Last month, the Obama administration announced an eye-popping $38 billion security assistance deal with the Israelis, to be disbursed over ten years starting in 2019. That caught us off-guard. It seemed like a ton of money. But as we looked into the deal, and others like it, we began to realize how little we knew about the U.S. government’s assistance budget, which ranges from programs combating HIV/AIDS to those directly funding other nations’ armed forces.

Using the State Department’s request to Congress for a 2017 budget, we compiled what we thought was a comprehensive look at the U.S. foreign assistance budget. That budget request is a complex stew of programmatic acronyms, thickened by confounding numerical overlaps and an endless roster of government agencies. You can see that first attempt here.

In response, numerous representatives of those same agencies, as well as academics and analysts, got in touch. “You guys are on the right track,” they said, “but there’s much more to this than you’ve got here.”

We hope what follows can stand as a more exhaustive explanation.

U.S. assistance, by program

$10M in assistance

(rounded up)

Programs that provide

less that $10M in assistance

ECONOMIC AND DEVELOPMENT

$25.6B

Economic

Support Fund

Global Health

Programs

$6.1B

$8.6B

Migration

and Refugee

Assistance

Int’l

Disaster

Assistance

Development

Assistance

$2.8B

$3B

$2B

$1.8B

$410M

$1B

Food for

Peace

Millennium

Challenge

Peace

Corps

SECURITY

$16.8B

Counterterrorism

Partnerships Fund

Afghanistan

Security

Forces Fund

$1B

Foreign

Military

Financing

$3.4B

$957.4M

$5.7B

Counter-Drug

Assistance

$1.4B

$1.1B

$630M

Iraq Train and

Equip Fund

Int’l Narcotics

Control and

Law Enforcement

Coalition

Support

Funds

$668.5M

Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism,

Demining, and Related Programs

U.S. assistance, by program

Programs that provide

less that $10M in assistance

$10M in assistance

(rounded up)

ECONOMIC AND DEVELOPMENT

$25.6B

International

Disaster

Assistance

Migration

and Refugee

Assistance

Development

Assistance

Economic

Support Fund

Global Health

Programs

$2B

$2.8B

$3B

$6.1B

$8.6B

$1.8B

$410M

$1B

Food for

Peace

Millennium

Challenge

Peace

Corps

SECURITY

$16.8B

Afghanistan

Security

Forces Fund

Foreign

Military

Financing

Int’l Narcotics

Control and

Law Enforcement

Coalition

Support

Funds

Counter-Drug

Assistance

$668.5M

$957.4M

$1B

$1.4B

$1.1B

$3.4B

$5.7B

Counterterrorism

Partnerships Fund

$630M

Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism,

Demining, and Related Programs

Iraq Train and

Equip Fund

U.S. assistance, by program

$10M in assistance

(rounded up)

ECONOMIC AND

DEVELOPMENT

SECURITY

Programs that provide

less that $10M in assistance

$25.6B

$16.8B

Migration

and Refugee

Assistance

Afghanistan

Security

Forces Fund

Foreign

Military

Financing

Int’l Narcotics

Control and

Law Enforcement

Coalition

Support

Funds

Development

Assistance

Economic

Support Fund

Global Health

Programs

$1B

$1.4B

$1.1B

$2.8B

$3B

$3.4B

$6.1B

$5.7B

$8.6B

Counterterrorism

Partnerships Fund

$957.4M

International

Disaster

Assistance

$2B

Counter-Drug

Assistance

$630M

$668.5M

$1.8B

$1B

$410M

Iraq Train

and Equip

Fund

Food for

Peace

Millennium

Challenge

Peace

Corps

Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism,

Demining, and Related Programs

At the top of this page, you’ll see what a tiny fraction of the entire federal budget is devoted to foreign assistance — just about 1 percent. As we pointed out in the previous post, most Americans vastly overestimate this number in surveys. In a Kaiser Family Foundation study published in early 2015, the average respondent thought that 26 percent of the federal budget went to foreign aid. Unsurprisingly, more than half the respondents thought the United States was spending too much on foreign aid.

In the breakdown above, we have laid out where the $42.4 billion will go in 2017. The money comes from the State and Defense departments and a slew of other agencies. But it would be wrong to think that “security assistance” comes entirely from the DoD. Security assistance is a broader term than so-called military aid because this financial support is often extended to other types of security forces such as anti-narcotic or trafficking units.

