Winners and Losers in Trump’s 2020 Security Assistance Budget

While the portion of President Trump’s 2020 request for security assistance programming illustrates the Administration’s familiar inclination to shift important foreign policy responsibilities from the State Department to Defense, the details also offer some striking insights into the Administration’s evolving thematic and geographic focus. Substantial budgetary discrepancies between FY 20 requests for these programs and previous years’ actual spending or appropriated funds makes clear the “winners and losers” in the White House’s foreign policy outlook.  
Defense Department Budget
The Defense Department-specific portion of the budget totals $718B, a 5% increase from FY 19.1 In terms of security assistance, under the President’s budget, several notable programs are slated to experience significant changes, both in terms of total amount of money budgeted as well as the distribution of those funds.  
The changes in the FY 19 appropriations and proposed FY 20 spending on Afghan Security Forces reflect a determination on the part of the Defense Department and policymakers to invest more heavily in the proven success stories of the Afghan defense establishment. While efforts to improve the capabilities of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Police (ANP) have frustrated military planners, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) and Special Forces (ASSF) have both been praised for their performance in combat and continued operational improvements.2  The allocation of the $4.83 billion in requested funding for the Afghan Security Forces shows a decline in overall support for the ANA and ANP by nearly 10% each, from $1.76B to $1.58B and $726M to $660M respectively. Conversely, proposed spending on the AAF and ASSF will jump from $1.72B to $1.82B and from $702M to $728M respectively. 
Similarly, the Counter ISIS Train and Equip Fund is set to see a budget reduction of 22.71%, from 1.35B to $1.04B. Notably, the largest cuts come from a zeroing out of $250M in funds to support border security in areas adjacent to ISIS conflict zones. The Administration may be hoping that allies and coalition partners will fill the gap left by the quarter billion dollar shortfall, especially as Trump continues to press for a U.S. withdrawal from Syria. Nevertheless, requested funding for Syria related train and equip programming is slated to increase by a surprising 20%, from $250M to $300M, while, funding for Iraqi forces would sustain a 12.35% drop. 
State Department Budget
Within the President’s FY 2020 State Department request, the perennial budgetary tug-of-war between the White House and Congress is on full display. Overall, President Trump’s request would cut the State Department’s funding by 23%, a proposal that is already drawing the ire of lawmakers.3
As the State Department’s final appropriations were only concluded in February, looking back at FY 18 provides a better picture of the disparity between White House and Congressional priorities.  The FY 20 request would see a 17.84% cut to the main security assistance programs administered by the State Department: International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE), Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR), Peacekeeping Operations (PKO), International Military Education (IMET), and Foreign Military Finance (FMF). Digging even further, there are some notable details that make clear who stands to gain or lose from the President’s budget.

Colombia is slated to receive a stunning 46% increase in INCLE aid when compared to what was actually spent in FY 18, with the intention of combating the sharp rise in the country’s coca cultivation. This $66M increase comes as President Duque’s government pursues a more hardline stance on counter-narcotics issues in the aftermath of the 2016 peace deal that ended the country’s 52-year long civil war, which includes a more aggressive and militarized approach to illicit activities taking place in Colombia’s rural and ungoverned spaces.4
In the Asia Pacific region, it would seem that President Trump is making good on efforts to reorient American defense posture to reflect a focus on peer competitors like China, with a nearly 30% increase in the region’s Foreign Military Financing, rising from $93.6M spent in FY 18 to $120.9M requested for FY 20. But interestingly, the vast majority of that increase stems from a  $33M boost to FMF for Vietnam, which is, in fact, one of the few nations of the bloc set to enjoy any substantial FMF increases. 
As one might expect, the budgetary losers drawing from a pot of money slated to shrink by 23% are greater in number. State Department peacekeeping operations alone are facing a 45.8% drop in State funding when compared to what was spent in FY 18. Tellingly, Somalia is facing the biggest of the PKO cuts, with a dramatic drop of $163M. The cuts occur as the Administration struggles to define the U.S. strategy in Somalia beyond increasing the tempo of airstrikes on militant groups and as regionally administered peacekeepers face pressure to withdraw.5
Though there are a number of changes reflected in FMF programming, the reductions in funding for Ukraine are especially striking, dropping from $95M in FY 18 to $20M in the President's FY 20 request.  However, these cuts may be balanced out by the Administration’s efforts to bolster Ukraine’s capabilities in the maritime domain and it remains to be seen if the additional shortfall will offset by the Defense Department funding.6
Despite the President’s well-known focus on counterterrorism efforts, State’s Antiterrorism Assistance is also set to see substantial cuts, most notably in the Middle East. The region is set to see a 33.89% drop in NADR Antiterrorism Assistance, with Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen all seeing significant cuts, totaling $14.3M. 
Even more substantial are the cuts facing State’s INCLE budget, totaling $423M between FY 18 spending and FY 20 requests. In fact, INCLE funding looks to be set for cuts across all of State’s regional bureaus. The Middle East and North Africa could expect a loss of $38.4M, or 38.82%, with the lion's share coming from a near halving of the funds previously allocated to the Palestinian Territories. South and Central Asia, the epicenters of the world’s opium production, are seeing possible INCLE cuts of 38.05%, representing a $76M reduction when compared to FY 18 spending. Afghanistan in particular, which accounts for 80% of the world’s opium production, could see a staggering 40.62% cut in its INCLE programming, or $65M. Similarly, requests for Europe and Eurasia’s INCLE budgets show an even larger 58.13% cut, totaling $50M when compared to FY 18 spending. INCLE requests for Ukraine alone are being reduced by more than 50%, from $30M to $13M, when compared to FY 18 spending. 
Ultimately, as has occurred in previous years, President Trump is running headlong into a confrontation with Congress. Deep cuts to the State Department’s budget have, in the past, elicited bipartisan opposition in previous budget fights, as will surely be the case for the explosion in Overseas Contingency Operations fund.7Congressional hearings that are sure to follow will provide additional insights into the balance that will be struck between these competing visions for U.S. security assistance. 
1. The DoD appropriations were passed before the end of the fiscal year, allowing us to use 2019 appropriations for our analysis; link 
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