Year after year, the U.S. pays more into the United Nations system than any other nation. Yet figuring out exactly how much we spend on the U.N. and its affiliated organizations is deceptively difficult.
Although most U.S. contributions come from the State Department, hundreds of millions of dollars also flow from other parts of the federal government. Thus, relying on State Department data fails to capture the full picture.
In 2006, Senator Tom Coburn addressed this issue by asking the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) for a comprehensive report on total U.S. contributions to the U.N. system for fiscal years 2001 through 2005. The OMB is in charge of overseeing the preparation of the president’s budget, so it was in a position to require all U.S. agencies to report the requested information.
That 2006 report was an eye-opener. The OMB calculated that U.S. contributions totaled $4.115 billion in 2004 and $5.327 billion in 2005. By comparison, the State Department had estimated 2004 contributions at “well over $3 billion” — far short of the actual amount reported by the OMB.