Obama Administration Requests $1 billion for Jordan in FY 2016

Middle East and North Africa

The recent murder of Jordan’s Lieutenant Moaz al-Kasasbeh by militants of the so-called Islamic State has propelled the Kingdom into the international spotlight. In response to the murder, Jordan has escalated bombing missions against Islamic State targets in Syria, and it has promised a “relentless war” that “will be heard by the world at large.” Jordan’s response to the Islamic State comes as the Obama Administration requested an estimated $1 billion in U.S. aid ($637 million for economic and $350 million for military) to Jordan for FY 2016, which some members of Congress may think is not enough. The administration cemented this commitment by completing a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Jordan guaranteeing $1 billion each year in U.S. assistance until 2017.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry underscored U.S. commitment to Jordan when he said that Jordan represents a “staunch and stable ally in one of the globe’s most challenged areas.” The agreement illustrates Jordan’s strategic importance to the United States as a host of over half a million Syrian refugees and an active participant in the anti-Islamic State coalition.

Under the new MOU, U.S. base funding to Jordan will remain at $360 million and $300 million for economic and military assistance respectively, like the previous memorandum. But, the administration has requested an additional $327 million in Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) funds to help reach the $1 billion aid commitment— $277 million per year for economic support and $50 million in supplemental military aid. In fact, Jordan represents the largest economic-OCO request in the entire budget request for the Middle East. The high OCO request, according to the State Department, is intended to help Jordan “address temporary and extraordinary needs related to countering [the Islamic State] and mitigating Syria-related economic and security strains.”

In a meeting with Jordanian King Abdullah II last December, President Obama noted that the new requested aid levels (in addition to a new loan guarantee) were “designed to reinforce the sort of political and economic reforms that are taking place inside of Jordan so that not only can the people of Jordan prosper and be self-sufficient, but they can continue to provide an anchor for important efforts that enhance U.S. national security over the long term.”

The administration’s proposed increase in U.S. military assistance to Jordan, however, may be seen as too little by some members of Congress. In legislation introduced last year, Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) proposed increasing U.S. military cooperation to Jordan to $1 billion annually from FY 2015 to FY 2019. The bill also called for streamlining congressional review of proposed U.S. arms transfers to Jordan. Although Rep. Ros-Lehtinen’s bill did not pass, the Senate Armed Services Committee issued a statement last week asking the administration to expedite arms shipments to Jordan. “We believe that Jordan’s requests need to be addressed expeditiously, commensurate with their urgent operational needs in the fight against [the Islamic State],” it read. 

From FY 2008 to FY 2014, U.S. military assistance, provided mostly through the State Department-funded Foreign Military Financing (FMF), peaked at $350 million in 2010. This assistance has been used to enhance Jordan’s military capabilities, including Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles to upgrade its F-16 Fighter fleet and Blackhawk Helicopters. According to the Senate Armed Services Committee, U.S. military assistance this year would provide “aircraft parts, additional night vision equipment, and precision munitions.”

With the United States’ renewed aid commitment to Jordan, it’s clear that the administration is counting on the Kingdom to remain a consistent and stable ally in the tumultuous region. Whether this strategy proves effective, however, remains to be seen. Only 12 percent of Jordan’s population has a favorable view of the United States, and an estimated 1,500 Jordanians have traveled to Syria to fight.  This last statistic may prove most troubling for the Kingdom as it struggles to confront the reasons underlying the radicalization, if not disenchantment, of some of its citizens. Despite Jordan’s increased commitment to fighting the Islamic State, the country’s leadership has failed to resolve many of the issues which help fuel popularity of such extremists in the country, like the impact of Syrian and Palestinian refugees on the nation’s economy or the political marginalization and chronic unemployment that all too many face. 


Adam Taylor is the Security Assistance Intern at the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) covering U.S. security policy across the region.