Strategic priorities
  • Former President Barack Obama set ending extreme poverty as an overarching framework for US foreign assistance. The Trump administration has not yet fully outlined its strategic priorities, though the president’s FY2018 budget request gives early indications: Stronger links with counterterrorism, and cuts to UN agencies and programs related to climate change and family planning.
  • USAID's new leadership has extensive experience with development cooperation. Administrator Mark Green has highlighted as priorities: Supporting countries in transitioning from development assistance, continued focus on democracy and human rights, and humanitarian leadership. It is unclear how these will be taken up in the overall US strategy development process.
Key opportunities
  • The possible restructuring or folding of USAID into the Department of State would impact the delivery, roles, and priorities of US foreign assistance. Government reviews, led by the Secretary of State and USAID’s administrator, are underway. CSOs and think tanks have proposed ways to reform the US foreign assistance architecture and Congress has mandated its involvement in the process, providing key opportunities to shape the direction of US development programming.
  • As Congress continues to negotiate the FY2018 appropriations bills, there should be several votes on foreign assistance and development-related funding that present opportunities to engage with Congress and other key stakeholders.

Key Questions

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United States

Outlook

How will the US's ODA develop? — What will the US’s ODA focus on? — What are key opportunities for shaping the US’s development policy? read more

How will the US's ODA develop?

  • Forecasting the future budget for United States (US) foreign assistance is difficult. The drastic cuts proposed by President Trump are not supported by Congress. However, barring a government-wide budget agreement that lifts discretionary spending caps, foreign assistance will remain vulnerable to cuts. A continuing resolution was enacted on September 8, 2017. This essentially maintains FY2017 foreign assistance levels until December 8, 2017 at which point Congress will need to reach a final agreement on the budget for FY2018. Until then, Congress will attempt to pass individual appropriations bills; any unpassed bills – likely to include the SFOPs – will be combined into an omnibus funding bill.   

What will the US's ODA focus on?

  • President Trump has proposed refocusing ODA to more strongly take into account US national security and economic interests. USAID’s administrator has highlighted supporting countries in transitioning from development assistance, a continued focus on democracy and human rights, humanitarian leadership, and innovative financing.
  • Delivery of ODA will be impacted by the various reviews of US foreign assistance and aid architecture currently underway. These, including one exploring the possibility of folding USAID into the State Department, could redefine both the size and scope of US foreign assistance and its agencies.
  • Changes in sectoral areas of focus are still uncertain. While the House and Senate have restored most of the president’s proposed cuts, some areas, such as family planning and climate change, remain at risk of decreased funding.

What are key opportunities for shaping the US's development policy?

  • It is important to monitor the ongoing FY2018 appropriations process even during the current period of the continuing resolution (September to December). Engagement with Congress will be key to protect FY2018 foreign assistance and development-related funding from significant reductions. Meetings, letters, briefings, and testimony before key committees, subcommittees and caucuses, complemented with communications outreach, including blogs, op-eds, twitter and other social media, will be useful.
  • Engagement in the discussion around the possible merging of USAID and the US Department of State, and other issues with respect to the redesign, are also important. Any change would impact the delivery and priorities of US foreign assistance. Advocacy with the White House, relevant departments and agencies, Congress, and partnership with civil society on this issue over the coming months present opportunities to shape the direction of US development assistance.