult the IATI d-portal. IATI is a reporting standard and platform on which organizations and governments voluntarily publish data on their development cooperation.

Main Actors

White House sets high-level direction; Congress, the State Department, and USAID define priorities; USAID leads on administering assistance

Organizational chart USA ODA

The president, Joe Biden (Democrat), sets overarching policy orientations for US foreign assistance, including for development. The president is assisted by several White House offices. The most important for development issues are the Office of Management and Budget (OMB; for budgetary purposes) and the National Security Council (NSC). In consultation with executive agencies, OMB produces the president’s budget request, which outlines policy and funding priorities. The NSC is the principal forum for the president to consider matters of national security and foreign policy. Approximately 25 government institutions contribute to funding or implementing US foreign assistance and development cooperation.

Key institutions include: 

Government departments

The US Department of State (State Department), headed by the secretary of state (Anthony Blinken), is primarily responsible for foreign policy but is also an important party to development policy-setting. Under direction from the White House, it has sole- or joint-policy authority on issues including peacekeeping, democracy, global health, and food security. The State Department manages or co-manages a wide range of bilateral development programs as well as funding to international organizations. In countries where the US has strong foreign policy and national-security interests, the State Department and its embassies play an active role in informing overall development policy in that country. While different approaches and mechanisms are deployed depending on which governmental agency is implementing, the State Department has Integrated Country Strategies (ICS) that strive to encapsulate the government’s foreign-policy objectives into one high-level strategy.

Several offices oversee the State Department’s development-related activity:

  • The Deputy Secretary of State, Wendy Ruth Sherman, is the second-ranking officer at the State Department.

  • The Office of US Foreign Assistance Resources is led by the Director of US Foreign Assistance Resources, with Dr. Tracy Carson as the Acting Director. This office assists the Secretary of State in providing strategic direction to foreign assistance resources and coordinates policy and planning of the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). 

  • The Office of the US Global AIDS Coordinator and Health Diplomacy (OGAC) administers the State Department’s HIV/AIDS funding and coordinates the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) across the USG. PEPFAR programs are implemented by other US agencies, including USAID, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). OGAC is currently headed by Dr. Angeli Achrekar (acting).

  • The Under-Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Lisa Peterson (Acting), is responsible for US efforts to address threats to civilian security such as extremism, mass atrocities, and weak governance, as well as refugee, migration, and population issues. 

  • The Under-Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment, Ambassador Marcia Bernicat (Acting Assistant Secretary) leads efforts on policies related to economic growth, energy, environment, science, and technology.

  • The Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) leads on the US’ work with refugees, migrants, and victims of conflict. It also engages with multilateral organizations. PRM is currently led by Senior Bureau Official Nancy Izzo Jackson.

  • The US Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, is another key US State Department stakeholder. 

The US Department of Defense (DOD), currently led by Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III, manages development spending-funded military assistance programs, some humanitarian assistance, and programs on disease surveillance and health research and development.  

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), currently led by Secretary Xavier Becerra, implements global health programs, including a portion of PEPFAR. HHS has four independent agencies that are especially active in global health: the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC, further details below), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Health Services and Resources Administration (HRSA).

The US Department of the Treasury (Treasury), currently led by Secretary Janet Yellen, leads US efforts to promote economic growth and poverty reduction in low-income countries.

Bureau of International Organization Affairs (IO) develops and implements the US’ UN and other multilateral policy. IO has six diplomatic missions located in Geneva, Montreal, Nairobi, New York, Rome, and Vienna and operates under the guidance of Senior Bureau Official Ambassador Erica Barks-Ruggles.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA), currently led by Secretary Tom Vilsack, provides food assistance and finances the ‘Food for Peace Program’, the US’ largest provider of food assistance (see sectors: ‘Agriculture’ and ‘Nutrition’). 

Government agencies

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) is headed by Administrator Samantha Power. The agency is technically independent but operates within the parameters of foreign policy guidance from the president, the secretary of state, and the NSC. The agency leads the implementation of US global development programs, though it often shares responsibility for strategy and implementation with the State Department. USAID is organized around programmatic as well as country programs, managed by offices in partner countries (called USAID missions), which are supported by headquarters in Washington, DC. Based on analysis of each partner country, USAID’s overseas missions develop five-year Regional or Country Development Cooperation Strategies (CDCS) in cooperation with Washington headquarters and local stakeholders. At the country level, USAID mission directors exercise discretion on some aspects of strategy and implementation.

