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The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the United States federal government organization responsible for most non-military foreign aid. An independent federal agency, it receives overall foreign policy guidance from the United States Secretary of State and seeks to "extend a helping hand to those people overseas struggling to make a better life, recover from a disaster or striving to live in a free and democratic country..."

USAID advances U.S. foreign policy objectives by supporting economic growth, agriculture and trade; health; democracy, conflict prevention, and humanitarian assistance. It provides assistance in Sub-Saharan Africa; Asia and the Near East, Latin America and the Caribbeanmarker, Europe, and Eurasia. USAID is organized around three main pillars: Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade; Global Health; Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance.


USAID's origins date back to the Marshall Plan reconstruction of Europe after World War II and the Foreign Assistance Act. In 1961, an executive order established USAID by consolidating U.S. non-military foreign aid programs into a single agency. To address rising deficits, aid was tied to the purchase of U.S. goods and services, effectively subsidizing the U.S. balance of payments; for example, aid-financed commodities were required to be shipped in U.S. flagships.

As a part of the U.S foreign affairs restructuring laws enacted in 1999, USAID was established as a statutorily independent agency, as defines independent establishment.



USAID is headed by an Administrator and Deputy Administrator, both appointed by the President and confirmed by the United States Senate.

The immediate past USAID Administrator, under the administration of President George W. Bush, was Henrietta Fore, who concurrently held the position of Director of U.S. Foreign Assistance in the Department of State.


USAID's office in Washington includes both geographical and functional bureaus, and well as those for major headquarter functions.

  • Geographical bureaus:
    • AFR—Sub-Saharan Africa
    • ASIA—Asia
    • LAC—Latin America & the Caribbean
    • E&E—Europe and Eurasia
    • ME—the Middle East

  • Functional bureaus:
    • GH—Global Health
    • EGAT—Economic Growth, Agriculture, and Trade
    • DCHA—Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance

  • Headquarter bureaus:
    • M—Management
    • LPA—Legislative and Public Affairs.

Overseas, USAID offices are called "missions." Mission staff include career foreign service officers (FSOs), personal services contractors (PSCs), foreign service nationals (FSNs), and occasionally civil service employees.

Budgetary Resources

Top Recipients of U.S. Foreign Aid, FY 2004
Nation Billions of Dollars
Iraqmarker 18.44
Israelmarker 2.62
Egyptmarker 1.87
Afghanistanmarker 1.77
Colombiamarker 0.57
Jordanmarker 0.56
Pakistanmarker 0.39
Liberiamarker 0.21
Perumarker 0.17
Ethiopiamarker 0.16
Boliviamarker 0.15
Uganda 0.14
Sudanmarker 0.14
Indonesiamarker 0.13
Kenyamarker 0.13

USAID's budget is funded through the 150 Account, which includes all International Affairs programs and operations for civilian agencies. In FY 2009, the Bush Administration's request for the International Affairs Budget for the Department of State, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and other foreign affairs agencies totals approximately $39.5 billion, including $26.1 billion for Foreign Operations and Related Agencies, $11.2 billion for Department of State, and $2.2 billion for Other International Affairs.

The request under the FY2009 Foreign Operations budget, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies is:

  • $2.4 billion to improve responsiveness to humanitarian crises, including food emergencies and disasters, and the needs of refugees
  • $938 million to strengthen USAID’s operational capacity
  • $2.3 billion to help Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and West Bank/Gaza achieve economic, democratic, security and political stabilization and to advance their overall development
  • $2.1 billion for State Department and USAID programs in Africa to address non-HIV/AIDS health, economic growth and democratic governance needs and to help promote stability in Sudan, Liberia, Zimbabwe and Somalia in support of the President's 2005 commitment to double aid to Africa by 2010
  • $4.8 billion for the Global HIV/AIDS Initiative, which directly supports the first year of the President’s new five-year, $30 billion plan to treat 2.5 million people, prevent 12 million new infections, and care for 12 million afflicted people
  • $550 million to support the Mérida Initiative to combat the threats of drug trafficking, transnational crime, and terrorism in Mexico and Central America
  • $1.7 billion to promote democracy around the world, including support for the President’s Freedom Agenda
  • $385 million to support the President’s Malaria Initiative to reduce malaria-related deaths by 50 percent in 15 target African countries by 2010
  • $94 million for the President’s International Education Initiative to provide an additional 4 million students with access to quality basic education through 2012
  • $64 million for the State Department and USAID to support the President's Climate Change Initiative to promote the adoption of clean energy technology, help countries adapt to climate change, and encourage sustainable forest management
  • $4.8 billion for foreign military financing to the Middle East, Latin America, Europe and Eurasia, including $2.6 billion for Israel
  • $2.2 billion for the Millennium Challenge Corporation to improve agricultural productivity, modernize infrastructure, expand private land ownership, improve health systems, and improve access to credit for small business and farmers

At the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiromarker in 1992, most of the world's governments adopted a program for action under the auspices of the United Nations Agenda 21, which included an Official Development Assistance (ODA) aid target of 0.7% of gross national product (GNP) for rich nations, specified as roughly 22 members of the OECD and known as the Development Assistance Committee (DAC). The United States never agreed to this target but remains in real terms the world's largest provider of official development assistance. However, relative to its economy, the U.S. is the second lowest provider with a 0.17% of GNI in aid. Only Greece, among the DAC countries, provides a lower percentage of GNI in the form of aid.

