Facebook Q&A: How the Federal Budget Supports U.S. Foreign Policy Priorities

Did you know that only one percent of the United States’ federal budget is spent on foreign assistance? This one percent of the federal budget supports some of our nation’s most critical efforts to advance the safety, values, and prosperity of the American people. And we are committed to the efficient and effective use of these resources. As Secretary Kerry has said, American leadership isn’t just a button that you push in time of emergency; it must be backed by resources.    

During a Facebook chat last week Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom and USAID Administrator Gayle Smith joined forces to tackle some of your questions about how the federal budget supports U.S. foreign policy priorities, and offers a powerful return on investment for the American taxpayer.

Check out a few highlights from the discussion:

Question: How much of the foreign aid budget is allocated for gender-sensitive programming, and how is the impact measured?

Deputy Secretary Higginbottom: “Thanks for your question. In Fiscal Year 2017, the State and USAID foreign assistance budget is estimated at $1.34 billion for gender. And gender policy and programming is integrated across our foreign assistance activities, from education, to health, to entrepreneurism. To learn more about our foreign assistance funding, please be sure to visit www.ForeignAssistance.gov”.

Question: What are some examples of how USAID improves the sustainability of development programs?

Administrator Smith: “Thanks for your question. Let me provide a few examples. First, we aim to build the capacity of our partners. Second, we take into account environmental, economic, gender, and other factors, that may impact the sustainability of a project or program. Most importantly, we rely heavily on evaluations that are designed to determine not only impact, but also to identify challenges that may contribute to the long term sustainability of our development programs. Based on that and other evidence, we make program changes and shape program design to ensure that we are maximizing our ability to ensure sustainability. You may also be interested to know that last year the President issued an executive order which, importantly, requires a sustainability review as a part of project design. Finally, we are seeing very positive trends in domestic resource mobilization, or means by which governments generate the revenue they need to support and sustain development.”

Question: After the Paris Climate declaration, how will US foreign assistance be used to combat climate change and help developing countries prevent and mitigate climate-change related disasters?

Deputy Secretary Higginbottom: “Great question! President Obama pledged to $3 billion over four years to help countries adapt to and mitigate the impacts of climate change through the Green Climate Fund. This year, the U.S. Government has provided $500 million in funding for the Fund. Other countries have pledged to provide over $10 billion for the Green Climate Fund.”

Question: Does USAID have a role in places of conflict, such as Syria or Yemen, where the population is facing starvation and an unstable government? I know there are no formal missions in these places, but how does USAID aim to help these highly sensitive countries?

Administrator Smith: “In many situations of conflict, USAID deploys what we call DART or disaster assistance response teams. Where they can safely work in a country of conflict they have a presence there, and in environments that are too dangerous they often maintain a regional presence. Our assistance in these crises is provided through a broad range of partners, including American and other international NGOs, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and local partners. USAID is the leading bilateral humanitarian responder in the crises you mentioned, as well as in #SouthSudan, because the United States believes that we should respond urgently to people in need, even where we may face challenges.”

About the Author: Hari Sastry serves as the Director of the Office of U.S. Foreign Assistance Resources at the U.S. Department of State.

For more information:

Deputy Secretary of State Heather Higginbottom and USAID Administrator Gayle Smith answered questions during a Facebook Q&A focused on the U.S. federal budget on April 11, 2016.
Posted by Hari Sastry
April 18, 2016

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