USAID is in the final implementation stage of an internal reorganization to create a “more field-oriented and functionally-aligned" agency through eight new thematic bureaus and merged policy and budget functions. It is also working towards partner country self-reliance, helping countries to transition away from development assistance. The reorganization is not complete, and it is unclear whether the remaining changes will happen under the new administration.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), part of HHS, is the largest government agency worldwide working in disease control and prevention. It operates both within the US and abroad. The Center for Global Health (CGH) was established in 2007 to drive CDC’s work globally. CGH has four divisions: 1) Division of Global HIV/AIDS; 2) Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria; 3) Division of Global Health Protection; and 4) Division for Global Immunization. CDC’s Office of Infectious Diseases (OID), comprising three national centers, also participates in US global health efforts.  

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) are a collection of 27 research institutes under HHS that comprise one of the world’s top global health research institutions. NIH conducts basic research on diseases and disorders for improved diagnosis, prevention, and treatment.  

The US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) is the recently launched US development institution, combining functions of previous investment and credit authorities with new tools, such as equity authority, and increased resources. Led by CEO Dev Jagadesan (Acting), DFC invests in sectors including climate, energy, healthcare, infrastructure, and technology and provides financing for small businesses and women entrepreneurs in emerging markets. The mandate of the DFC is to be strongly development-focused and it plans to target low and low- to middle-income countries in its investments. 

Other US entities are involved in foreign assistance. They include:

  • Other departments: Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security, Department of the Interior, Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of Transportation, and Department of the Treasury.
  • Other institutions: Peace Corps, US African Development Foundation, Export Import Bank, US Trade and Development Agency

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is an initiative to provide development assistance for economic development to low-income countries and lower-middle-income countries that have committed to political, economic, and social reforms. It is currently lead by Mahmoud Bah (Acting) and the programs are administered through partner-country compacts, each of which establishes a Millennium Challenge Account for implementation. It is legally authorized to enter into five-year commitments known as ‘compacts’ with partner countries.   

The US Congress is a key decision-maker on both funding and policy for foreign assistance. With the ‘power of the purse’, the two chambers – the House and the Senate – have a final say on federal spending, including foreign assistance. In particular, the House and Senate Appropriations committees and their 12 subcommittees decide on funding to specific spending areas and therefore exercise considerable decision-making and oversight authority over both foreign assistance spending and policy. In addition, four other congressional committees play a role (albeit less powerful) in authorizing and overseeing ODA-related programs.

  • The House Appropriations Committee: currently chaired by Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (Democrat). The key subcommittee is the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS), which oversees the budget for the State Department and foreign operations.
  • The Senate Appropriations Committee: currently chaired by Senator Patrick Leahy (Democrat).  As in the House, the key subcommittee is called SFOPS.
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee (HFAC): currently chaired by Gregory Meeks (Democrat). An important subcommittee is Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations.
  • The Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC): currently chaired by Senator Bob Menendez (Democrat). Important subcommittees are Africa and Global Health Policy; Multilateral International Development, Multilateral Institutions; and International, Economic, Energy, and Environmental Policy.

Budget Structure

The US federal budget is divided into budget ‘functions’, which include all spending on a particular issue across departments or agencies and can include funding lines from multiple appropriations bills. The US does not have a dedicated official development assistance (ODA) budget, but most development-related spending sits in Function 150, referred to as the International Affairs Budget. The International Affairs budget comprises both ODA-related and non-ODA funding, such as funding for operating embassies, military assistance, and promotion of US exports. In FY2021, the final budget for International Affairs was approved at US$57.4 billion, which included US$49.4 billion in base funding, US$8.0 billion in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funding. FY2021 International Affairs funding was ultimately enacted at US$62.7 billion, however, after an additional US$5.3 billion was enacted in emergency funding, primarily for COVID-19 response-related activities. President Joe Biden’s proposed International Affairs budget for FY2022 is US$63.7 billion.

