What our leaders think about U.S. foreign assistance

U.S. budget problems will not be solved by cutting foreign assistance. Cuts cost our country in security and in our moral and diplomatic standing in the world.

Pressure for Congress to make its deficit reductions by cutting foreign assistance remains intense, but is not universal.

U.S. leaders from both sides of the aisle have spoken up in support of foreign assistance. Representatives from the defense and intelligence communities believe passionately in the vital role humanitarian and assistance programs play for our country's security. Read what they have to say about why foreign assistance is crucial.

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)

CIA Director David Petraeus

U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham (R-SC)

U.S. Representative Kay Granger (R-TX)

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Former U.S. Congressman and Ambassador Mark Green

Former U.S. President George W. Bush

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice

U.S. Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN)

U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI)

U.S. Representative Howard Berman (D-CA)

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA)

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)

U.S. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY)


"Foreign aid is important. If it's done right, it spreads America's influence around the world in a positive way."   

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), July 2011 online Town Hall session


"The real problem in America's spending is not foreign aid, which is a very small part of our budget."

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), July 2011 online Town Hall session


"I am concerned that levels of funding for our State Department and USAID partners will  not sufficiently enable them to build on the hard-fought security achievements of our men and women in uniform. Inadequate resourcing of our civilian partners could, in fact, jeopardize accomplishments of the overall mission."       

CIA Director David Petraeus, March 16, 2011 testimony before the House Armed Services Committee


"The world we live in takes a multifaceted approach. To the American taxpayer: We need to be investing in improving people's lives before the terrorists try to take over."       

U.S. Senator, Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Foreign Policy magazine, February 2011


“Foreign aid must be viewed as an investment, not an expense…but when foreign aid is carefully guided and targeted at a specific issue, it can and must be effective.”       

U.S. Representative Kay Granger (R-TX), Huffington Post, June 2011


“As I have said for the last two years, I believe that the challenges confronting our nation cannot be dealt with by military means alone. They require instead whole-of-government approaches – but that can only be done if the State Department is given resources befitting the scope of its mission across the globe.”   

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, April 30, 2009


"America's civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long."    

Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, July 2008 speech to U.S Global Leadership Coalition


“Our top military leaders are adamant that International Affairs programs are a critical to our national security.  Our top business leaders are adamant that these programs are critical to our economic future. I’ve seen firsthand how these programs work beyond the frontline states and these cuts will seriously restrict our ability to keep Americans safe and advance our economic interests.”           

Former U.S. Congressman and Ambassador Mark Green, July 27, 2011   


“In order to heal human suffering, America must lead. That means the government must lead. It means that corporate America must lead. It means that NGOs must lead. It means that individuals must lead.”

Former U.S. President George W. Bush, September 2011


“...places where governments cannot provide for their people are ultimately dangerous places” and “where despair lingers, we are not safe.”            

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, September 2011 speech          


“For the United States, supporting international development is more than just an expression of our compassion. It is a vital investment in the free, prosperous, and peaceful international order that fundamentally serves our national interest.”               

Former U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, October 2008 White House Summit on International Development


“For development to play its full role in our national security structure, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) must be a strong agency with the resources to accomplish the missions we give it. But during the last two decades, decision-makers have not made it easy for USAID to perform its vital function. Even as we have rediscovered the importance of foreign assistance, we find ourselves with a frail foundation to support a robust development strategy. I believe the starting point for any future design of our assistance programs and organization should not be the status quo, but rather the period in which we had a well functioning and well-resourced aid agency.”            

U.S. Senator Dick Lugar (R-IN), July 2009 statement on Foreign Assistance Revitalization and Accountability Act           


“The right question to ask is: are we really spending too much on non-defense programs? The answer is clearly no. Non-defense discretionary spending levels are essentially unchanged from 2001. There is no reason we shouldn’t be able to afford them today.”      

U.S. Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI), June 2011


“I have said it before but it bears repeating: Aid is not a gift. The United States provides foreign assistance because it serves OUR interests.”

U.S. Representative Howard Berman (D-CA), September 8, 2011


"These cuts…would compromise severely our ability to promote America's security, values, and economic interests around the world           

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, letter to Congress on October 4, 2011


"With just one percent of the budget, State and USAID make an outsized contribution to America's security, prosperity, and global leadership…State Department economic officers from Mexico City to Mumbai wake up each day looking for new ways to champion American businesses and break down barriers to their entry. USAID is helping aid recipients become strong trading partners and creating new markets for American goods. "              

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, letter to Congress on October 4, 2011


"The world looks to the United States for leadership. When famine threatens the lives of millions or adversaries need an honest broker or fundamental freedoms need a champion, people turn to America."    

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, letter to Congress dated October 4, 2011


“In the face of formidable global challenges, our success requires a robust State Department and USAID working side-by-side with a strong military. To exercise our global leadership effectively, we need to harness all three Ds – diplomacy, development and defense.”     

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, May 2009 

“Growth in poor economies will be an engine of our own economy, and our success is tied to the progress of those around us. The investments we make today in the developing world will help create the jobs of tomorrow here in America. Right now, the tough choice is to maintain foreign assistance, not to cut it. Right now, the bold act of leadership is to defend spending on key international programs, not to attack it.”           

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, February 3, 2011


"I believe it is in the rich world's enlightened self-interest to continue investing in foreign aid. If societies can't provide for people's basic health, if they can't feed and educate people, then their populations and problems will grow and the world will be a less stable place."          

Bill Gates, Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, 2011 annual letter


“We face tremendous foreign policy and national security challenges worldwide, from helping countries manage peaceful, democratic transitions in the Middle East, to preventing violence, conflict, and terrorism from engulfing key partners, and to leading humanitarian responses to forestall drought, famine, and natural disasters. We are only able to achieve these aims with a strong State Department and USAID.”           

U.S. Senator John Kerry (D-MA), July 2011 press release


"Relations between the United States and other countries, and our role as a global leader, are advanced by our willingness to help other countries in need. Foreign aid is essential to protecting U.S. interests around the world, and it is also a moral responsibility of the wealthiest, most powerful nation."               

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) via his office             


“Leaders of both parties have affirmed that U.S. power is a three-legged stool of military might, diplomatic skill and development. The foreign aid bill’s diplomatic and development objectives pay dividends by helping avoid military deployments to protect U.S. interests, which are far more costly in both life and treasure. Robust engagement is no less necessary to achieve strategic security imperatives in this belt-tightening atmosphere. Investments in health, education, humanitarian aid for refugees and disaster victims and micro-loans for entrepreneurs are critical to fostering stability around the world. It would be senseless to let our response to a fiscal challenge create a national security crisis.”            

U.S. Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY), February 2011 op-ed in Politico