According to the Development Assistance Committee of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (DAC/OECD), the United States remains the largest donor of "official development assistance" at $23.53 billion in 2006. DAC/OECD reports that the next largest donor was the United Kingdom ($12.46b). The UK was followed (in rank order) by Japan ($11.19b), France ($10.60b), Germany ($10.43b), Netherlands ($5.45b), Sweden ($3.95b), Spain ($3.81b), Canada ($3.68b), Italy ($3.64b), Norway ($2.95b), Denmark ($2.24b), Australia ($2.12b), Belgium ($1.98b), Switzerland ($1.65b), Austria ($1.50b), Ireland ($1.02b), Finland ($0.83b), Greece ($0.42b), Portugal ($0.40b), Luxembourg ($0.29b) and New Zealand ($0.26b).

USAID Bilateral Assistance in the News


USAID has been a major partner in the United States Government's (USG) reconstruction and development effort in Iraq. , USAID has invested approximately $6.6 billion on programs designed to stabilize communities; foster economic and agricultural growth; and build the capacity of the national, local, and provincial governments to represent and respond to the needs of the Iraqi people.

Rebuilding Iraq C-SPAN 4 Part SeriesIn June 2003, C-SPAN followed USAID Admin. Andrew Natsios as he toured Iraq. The special program C-SPAN produced aired over four nights.


In 2008, the coca growers "union" affiliated with Bolivianmarker President Evo Morales "ejected" the 100 employees and contractors from USAID working in the Chapare region, citing frustration with U.S. efforts to persuade them to switch to growing unviable alternatives. From 1998 to 2003, Bolivian farmers could receive USAID funding for help planting other crops only if they eliminated all their coca, according to the Andean Information Network. Other rules, such as the requirement that participating communities declare themselves "terrorist-free zones" as required by U.S. law irritated people, said Kathryn Ledebur, director of the organization. "Eradicate all your coca and then you grow an orange tree that will get fruit in eight years but you don't have anything to eat in the meantime? A bad idea," she said. "The thing about kicking out USAID, I don't think it's an anti-American sentiment overall" but rather a rejection of bad programs".

Controversies and Criticism

USAID states that "U.S. foreign assistance has always had the twofold purpose of furthering America's foreign policy interests in expanding democracy and free markets while improving the lives of the citizens of the developing world." However, some critics say that the US government gives aid to reward political and military partners rather than to advance genuine social or humanitarian causes abroad. Another complaint is that foreign aid is used as a political weapon for the U.S. to make other nations do things its way, an example given in 1990 when the Yemenimarker Ambassador to the United Nations voted against a resolution for a US-led coalition to use force against Iraq, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Thomas Pickering walked to the seat of the Yemeni Ambassador and retorted: "That was the most expensive No vote you ever cast". Immediately afterwards, USAID ceased operations and funding in Yemen.

Although USAID defends that contractors are selected by their proven abilities, "watch dog" groups, partisan politicians, foreign governments and corporations contend that the bidding process has at times involved both the financial interest of its current Presidential administration and political motivation.

It has been said that the USAID has maintained “a close working relationship with the CIA, and Agency officers often operated abroad under USAID cover.” The Office of Public Safety, a division of USAID, has been mentioned as an example of this, having served as a front for training foreign police in counterinsurgency methods.

See also


  1. USAID Official Website
  2. Michael Hudson, Super Imperialism: The Origin and Fundamentals of U.S. World Dominance, 2nd ed. (London and Sterling, VA: Pluto Press, 2003), 235-38.
  3. Foreign Aid: An Introductory Overview of U.S. Programs and Policy,, Figure 4, Page CRS-13
  4. US and Foreign Aid Assistance, from, aid data from OECD
  5. (ANNEX, Table 1)
  6. USAID Assistance for Iraq : Accomplishments, United States Agency for International Development.
  7. C-Span: Rebuilding Iraq
  8. Andean Information Network. "Bolivian coca growers cut ties with USAID":
  9. Hornberger, Jacob " But Foreign Aid Is Bribery! And Blackmail, Extortion, and Theft Too!" September 26, 2003
  10. Barbara Slavin Another Iraq deal rewards company with connections USA Today 4/17/2003
  11. William Blum, Killing hope : U.S. military and CIA interventions since World War II Zed Books, 2003, ISBN 9781842773697 pp. 142, 200, 234.
  12. Michael Otterman, American torture: from the Cold War to Abu Ghraib and beyond (Carlton, Vic.: Melbourne University Press, 2007), p. 60.

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