Foreign Affairs

US involvement in international affairs takes many forms including foreign aid, military deployment, and economic trade.

Latest update on January 31, 2023

What are the basics on foreign affairs?

Data can illustrate priorities in US foreign policy. This includes data on foreign aid purposes and recipients, military deployment locations, and international trade. This page showcases some of these measures to answer some fundamental questions and directs you to data to develop an understanding of the state of foreign affairs today.

Spending on foreign affairs and foreign aid

In fiscal year 2020, governments spent a combined total of $76.5 billion on foreign affairs.

That comes out to $231 per person.

USAFacts categorizes government budget data to allocate spending appropriately and to arrive at the estimate presented here. All spending occurs at the federal level. Foreign affairs spending includes aid and assistance for development, humanitarian, or security purposes; exchange of information; international financial programs; and conduct of foreign affairs.

Government revenue and expenditures are based on data from the Office of Management and Budget, the Census Bureau, and the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Each is published annually, although due to collection times, state and local government data are not as current as federal data. Thus, when combining federal, state, and local revenues and expenditures, the most recent year for a combined number may be delayed.

Federal agencies and elected officials

Key actors

Foreign affairs and aid

Department of State

Manage diplomatic relations including embassies, ambassadors, and passports

Trade policy

Congress, Office of US Trade Representative, Department of State, Department of Commerce

Negotiate trade agreements


Foreign affairs and aid

Trade policy

Foreign assistance

Based on incomplete data, in fiscal year 2022, the federal government spent at least $45.4 billion in foreign assistance.

Foreign assistance usually accounts for 1% or less of federal spending.

Foreign assistance, or aid, is a foreign policy tool used by the federal government to provide resources to actors in other countries, including governments or private entities. Types of foreign assistance include specific projects, services, goods, or cash. Assistance is primarily handled by the US Agency for International Development (USAID), though 21 agencies and departments are involved in funding and managing aid.

USAID publishes data tracking each instance of foreign assistance. Each activity is classified into one of two broad objectives — economic and military — and in more specific categories such as humanitarian assistance, environment, or peace and security. The data can be used to interpret the US government’s foreign policy each year.

According to USAID, there can be up to a two-year lag before a year’s data would be considered complete. Data updates are made regularly.

Foreign aid by world region

In fiscal year 2022, the federal government gave at least $13.1 billion in foreign assistance to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

The US gives aid to every region of the world, though the distribution of that aid varies by year. This chart using USAID data shows distribution across the agency’s regional categories.

Foreign aid by country

In fiscal year 2022, the federal government gave at least $10 billion in foreign assistance to Ukraine.

Annual USAID data also shows which specific countries receive foreign aid. Countries in the Middle East and North Africa region, including Israel, Iraq, Jordan, and Egypt, have been leading recipients of aid along with Afghanistan during the first two decades of the 21st century.

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