Actually, only about half the security assistance budget is provided by the DoD. That mostly derives from programs directly tied to military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq, such as the Afghan Security Forces Fund and the Iraq Train and Equip Fund. Deals like last month’s with Israel, on the other hand, come from the State Department. In that case, the U.S. government is essentially financing Israel’s military purchases. Under the current agreement, Israel can spend 26 percent of that money on military equipment produced in Israel, but the new deal, which starts in 2019, gradually phases out that stipulation. Then, like every other country, Israel will have to spend all the assistance money on American defense contractors. In other words, U.S. foreign military financing is essentially a way of subsidizing its domestic defense industry while strengthening the military capabilities of its strategic allies.

Economic and development assistance is almost entirely provided through the State Department’s budget. This includes the budgets for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Peace Corps, reserve funds for disaster relief, funds geared toward specific objectives, such as preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, and bilateral economic assistance packages.

U.S. economic and development

assistance, by country

(Fiscal 2017 request)

$10M in assistance

(rounded up)

Countries that receive

less that $10M in assistance

Pakistan

Top 10 receiving countries

$422.5M

Afghanistan

EUROPE

THE AMERICAS

$1B

Jordan

$632.4M

Ethiopia

$512.6M

AFRICA

ASIA

Nigeria

Kenya

$604.8M

$618.5M

Tanzania

Uganda

$457M

$574.6M

Zambia

Mozambique

$401.3M

$417.7M

U.S. economic and development assistance, by country

(Fiscal 2017 request)

Countries that receive

less that $10M

in assistance

$10M in

assistance

Top 10 receiving

countries

(rounded up)

Mexico

Afghanistan

$49M

EUROPE

THE AMERICAS

$1B

Ukraine

$224M

Pakistan

$422.5M

Honduras

$100.4M

Syria

Ban.

$175M

El Salvador

$199.1M

ASIA

$85.3M

Leb.

$110M

Jordan

Guatemala

Colombia

$632.4M

$142.6M

$187.3M

West Bank

and Gaza

Phil.

$327.53M

$133.4M

South

Sudan

Tunisia

$74M

Iraq

$187.2M

Indonesia

$332.5M

Ethiopia

$150.4M

Nigeria

$512.6M

$604.8M

Liberia

Ghana

Uganda

Kenya

$95.9M

$145.4M

Sub-Saharan countries

are the biggest recipients

of U.S. development

assistance

$457M

$618.5M

Ivory Coast

$145.4M

Democratic

Republic

of the Congo

Tanzania

AFRICA

$574.6M

$298.7M

Zambia

$417.7M

Mozambique

$401.3M

Zimbabwe

Madagascar

$175.9M

$74.1M

South Africa

$266.6M

U.S. economic and development assistance, by country

(Fiscal 2017 request)

Countries that receive

less that $10M

in assistance

$10M in

assistance

Top 10 receiving

countries

(rounded up)

Afghanistan

EUROPE

THE AMERICAS

Mexico

$1B

$49M

Ukraine

$224M

Pakistan

Nepal

$422.5M

$103.7M

Honduras

$100.4M

Syria

$175M

Ban.

Burma

El Salvador

$199.1M

$111.7M

$85.3M

ASIA

Leb.

$110M

Vietnam

Jordan

$108.4M

Guatemala

Colombia

$632.4M

Camb.

$142.6M

$187.3M

$71.4M

West Bank

and Gaza

$327.53M

Phil.

$133.4M

$150M

Egypt

Tunisia

$74M

Iraq

$332.5M

Indonesia

Senegal

Mali

$150.4M

Ethiopia

$100.8M

$115.8M

Nigeria

$512.6M

South Sudan

$604.8M

$187.2M

Liberia

Ivory Coast

Ghana

Uganda

Kenya

$95.9M

$145.4M

$145.4M

$457M

$618.5M

Sub-Saharan countries

are the biggest recipients

of U.S. development

assistance

AFRICA

Democratic

Republic

of the Congo

Rwanda

Tanzania

$137.2M

$298.7M

$574.6M

Zambia

$417.7M

Mozambique

$401.3M

Malawi

$195.4M

Zimbabwe

$175.9M

Madagascar

$74.1M

South Africa

$266.6M

This is the first of three cartograms, which is a fancy word for a map specifically geared toward a comparative display of statistics. Since American economic and development assistance is spread out among more than 100 countries, the cartogram vaguely resembles a normal map.

