In 2008, Barack Obama promised to boost a tiny corner of the nation's defense spending — humanitarian assistance.
When we say tiny, we mean tiny — roughly one-hundredth of 1 percent of a Pentagon budget worth hundreds of billions. That's because most humanitarian aid is handled through civilian agencies. But candidate Obama said humanitarian work by the military was important to "build friends and allies." So he promised to expand the annual budget so that help for things like disaster assistance wouldn't require grabbing other money.
Defense budget experts told us to look at funding for Overseas Humanitarian Disaster and Civic Aid, known as the OHDCA account.
We found that the government now routinely budgets 60 percent more for such aid than under President George W. Bush, up from $70 million to nearly $110 million a year.
"It has happened. Success," said Russell Rumbaugh, director of budgeting for foreign affairs and defense at the centrist Stimson Center.
We credit Obama starting with fiscal year 2010, when his administration would have been most involved. (It was a strange time because of the financial crisis, which meant Obama had a hand in some major spending for fiscal year 2009. But we assume President George W. Bush's Defense Department played the lead role for 2009.)
Most years under Bush, the government had go back to the trough during the budget year. For example, in fiscal year 2006, the administration originally asked for $61.5 million but ultimately got authority to spend $121 million. Under Obama, that only happened in fiscal year 2010, after a January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.
The Haiti disaster was so catastrophic, no administration would have handled it without asking Congress for more funding, said Larry Nowels, an expert in civilian foreign assistance. The military ultimately got an additional $775 million to help.
Obama promised to expand annual budgeting for military humanitarian aid. His administration has budgeted significantly more for such aid than the previous administration. We rate this Promise Kept.