What is U.S. Government Foreign Assistance?
Foreign assistance is aid given by the United States to other countries to support global peace, security, and development efforts, and provide humanitarian relief during times of crisis. It is a strategic, economic, and moral imperative for the United States and vital to U.S. national security.
The first U.S. aid program took shape after World War II when then Secretary of State George Marshall acted to provide significant aid to Europe after the war to assist the continent in rebuilding its infrastructure, strengthening its economy, and stabilizing the region. This led to the creation of several foreign assistance programs in subsequent years to build off the success of the Marshall Plan. The next milestone for foreign assistance occurred in 1961, when President Kennedy signed the Foreign Assistance Act into law and created the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). This marked a significant increase in U.S. foreign assistance efforts and USAID became the first U.S. foreign assistance agency whose primary focus was long-term global development to include economic and social progress.
In 2010, President Obama signed the Presidential Policy Directive on Global Development, which calls for the elevation of development as a core pillar of American power in accord with diplomacy and defense for an integrated approach to national security. The directive governs U.S. efforts in support of global development and provides clear policy guidance to all U.S. government agencies managing and implementing foreign assistance.
Today, the U.S. manages foreign assistance programs in more than 100 countries around the world through the efforts of over 20 different U.S. Government agencies. These investments further America's foreign policy interests on issues ranging from expanding free markets, combating extremism, ensuring stable democracies, and addressing the root causes of poverty, while simultaneously fostering global good will.