International Crises and Disasters: U.S. Humanitarian Assistance, Budget Trends, and Issues for Congress [Updated January 29, 2008] [open pdf - 186KB]
"Humanitarian emergencies can emerge anywhere in the world, stemming from natural disasters or man-made conflicts. U.S. and international humanitarian assistance can have an important impact not only on the relief operation itself but on broader foreign policy issues. In the second session of the 110th Congress, humanitarian assistance is likely to enjoy continued bipartisan support, with key policy issues focused on budget priorities, levels of funding, and the types of other support available worldwide. […] In addition, the President has the authority to draw down defense equipment and direct military personnel to respond to disasters and provide space-available transportation on military aircraft and ships to private donors who wish to transport humanitarian goods and equipment in response to a disaster. Finally, the President can request other government agencies to assist within their capabilities. In FY2006 the United States contributed close to $3 billion to disaster relief worldwide. This report examines U.S. humanitarian assistance in international crises and disaster situations. It considers the sources of U.S. government aid (including the governmental response mechanism), budget trends in humanitarian assistance, and issues for Congress. It does not specifically address the creation of a new Director of Foreign Assistance position at the State Department or the broader restructuring of U.S. foreign aid programs."
CRS Report for Congress, RL33769