“This is an experiment that makes sense” Friday Links (Sunday edition)
May 072009

The Obama administration’s State Department has released a “Summary and Highlights” document for its 2010 foreign assistance request, which offers some significant clues about where future aid is headed.

The document tells us how the Obama administration is asking Congress to allocate aid money to Colombia across four key programs:

  • International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE). This program is the largest source of aid to Colombia, and combines both military/police and economic/social aid. It is administered by the State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement Affairs. For the past several years, the Bush Administration used the term “Andean Counter-Drug Initiative (ACI)” as a separate category for aid to Colombia and its neighbors through INCLE. This account pays mainly for the aerial herbicide fumigation program, drug interdiction programs, maintenance of Colombian police and military aircraft, and several rule-of-law programs.

    The Obama administration would cut this program deeply, by about $50 million. Unfortunately, the “Summary and Highlights” document does not break down how much of the INCLE outlay for Colombia is military/police aid, and how much is economic/social aid. In 2009, however, we know that $40 million of the INCLE total is non-military, as required by Congress. The 2008 figure was similar. If we assume the 2010 outlay will also be $40 million non-military, then INCLE would appear as follows, in thousands of U.S. dollars:

    International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) 2008 2009 2010
    Military and Police Aid (est.) 249,005 247,500 197,760
    Economic and Social Aid (est.) 40,000 40,000 40,000
    Total INCLE 289,005 287,500 237,760
  • Foreign Military Financing (FMF). This is the main non-drug military and police aid program in the foreign aid budget. It has been used in the past to support programs like oil pipeline protection, intelligence equipment, and support for military offensives. The Democratic-majority Congress cut this account significantly since 2007. The Obama administration would restore it slightly, however, adding about $13.6 million over 2009 levels. In thousands of U.S. dollars:
    Foreign Military Financing (FMF)
    2008 2009 2010
    Military and Police Aid 52,570 53,000 66,590
  • International Military Education and Training (IMET). The main non-drug military training program in the foreign aid budget. The Obama administration would increase this relatively small program. In thousands of U.S. dollars:
    International Military Education and Training (IMET) 2008 2009 2010
    Military and Police Aid 1,421 1,400 1,695
  • Economic Support Funds (ESF). The source of most economic and social assistance to Colombia, ESF pays for alternative development programs, assistance to displaced communities, judicial reform programs, demobilization and reintegration, and human rights programs, among others. The Obama administration would increase it slightly. In thousands of U.S. dollars:
    Economic Support Funds (ESF) 2008 2009 2010
    Economic and Social Aid 194,412 196,500 200,660

Add the figures up for these four programs, and the trend looks like this, in thousands of U.S. dollars:

2008 2009 2010
Military and Police Aid (est.) 305,004 303,909 268,055
Economic and Social Aid (est.) 234,412 236,500 240,660
Total, 4 programs
539,416 540,409 508,715

From this preliminary information, we can conclude the following:

  • The Obama administration plans to provide Colombia with less aid, even though its worldwide 2010 aid request is increasing over 2008 and 2009 levels. For these four programs, the aid amount would be reduced about $31.6 million from 2009 to 2010, or nearly 6 percent.
  • Aid cuts would come from military/police aid programs, leading to greater parity between military and economic assistance. The cuts would be most likely to come from aerial fumigation and aviation maintenance programs, while non-drug military aid might actually increase. For these four programs, we estimate the military/police share of the request at only about 53 percent. There is more military aid in the Defense budget, however, so this is still a decidedly majority-military aid package.
  • Mexico is quickly eclipsing Colombia as an aid destination. Congress is currently considering a supplemental appropriation for 2009 that, in the House version (PDF), would increase military and police aid to Mexico by a whopping $470 million. Compare that amount – which is just additional aid to Mexico for this year – to the $268 million in military/police aid in the Obama administration’s request for Colombia. It is possible that Colombia could soon cease to be the hemisphere’s number-one recipient of military-police aid, for the first time since it surged ahead of El Salvador at the beginning of the 1990s.

Significant amounts of aid go through programs not listed here, such as the Defense budget ($112 million in military/police aid in 2007), Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR, $4.1 million in 2008), and USAID “Transition Initiatives” programs ($2 million in 2008). To see the entire aid picture, incorporating these programs – not updated to reflect the numbers in this post – visit the Colombia page of our “Just the Facts” database.

10 Responses to “First peek at the Obama administration’s 2010 aid request”

  1. Camilla Says:

    I think it’s an awfully small cut. I had expected way worse. I bet Colombia read them the riot act about aid cuts and the U.S. thought it over and came to the obvious conclusion about their best interests.

  2. Randy Paul Says:

    Yes, clearly when Uribe says jump, the US can only respond “how high?”

  3. Jaime Bustos Says:

    yeah Randy I mean Camilla and people like her think that Obama can’t sleep at night without having nightmares with the villain.

  4. rainer cale Says:

    Contrary to the gist of this post, the general sense on the street is that development aid to Colombia will be receiving quite a boost over the next few years. If you disaggregate the numbers a little further you might see this.

  5. rainer cale Says:

    See for example this concept paper:


    Especially section IV. “Mechanism, Size, and Duration”

    “The process will result in awards during 2009-2010. USAID/Colombia envisions a total combined ceiling of all awards of no less than $500 million but no more than $800 million. The maximum life of the base period of any resulting agreement will be five years.”

    The amounts contemplated in this concept paper are treble or quadruple the amounts Usaid allocated four years ago. And those amounts of four years ago were considered unprecedented.

  6. lfm Says:

    I’m not surprised. The Obama administration is just getting started and so it has no reason to overhaul entirely the policy toward Colombia. As much as I dislike the situation and the policy, from the standpoint of the US, Colombia has been rather successful. With a lot on their plate (Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Iran, Israel/Palestine, you name it), why would the foreign policy team tinker too much with what is “working” at least by some metric? I’d say, leave it pretty much where it is, signal that some cuts might come (which is what they did), wait for elections and other unforeseen stuff, recalibrate as needed.

    Now, since I just looove throwing around snark at the Uribe administration, I’d say it can’t have it both ways: if it says it’s winning the war clamorously, then it has to face the fact that US aid is no longer that necessary. Fair square.

  7. New Military Base in Colombia Would Spread Pentagon Reach Throughout Latin America « roger hollander Says:

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