The vast majority of funding included under International Affairs usually comes from the State-Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations bill (97% in the proposed FY2022 budget), with the remainder sourced primarily from the agricultural appropriations bill for food security and food assistance funding. The FY2022 budget includes US$61.1 billion in SFOPs funding, a 12% increase over the US$55.3 billion allocated in 2021. The SFOPs bill is divided into ‘titles’, each covering a different budget envelope (see Table 2). The money in these envelopes is mainly, but not exclusively, managed by the State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Relevant titles related to global development include:

  • Title I: State, Broadcasting & Related Agencies largely funds the management and running of the State Department. It also contributes to the US’ assessed contributions to 44 international organizations, including the United Nations’s (UN’s) regular budget and its specialized agencies.
  • Title II: USAID provides operational funds for USAID.  
  • Title III: Bilateral Economic Assistance covers much of the US’ foreign assistance and development activities, accounting for just under half of the entire SFOPs. By far the largest share goes to global health (36% in the proposed FY2022 budget). This includes most of US’ support to combat HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, support for maternal and child health, and health systems strengthening, as well as the US’ contribution to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Programs funded under Title III are jointly managed by the State Department and USAID. Most funding is channeled through the ‘Development Assistance’ envelope, which goes broadly to foster economic progress and social stability in partner countries, and the ‘Economic Support Fund (ESF)’, which aims to provide assistance to allies and countries in transition to democracy, support the Middle East peace process, and finance economic stabilization programs.
  • Title IV: Multilateral Assistance includes money for US voluntary contributions for various multilateral organizations, including to the World Bank and global environmental funds.

Beyond titles, US foreign assistance is divided into two types: enduring funds and OCO (see Table 2). Enduring funds are meant to cover all base functions within US development cooperation, while OCO funds were originally for emergency support to activities related to the ‘Global War on Terror’. They are managed by the Department of Defense (DOD) and the State Department. OCO funds are not subject to the same procedural limits on discretionary funding in congressional budget resolutions as regular foreign assistance but are appropriated with it simultaneously. For some budget lines, OCO funds are the primary source of funding. Recently, however, they have been used for base budget activities of the DOD and the State Department, and the first budget under Biden proposes to eliminate OCO funding and add it to the regular IAB account.  

The FY2021 budget, former President Donald Trump’s last, was released in February 2020, again proposed large cuts to foreign assistance. These were once again rejected by Congress in the final FY2021 appropriations bill. Biden released his full budget on May 28, 2021, proposing an overall increase in US foreign assistance of US$6.8 billion for FY2022.

Table 2 features select funding lines in the SFOPs bill for FY2021 as enacted and FY2022 as proposed.

Table 2: SFOPS bill overview, selected budget envelopes

International Affairs Budget Line

FY2021 enacted total*

(US$ millions)

FY2022 requested total

(US$ millions)




Admin. Foreign Affairs



International Organizations












Bilateral Economic Assistance



Global Heath Programs



Development Assistance



International Disaster Assistance



Complex Crisis Fund



Economic Support Fund



Democracy Fund



Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia



Migration and Refugee Assistance






Independent Agencies



Treasury Department



International Security Assistance



Multilateral Economic Assistance



Global Environmental Facility



World Bank – International Bank for Reconstruction and Development



International Development Association



Climate Technology Fund



Green Climate Fund



Asian Development Bank



Asian Development Fund



African Development Bank



African Development Fund



International Fund for Agricultural Development



International Monetary Fund



Export and Investment Assistance



Export-Import Bank of the United States (net)



International Development Finance Club (net)



Transitional Development Assistance



Rescissions, across-the-board cuts, and other






Food for Peace



McGovern-Dole International Food for Education






International Affairs Total



Source: USGLC FY2022 Budget Analysis

* Excludes emergency funding. FY2021 IAB spending was US$62.7 billion total including emergency funding.

** Includes only the FY2022 request for the Treasury Department. Another US$625million would be contributed through the State Department's ESF account.

