Airmen from the 387th Air Expeditionary Squadron Quick Reaction Team download USAID humanitarian supplies from a C-130 at Begum Nusrat Bhutto Sukkur Airport, Pakistan, Sep. 9, 2022.

Airmen from the 387th Air Expeditionary Squadron Quick Reaction Team download USAID humanitarian supplies from a C-130 at Begum Nusrat Bhutto Sukkur Airport, Pakistan, Sep. 9, 2022. U.S. Air Force / Senior Master Sgt. David Salanitri

Fully Fund America’s International Affairs Budget

Few investments reap larger rewards than the less-than-1% we spend on diplomacy and development.

Right now, the world looks like a grim place. As war, humanitarian crises, energy shocks, food shortages, climate change, and economic turmoil dominate the headlines, it is more important than ever that America lead efforts to confront the threats to global stability. Our military alone cannot address today’s challenges; we must also maintain our leadership in diplomacy and development. That means fully funding the State Department and USAID.

The American Legion—our country’s largest wartime veteran service organization, at nearly two million members—recognizes this. For the first time in its 103-year history, the organization has passed a resolution to support a fully funded international affairs budget and is making this a legislative focus. 

Americans across the country are seeing global crises affect their lives and families. One example is Russia’s war in Ukraine. Up to 323 million people around the world are expected to be acutely food-insecure by year’s end, up from 276 million before the war.  Here in the United States, more than 38 million people are food-insecure, and unfortunately that number is expected to rise. Another example is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has killed nearly 15 million globally, including 1 million Americans, with more still dying every day. 

Responding to such crises takes more than a strong military. Funding for diplomacy and development efforts must remain a national security priority. Every dollar spent to prevent conflict saves an estimated $16 on responding to conflict. This is the key to ensuring that our communities, our families, and our friends are safe, healthy, and prosperous.

In the coming months, Congress will set the funding for America’s international affairs agencies and programs. For 2023, the administration and both Congressional chambers are currently looking at spending between $66 billion and $68 billion for core civilian overseas programs. This is less than 1 percent of the total federal budget, yet would provide an important increase after years of effectively flat funding. In recent years, proposals for modest increases to these critical programs have been discarded in final budget negotiations.

Now is the time for smart, sustainable investments in our nation’s diplomacy and development budget – with full funding a top priority. The threats to our national security are emerging not only from malign actors such as Russia and China, but from the global food crisis, climate shocks, global pandemics, and more. These challenges to America’s interests require a bipartisan response to meet the moment. We know that America can do this. America wins by leading globally. And when America wins, veterans win and families win.

Patrick Murphy is the first Iraq War veteran elected to Congress. He served as the 32nd Under Secretary of the Army and in the United States House of Representatives, serving Pennsylvania's 8th Congressional district from 2007 to 2011. Blair Milo was the mayor of La Porte, Indiana, from 2012 to 2017. She currently serves as the founding director of the Center for Talent and Opportunity at the Sagamore Institute. Both are veterans, members of the American Legion, and members of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s Veterans for Smart Power initiative.