Advocacy Update ~ March 20, 2017

By Danielle Heiberg, Senior Advocacy Manager, Global Health Council

Trump’s Proposed Budget Includes Cuts to State Department and USAID

On Thursday, the Trump administration released its first budget with recommendations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018. Known as a “skinny” budget because only topline funding recommendations for federal agencies are provided, this initial budget provides insight into President Trump’s priorities. A fuller budget with funding recommendations for specific accounts and programs is expected in May.

As had been reported in the media prior to the release, President Trump has proposed a boost of $54 billion to defense spending and offsetting this increase by cutting nondefense discretionary spending by an equal amount, including “deep cuts to foreign aid.” (see page 2, President’s Message)

The administration proposed a 28% cut to the base budgets of the State Department and USAID. When reductions to the Overseas Contingency Operations account are included, the agencies are facing closer to a 30-31% reduction in their budgets. While it’s unclear at this point how these cuts will be applied to various accounts and programs, we can expect cuts to global health, development assistance, and humanitarian response. The administration also signals an intent to refocus “economic and development assistance to countries of greatest strategic importance to the U.S.” (see page 34, Department of State, USAID, AND Treasury International Programs).

Several global health programs were specifically mentioned: Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, PEPFAR, malaria, and The Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (pages 33-34); however, the vague wording does not make it clear if current funding levels will be maintained or if the recommended funding will enable these programs to carry out robust programing. And noticeably missing from the budget are other key global health programs, including maternal and child health, tuberculosis, nutrition, family planning, and NTDs. One possibility is that these accounts could be targeted for cuts to maintain funding for the programs highlighted in the budget.

The administration also proposed a reduction in funding to the UN and affiliated agencies, with an expectation that “these organizations rein in costs and that the funding burden be shared more fairly among members.”

There was little information provided on the budget for CDC, with the exception of shifting $500 million to block grants for state. The administration did propose to create a new Federal Emergency Response Fund to ensure rapid response to public health outbreaks (see page 22, Department of Health and Human Services)

As noted previously, several members of Congress spoke out against the deep cuts to foreign assistance, citing its importance to the leadership role the U.S. plays in the world. As Congress ultimately determines the federal budget, it seems clear that appropriations bills will not mirror this budget request.

As the focus on the budget process shifts to Capitol Hill, the global health community will need to be vocal about maintaining funding for global health accounts, and foreign assistance more broadly. Read GHC’s full statement on President Trump’s Budget.

Ways to Get Involved:

USGLC “Leading Globally Matters Locally” Campaign (March 20-24):
Campaign to support the foreign assistance account; see social media toolkit

UN Foundation/Better World Campaign (ongoing):
Access fact sheet, press release, and social media toolkit on the importance of U.S. funding to the UN and the impact cuts will have

NTD Bill Reintroduced

In early March, Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ) reintroduced the Neglected Tropical Diseases (NTDs) bill (H.R. 1415) in Congress. The bill is co-sponsored by Congressman Gregory Meeks [D-NY], who along with Congressman Smith, is a co-chair of the House Congressional Caucus on Malaria and NTDs. The bill focuses on facilitating effective research and treatment for neglected tropical diseases, including Ebola, through domestic and international coordinated efforts.