Budget Process

ODA levels and main funding lines can be influenced at various times during the budget process

The US fiscal year runs from October 1 to September 30. The budget process begins 12 to 14 months (or more) prior to the start of the fiscal year. Most federal spending consists of ‘mandatory spending’ and ‘discretionary spending’ (see box); foreign assistance falls under discretionary spending. The budget process for discretionary spending can be categorized into three separate phases: 1) development of the president’s budget request, 2) congressional budgeting, and 3) congressional appropriations.   

It is worth noting that this timeline has become increasingly variable in recent years due to political deadlocks, often resulting in continuing resolutions that keep the government funding running while an agreement is reached.

USA budget process

Types of spending in US federal budget

Mandatory spendingrefers to programs such as Social Security and other social programs for which legislation defines criteria for participation and the government allocates funds for all who are eligible regardless of annual costs to the Treasury.

Discretionary spending – refers to the share of the budget that Congress decides annually in an appropriations process. This is further divided into defense and non-defense discretionary spending (including foreign and development assistance).


Phase 1: Development of the president’s budget request (May - February)

Government departments and agencies begin developing budgets in May and submit funding requests in September/October: From May to September, departments and agencies develop their budgets and set broad parameters for spending on specific programs. The US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the State Department, for example, negotiate major funding levels and policy decisions for each budget line and then share the proposal with the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB). From September to November, OMB negotiates funding levels with the heads of government departments and agencies. Engagement with OMB from August to September is important. At this time, it can receive external input to inform its engagement and negotiation with departments and agencies.  

Under normal circumstances, negotiations can take between two and four weeks before the OMB officially passes back the budget request for agency review. In recent years, this stage has taken months rather than weeks, delaying the release of the budget request.  

OMB works to finalize budget request in late fall and the president submits it in February: In November/December, the OMB finalizes the budget request before the president signs off in late December/early January. Traditionally, the president submits his budget request to Congress the first Monday in February. This date is often delayed, particularly when a new administration takes office.  

Phase 2: Congressional budgeting (February - April)

Congress sets spending limits for main budget areas: Once the president’s budget request is submitted to Congress, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) evaluates the request. The House and Senate then each develop, debate, and (in theory) pass a joint congressional budget resolution before April 15. The resolution sets the overall level of discretionary funding for the next fiscal year. This ceiling or “budget cap” is sent to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. Unlike the president’s budget request, which is a detailed proposal – the budget resolution is a short, high-level document. It is not a bill that is signed into law, but instead provides the binding budget cap that appropriators use in allocating discretionary spending. The president’s budget request is a key opportunity for advocates to engage in discussion on the foreign affairs budget with key stakeholders including with Congress, government agencies and departments, and the White House, through meetings, letters, and media outreach.

Phase 3: Congressional appropriations (April - September)

Congress considers appropriations bills that allocate funding to government functions, including foreign assistance, from April 15 to September: After the final budget resolution is agreed to, or after April 15 (whichever comes first), Congress must draft, debate, and pass 12 different appropriations bills, which correspond to different government functions. This includes the appropriations bill for State-Foreign Operations (SFOPs), which funds most development programs (see ‘Budget structure’). During the spring, each of the relevant committees and subcommittees (see ‘Main actors’) holds several hearings on the president’s budget request to debate, amend, and rewrite or “mark-up” the appropriations bills. Prior to this phase, there are several advocacy opportunities, including meetings on Capitol Hill, letters to Appropriations Committee chairs, events, and participation in hearings. 

State-Foreign Operations Bill

The State-Foreign Operations (SFOPs) appropriations bill is legislation that allocates funding foreign assistance. It is either passed as a regular appropriations bill or as an omnibus bill, which combines individual appropriations bills on diverse subjects into one large bill. Because of their size and scope, omnibus bills limit opportunities for debate and scrutiny.

House and Senate negotiate final budget; president signs: Once an appropriations bill has passed the House and Senate, a conference committee is formed with representatives from the Appropriations Committees to negotiate the differences between the House‐ and Senate-passed bills. If the House and Senate cannot find an agreement by the end of September, Congress needs to enact an emergency short-term measure – usually a ‘continuing resolution’ – to provide temporary funding to ensure the government continues to operate while the appropriations bills are finalized. Any spending bills are then sent to the president for approval or for veto; vetoes are rare and require an override from two-thirds of both chambers of Congress.