Trump administration renews attempts to rescind billions in US foreign assistance
Reviving last year's effort to retract already-approved funding for US foreign assistance, the Trump administration ordered the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to freeze more than a dozen US foreign assistance accounts. A letter from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) ordered the agencies to hold spending until an audit is completed to determine which funds have not already been allocated. Between US$2 billion and US$4 billion will expire at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2019, if not committed. OMB's letter to State and USAID was sent after Congress had left for its August recess.
The White House tried this same tactic and timing last year but ultimately backed down in the face of serious congressional opposition. In 2018, the Government Accountability Office issued a finding that the White House effort was "an abuse of this limited authority."
In March, 2019, President Trump said the US would cease all funds to the Northern Triangle of Central America due to migration issues. The White House has also blocked large amounts of assistance through a strict interpretation of the Trafficking Victims Protection Act, which has left many USAID missions unable to spend funds. Development stakeholders were quick to condemn the action as dangerous to the most vulnerable populations, against US interests, and an intentional action to stop US foreign assistance work.