n the context of a $3.6 trillion federal budget, $150 million seems like little more than couch change, microscopic acreage within the sprawling empire of government spending. Assuming an even minute-by-minute distribution of expenditures, the federal government could recuperate $150 million by completely shutting down for less than half an hour.
But $150 million is an unimaginable sum within just about any other context. The Syria conflict,which is expected to produce its one millionth recorded refugee sometime this week, is no exception. Neither is Mali, or the parched eastern Sahel, or the tumultuous Sudanese-South Sudanese borderlands. Thanks to budget sequestration, there will be $150 million less in funding for some of the most vulnerable people on earth. U.S. humanitarian relief goes a long way in the world's trouble spots, paying moral dividends for a country that prides itself on being one of the planet's leading forces for good, while securing vital American political and diplomatic objectives, like the projection of soft power, and the stabilization of societies that might otherwise shatter under the pressures of conflict.
It is not just humanitarian relief that will be hit by sequestration, which removes $150 million in funding from the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration and the United States Agency for International Development's Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, compared to last year's funding levels. It also removes $433 million in State Department and USAID public health spending, including $211.6 million for the AIDS relief program PEPFAR. A total of $133.5 million will be cut from development assistance, including $42 million for basic education, and $62 million for food security programs.