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The President's 2010 Budget: A Transition to New Priorities

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After my initial analysis of the fiscal year (FY) 2010 U.S. budget, unveiled last week by the Obama administration, I was encouraged to see that it represents a healthy funding boost in international poverty-focused development assistance programs. The proposed $3.4 trillion budget includes $20.5 billion for programs to fight poverty in poor countries.

The budget also demonstrates the president's commitment to fulfill his campaign goal of ending child hunger in the United States by 2015. The administration requested an additional $1 billion per year for child nutrition programs, which are being reauthorized this year; and $7.77 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program.

The president's budget request shows his administration's interest in strengthening the U.S. response to global hunger and poverty by continuing to support the effective programs put in place by the previous administration, such as the AIDS and malaria initiatives and the Millennium Challenge Account. But there is also a strong interest in reshaping the U.S. approach to foreign assistance to make it more streamlined, accountable and coherent.

I laud the administration's commitment to a larger role for development alongside defense and diplomacy in U.S. foreign policy. In his budget proposal, President Obama asks for $1.4 billion for agriculture development. This is an important initiative, especially right now with hunger on the rise around the world. More than a billion people are going hungry since food prices spiked last year and the global economy went into a tailspin. Of course, we need a strong emergency response, but this initiative also demonstrates a long-term vision and commitment to global food security.

The $8.6 billion Global Health Initiative in the proposed budget signals a welcome re-commitment to two of the Millennium Development Goals -- improving maternal health and reducing child mortality. A comprehensive health strategy that recognizes the critical need to address malnutrition among women and children will improve the lives of millions of infants and mothers around the world.

However, the global health investments in the FY2010 budget present only a modest increase for maternal and child health and nutrition programs. More is needed to ensure that the food and financial crises do not cause permanent damage to the health and development of young children.

Bread for the World is also gratified to see a request to fund the Hunger-Free Communities Program. This was the subject of our 2005 Offering of Letters campaign. The $5 million request will help churches, food banks, and other anti-hunger groups in local communities to work together to address hunger at the state and local level in new and creative ways.

Overall, this budget shows the president's intention to include hungry and poor people in the economic recovery of our country and the world.