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Obama International Affairs Request — Investing in a 21st Century Security Policy

May 8, 2009

Today is a good day to be working at the State Department. Yesterday, President Obama released a fleshed out version of his international affairs budget, providing detailed program – by – program numbers.

In total, the fiscal year 2010 international affairs budget request is $52 billion — a 27% increase from $40.9 billion enacted in fiscal year 2009.

If Congress provides President Obama the international affairs budget he has presented, the State Department and U.S Agency for International Development (USAID) will receive a significant boost in funds for diplomacy, conflict resolution focused assistance and international cooperation.

In brief, President Obama’s request would:

  • Add a total of 1,181 new civilians to the ranks of the Department of State and USAID;
  • Provide $323 million to the State Department and USAID to fund the civilian response corps — teams of civilian experts in rule of law, policing, transitional governance, economics, engineering, and other areas critical to helping rebuild war-torn societies;
  • Provide $40 million for a “stabilization bridge fund,” which would provide rapid response funds for the State Department to help stabilize a crisis situation;
  • Fully meet U.S. obligations to international organizations, including the United Nations;
  • Fully meet U.S. obligations to U.N. peacekeeping operations;
  • Nearly triple the budget for the Office of Transition Initiatives — an extremely effective USAID office which provides assistance to help societies transition from a crisis complex emergency to sustainable peace;
  • Provide $76 million of the $123 million budget for the Office of Transition Initiatives for a new “Rapid Response Fund,” enabling USAID to provide rapid, timely assistance to conflict prone countries; and
  • Provide nearly a 50% increase in USAID’s operating budget from last year.

In the budget request, President Obama outlines clearly the cost-saving benefits of investing in civilian peace and security tools now to prevent the costly use of force to quell a crisis later. For instance, President Obama notes: “expenditures on diplomacy and development represent an investment which in the long run is less costly in terms of lives and dollars than defense spending that would otherwise be required.”

This budget is a serious down payment on tools to help the State Department and USAID respond faster and more appropriately to help stabilize crises, as well as support development and institution building efforts in conflict prone countries. If enacted, this international affairs request would go a long way towards providing U.S. policymakers with the tools to shift U.S. foreign policy away from costly military reaction and towards early prevention of deadly conflict.

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