Foreign Assistance and the US Budget

CGD’s Rethinking US Development Policy Initiative examines the US approach to international development. While much of CGD’s research focuses on development beyond aid, foreign assistance is an important, highly visible instrument of US foreign and development policies. 

What do we mean when we talk about US foreign assistance?

Whether it’s aimed at poverty alleviation and economic growth or targeted to produce specific outcomes in education and global health, the majority of US foreign assistance comes through the international affairs budget, also referred to as Function 150 or the “150 account.” Traditional foreign aid generally falls under two subfunctions, international development and humanitarian assistance (151) and international security assistance (152).

While polls show that the Americans tend to overestimate the share of US spending devoted to foreign aid, the reality is that less than 1 percent of the annual US budget is directed toward development priorities abroad.

How Can I Learn More?

Read the latest budget-related CGD blogs.

For more detailed data on how US foreign aid dollars are spent, see the US government’s foreign assistance database.

To stay up to date on how foreign assistance is faring in the latest budget, visit the US Global Leadership Coalition’s Budget Center.

For more on what US foreign assistance dollars buy, check out Oxfam’s Foreign aid 101 guide.

Learn about the challenges associated with aid quality, and a unique effort to measure it at CGD.

For more on how US foreign assistance (and other key policies that affect developing countries) scores compared to other wealthy nations, visit CGD’s Commitment to Development Index