Nevertheless, seven African countries feature among the top-10 recipients of economic assistance. Most of the money given to those countries is funneled toward health initiatives, particularly HIV/AIDS treatment and research. The biggest recipient, however, is Afghanistan, where the United States is hoping to win over hearts and minds with all kinds of development assistance after 15 years of military quagmire there.

U.S. security assistance, by country

(Fiscal 2017 request)

$10M in assistance

(rounded up)

Countries that receive

less that $10M in assistance

Top 10 receiving countries

THE

AMERICAS

EUROPE

Mexico

Syria

ASIA

$85.6M

$313.5M

Lebanon

Afghanistan

$123.5M

$3.67B

Colombia

$203.9M

Israel

AFRICA

$3.1B

Egypt

$1.31B

Iraq

$808M

Pakistan

Jordan

$367.6M

$319.7M

U.S. security assistance, by country

(Fiscal 2017 request)

Countries that receive

less that $10M

in assistance

$10M in

assistance

Top 10 receiving

countries

(rounded up)

THE

AMERICAS

EUROPE

Ukraine

$70.8M

Mexico

$85.6M

ASIA

Syria

$313.5M

Colombia

Lebanon

$203.9M

$123.5M

Afghanistan

$3.67B

Israel

Iraq

$3.1B

$808M

AFRICA

Pakistan

$319.7M

Egypt

$1.31B

Jordan

$367.6M

U.S. security assistance, by country

(Fiscal 2017 request)

Countries that receive

less that $10M

in assistance

$10M in

assistance

Top 10 receiving

countries

(rounded up)

THE AMERICAS

EUROPE

Ukraine

Mexico

$70.8M

$85.6M

Other programs

$223.4M

ASIA

Afghanistan Security

Forces Fund

Syria

$313.5M

$3.45B

This program provides the

overwhelming majority of

security assistance.

Colombia

Lebanon

$203.9M

$123.5M

Most of Mexico

and Colombia’s

assistance is for

anti-narcotic law

enforcement programs.

Afghanistan

$3.67B

Israel

Iraq

$3.1B

$808M

AFRICA

Pakistan

$319.7M

Egypt

$1.31B

Jordan

$367.6M

As opposed to the broad dispersal of economic development funds, the security assistance cartogram demonstrates the targeted nature of the American national military strategy. A swath of countries from Egypt to Pakistan — excluding Iran, of course — receive the vast majority of U.S. security assistance.

The biggest individual, non-bilateral program in the security assistance budget is the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF). The DoD describes the program thusly: “For DoD to provide assistance to the security forces of Afghanistan to include the provision of equipment, supplies, services, training, facility and infrastructure repair, renovation and construction, and funding.”

Security Assistance Monitor, the nonprofit organization that provided much of the data on which this article is based, says on its website that the ASFF’s ultimate goal “is to produce an independent, self-sufficient armed forces for Afghanistan.”

The security assistance budget also includes “train and equip funds” for allied forces in Iraq and Syria. Those funds go toward the Iraqi army, as well as Kurdish peshmerga troops and other militias the U.S. cooperates with in both countries in its push against the Islamic State.

Israel and Egypt are the biggest recipients of U.S. military financing. Israel receives about $3.1 billion in annual financing currently, and that number will increase to $3.8 billion after 2017. Egypt has received major financing ever since it agreed to an American-brokered peace with Israel in the Camp David Accords of 1978.

Put all together, the top-10 list of U.S. foreign assistance recipients are as follows:

Economic and development assistance

Security assistance

Afghanistan

$4.7B

Israel

$3.1B

Egypt

$1.46B

Iraq

$1.14B

Jordan

$1B

Pakistan

$742.2M

Kenya

$626.4M

Nigeria

$606.1M

Tanzania

$575.3M

Ethiopia

$513.7M

Economic and development assistance

Security assistance

Afghanistan

$4.7B

Israel

$3.1B

Egypt

$1.46B

Iraq

$1.14B

Jordan

$1B

Pakistan

$742.2M

Kenya

$626.4M

Nigeria

$606.1M

Tanzania

$575.3M

Ethiopia

$513.7M

0

$1B

$2B

$3B

$4B

But if the U.S. assistance budget demonstrates where the American government has strategic interest, then where are some of our biggest allies on the cartograms above? Saudi Arabia, NATO members, Japan, South Korea and India are all conspicuously absent.

