The Defense Department Now Has 71 Military-Aid Programs, and Counting. The State Department Has Eight.

I’ve identified 71 different programs in the U.S. Defense Department’s budget that provide aid to other countries’ militaries and police forces. Here they are listed in a six-page PDF.

By contrast, there are only eight military and police aid programs in the actual foreign aid budget. That’s the budget, guided by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, that the State Department manages. It’s what most of us think about when we think about foreign aid.

The Defense programs duplicate, and go beyond, what the State programs can do. They include worldwide Special Operations Forces training deployments, military educational academies, counter-drug aid, aid to Afghanistan’s army, Syria’s rebels, and the fight against the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda, and much more.

Of the 71 Defense programs, 40 of them did not exist on September 11, 2001. They were created afterward.

The eight State Department programs get a lot of scrutiny from congressional committees that are often skeptical of foreign aid. The 71 Defense Department programs do not. They comprise a tiny part of the $600 billion annual Defense budget. And they are overseen by the congressional defense committees, whose members are normally more concerned with U.S. military readiness than with foreign policy goals like human rights and democracy.

Getting information about how these aid programs spend their money is also difficult. There is no single government report on Defense-budget aid—in fact, many of these programs don’t even have required reports to Congress. And of those that do, many are classified and take years to obtain through the Freedom of Information Act.

Because of this lack of scrutiny, and because they move money more quickly than the State Department programs, U.S. security assistance is likely to continue migrating into the Defense budget. As the congressional armed services committees start drafting the 2016 defense bills in coming weeks, new programs may appear, and I will have to add to this list.

Adam Isacson is the Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy at the Washington Office on Latin America and one of the founders of Security Assistance Monitor's predecessor, Just the Facts. This blog was re-posted from his personal site -- the original can be found here