The Trump Administration’s skinny budget is a bit of a public relations exercise in trying to have it both ways on the 150 Account, as observed by our colleague Scott Morris. We’re going to cut dramatically to “prioritize” Americans, but wait, it’s really just a minor reform and rightsizing to get rid of some duplications!
So we did some very rough calculations. What would the 150 Account from the “America First: A Budget Blueprint to Make America Great Again,” actually look like? It’s hard to say as it was light on details, but reading the budget tea leaves, we’ve developed a very rough cut of what we do and don’t know in the below interactive chart (click through on the columns to see specific funding areas).
Much of this should be taken with a hearty grain of salt since it involves assumptions that will inevitably be wrong. We assumed level funding where specific cuts were not indicated. This is very unlikely to be the case. As one example, the budget proposal says it “allows for significant funding of humanitarian assistance,” so we generously assume level funding with FY16. “Significant funding” will almost certainly mean less than level funding. However, there wasn’t a principled way to identify what those cuts might be (presumably the administration has not yet finalized these anyway). There is similarly hedged language throughout the 150 Account blueprint, indicating that just about everything would receive a cut in the final president’s budget request, even those programs where support is indicated.
Taking into account our generous assumptions, it looks as though slightly more than half of the Administration’s $39.1 billion budget request for the 150 Account is specifically identified in the budget request Just over 4 percent of the $18.1 billion worth of cuts are specifically identified in the budget request—and about half of that would be offset by the cost associated with the elimination of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation. This means we should expect deep proposed cuts to many of the remaining lines, including Economic Support Funds (ESF), Development Assistance (DA), and USAID Operating Expenses.
Now, as a reminder, Congress actually holds the purse strings and there has been strong pushback from key Members that these kinds of draconian cuts to the 150 Account won't fly. However, there’s no question that development and diplomacy will ultimately be receiving far more than a trim. We hope that Congress will make these cuts on the basis of evidence. Time for an aid review, anyone?
Thanks to Charles Kenny for the inspiration on the chart!
CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.