“Food can be a powerful instrument for all the free world in building a durable peace.”
– President Dwight D. Eisenhower
When Americans think of national security, they often envision supersonic warplanes and intrepid soldiers battling for the ideals of free society. Events in US history, such as the defeat of the Axis powers in World War II and the War on Terror, have likely posited these ideas within our national conscious.
However, the US government’s plan for national security involves more than military power. Each year, the US spends billions of dollars on foreign aid to meet its national security goals. In fact, in 2015 the US provided over $30 billion in foreign assistance,  representing about 1% of the federal budget.  Although it accounts for a fraction of federal expenditure, the US provides more foreign aid than any country in the world. 
So, why is foreign assistance an important component of US national security? In short, the money serves as a preventative measure against global instability. In order to promote geopolitical security, the US government funnels aid into several categories.  For example, humanitarian assistance is provided for natural disasters and displaced persons, with the goal of providing relief and preventing disaster victims from becoming refugees in need of a new homeland.  Additionally, money is spent to fight global health epidemics and to keep foreign maladies from reaching US shores.  Lastly, the US provides security related assistance  to help other countries combat common enemies such as Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State. 
That said, government officials and private organizations often point to the effectiveness of foreign aid and warn against relying solely on military force to ensure national security.  In fact, many experts point to Afghanistan as an example of how failure to provide financial assistance can lead to regional instability.  In the 1990s, the US largely failed to support Afghanistan after its war with the Soviet Union.  This allowed the Taliban to gain regional control and foster the development of Al-Qaeda. 
Despite the common refrain that foreign assistance promotes national security, the Trump administration recently proposed a 28 percent budget cut to U.S. diplomacy and foreign aid.  Instead, the administration seeks to increase military spending by $54 billion.  Thus, President Trump’s budget addresses global security with military capability instead of ‘soft power’ countermeasures such as foreign aid and diplomatic relations.
Even more, President Trump’s proposal comes amidst the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in 70 years.  The combination of conflicts in South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia have created famines that place 16 million people at risk of imminent starvation.  “We are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the United Nations,” said Stephen O’Brien, the U.N. humanitarian chief, to the U.N. Security Council last month.  In order prevent mass starvation in these countries, the UN says $4.4 billion is needed immediately. 
Perhaps more well-known is the European refugee crisis. Beginning in 2015, migrants from war-torn countries like Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq boarded crudely built rafts to cross the Mediterranean Sea in order to reach European soil.  As refugees continue to arrive and governments scramble to accommodate them, European society has struggled with ethnic tensions and the social and economic integration of the migrants.
So as humanitarian crises occur across the globe, how does President Trump’s proposed foreign aid reduction impact US national security? At first glance, President Trump’s budget would break with decades of national security policy. After the Axis power surrender in 1945, the US helped rebuild Japan and Germany in hope that they would become allies and economic partners.  As a result, US support of post-war Europe and Japan forged a beneficial relationship that survives to this day.
Similarly, many of the issues faced by the US after WWII are present today. War damaged countries like Syria and Afghanistan require financial assistance to promote social stability, economic rebuild and support for citizens fleeing conflict. In African countries like South Sudan and Somalia, aid is required to prevent starvation and political vacuums that are likely to be filled by extremist groups.
In all, since 1945 US foreign policy has combined military power with humanitarian aid to promote the self-fulfilling goal of global stability. Over that time, foreign aid has strengthened geopolitical security by investing in the viability of foreign countries. Further, campaigns such as the War on Terror have demonstrated that military action alone cannot solve international crises. So, in addition to its armaments, the US must continue to fund humanitarian causes around the globe to achieve its national security goals. Now more than ever, the world order depends on it.
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 Mohammed, A. (2017). Trump Plans 28 Percent Cut in Budget for Diplomacy, Foreign Aid. Reuters. Retrieved from http://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-trump-budget-state-idUSKBN16N0DQ.
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