The answer is that those countries simply buy arms from the United States rather than receive large-scale assistance. Many have their own established defense programs. The cartogram below shows U.S. arms deliveries worldwide for 2015, which amounted to $21.9 billion.

The U.S. sells arms to nations that surround its main adversaries, China and Russia, as well as to countries playing active roles in the ongoing conflicts in the Middle East, which includes most of the Gulf states.

U.S. arms sales, by country

(2015 deliveries)

$10M in deliveries

(rounded up)

Countries that received

less that $10M in deliveries

Top 10 countries

EUROPE

THE AMERICAS

Japan

South

Korea

$1.8B

$788.8M

Turkey

$513.3M

Taiwan

ASIA

$1.1B

Iraq

$1.8B

India

Israel

$759.1M

$871.2M

Egypt

$512M

Saudi

Arabia

Australia

$3.3B

AFRICA

$2.6B

U.A.E.

$1.3B

U.S. arms sales, by country

(2015 deliveries)

Countries that received

less that $10M

in deliveries

$10M in

deliveries

Top 10

countries

(rounded up)

Norway

$148.7M

United

Kingdom

THE AMERICAS

Finland

$458.2M

$145.4M

Canada

EUROPE

$475.5M

Neth.

Belgium

$214.5M

$81.7M

Japan

Mexico

Poland

France

Germany

$388.1M

$1.8B

$146.2M

$323.4M

$311.7M

Brazil

$107.5M

Colombia

Spain

$177.3M

$111.6M

Italy

Argentina

South Korea

Turkey

$171.8M

$85M

$513.3M

$788.8M

Greece

$125.5M

Chile

$79.9M

ASIA

Taiwan

Lebanon

Pakistan

$1.1B

$110.5M

$233.1M

Iraq

$1.8B

India

$759.1M

Israel

$871.2M

Jordan

Kuwait

$201.5M

$407.3M

Egypt

$512M

Bahrain

$63.2M

Saudi Arabia

AFRICA

$3.3B

Qatar

Australia

$120.1M

$2.6B

U.A.E.

$1.3B

Oman

$206.5M

U.S. arms sales, by country

(2015 deliveries)

Countries that received

less that $10M

in deliveries

$10M in

deliveries

Top 10

countries

(rounded up)

Norway

$148.7M

United

Kingdom

$458.2M

THE AMERICAS

Finland

$145.4M

Canada

$475.5M

EUROPE

Sweden

$55.4M

Neth.

Belgium

$214.5M

Denmark

$81.7M

$115.1M

Japan

Poland

Mexico

$1.8B

$146.2M

$388.1M

France

Germany

$323.4M

$311.7M

Spain

Colombia

$111.6M

$177.3M

Brazil

$107.5M

Italy

$171.8M

Greece

Argentina

South Korea

Turkey

$125.5M

$85M

$513.3M

$788.8M

Chile

$79.9M

ASIA

Taiwan

Lebanon

$1.1B

$110.5M

Pakistan

$233.1M

Iraq

Afghan.

$1.8B

$159.9M

India

$759.1M

Israel

$871.2M

Philippines

Malaysia

$148.7M

$112.8M

Jordan

Kuwait

$201.5M

$407.3M

Singapore

Indonesia

$186.6M

$172.6M

Thailand

$107.2M

Egypt

$512M

Bahrain

Saudi Arabia

AFRICA

$63.2M

$3.3B

Qatar

Australia

$120.1M

$2.6B

U.A.E.

$1.3B

Oman

$206.5M

The massive scale of assistance the United States provides to nations around the world is a reflection of its ubiquitous presence on the world stage, and the sheer size of its economy. The United States provides far more assistance than any other country in the world, and in terms of arms sales, it controls at least half the global market.

However, the United States gives less as a percentage of its gross national income than other countries. U.N. resolutions have set 0.7 percent of GNI as an unofficial benchmark that developed countries should contribute to foreign assistance. According to 2015 OECD statistics, the U.S. contributes about 0.17 percent of its GNI, which is below the 0.3 percent that is the average for developed nations. Only six countries, all in Europe, have reached the U.N. benchmark: the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Denmark, Luxembourg, Norway and Sweden. Sweden stands out, contributing almost 1.4 percent of its GNI to foreign assistance.

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