The Fiscal Year 2013 International Affairs budget, which was released on February 13, showcases President Obama’s commitment to making smart, efficient investments to help those in the greatest need while helping to create economic opportunity and safeguarding American security.

It is important to remember that these numbers represent lives around the world that can be supported and saved through our smart investments in agriculture, health, and access to clean water, among other programs.  And these investments come at an incredibly small fraction of our national budget—in the case of development assistance, less than one percent.

Similar investments we made last year demonstrated a number of important results. Thanks to our investments in humanitarian assistance, we were able to save tens of thousands of lives in the Horn of Africa after a devastating drought led to famine and threw over 13 million people into crisis. U.S.  support helped provide lifesaving AIDS drugs to nearly 4 million people, protect 200,000 infants from HIV infection and keep millions of children throughout Africa safe from malaria. And our  agricultural investments are  supporting the goal of lifting 18 million people from a state of hunger and poverty.

Despite those results, we’ve had to make difficult choices this year, consolidating some programs and eliminating others. Our 2013 budget shows a willingness to focus on countries and programs where we believe we can make the greatest impact.

Global health is a key part of our investment in economic and human security.  Our request goes to cost-effective, proven global health interventions delivered through President Obama’s Global Health Initiative. These investments will help achieve a number of the President’s ambitious global health goals, including saving the lives of five million children by the year 2015, and expanding HIV/AIDS treatment. Thanks to the falling costs of health commodities, including contraceptives, malaria bednets and antiretroviral drugs, and increased investments by partner governments, we can now save more lives.

$1 billion of our FY 2013 request is devoted to Feed the Future, President Obama’s landmark food security initiative. These investments will help countries develop their own agricultural economies and  grow their way out of hunger and poverty, rather than relying on humanitarian food aid that costs us seven times as much to deliver. We’ve also designed a results framework so we can transparently measure and demonstrate the impact our investments have made in fighting poverty, hunger and malnutrition.

Our budget request maintains robust funding for our humanitarian accounts. Efficiencies in our use of these resources will ensure we have the necessary means to continue U.S. leadership in responding to natural and man-made disasters, just as we did last year after a devastating drought in the Horn of Africa. In addition, we continue to increase our focus on preventing future crises through disaster risk reduction activities and funding for greater resilience against food shocks through Feed the Future.

Changing the way we do business.  In line with the Secretary’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, USAID developed a suite of reforms called USAID Forward. These reforms are helping our staff deliver faster and more lasting results.  These investments allow us to fund innovative technologies that can change the way development is done. For instance, we’ve developed a series of Grand Challenges for Development that encourage entrepreneurs and researchers to develop new solutions to intractable development challenges. Our first Grand Challenge—Saving Lives of Birth—leveraged $8 million from partner governments and private sector donors to help mothers safely give birth even if they can’t reach a hospital or clinic.

Our USAID Forward reforms also give our Missions and contracting officers the flexibility to partner directly with local governments, entrepreneurs and NGOs that can build sustainable institutions at lower cost. Those investments will help countries build their own capacity, giving them the tools they need to chart their own futures.

Finally, we will invest in the key to all of these efforts: our staff.  These funds will strengthen and support our workforce, protecting them in frontline states, supporting them in embassies and missions and giving them the tools they need to do their jobs more effectively and efficiently.

The investments included in the FY13 budget will improve the lives of people throughout the world. For millions, this assistance can literally mean the difference between life and death.

But we shouldn’t lose sight that these investments aren’t just from the American people—as USAID’s motto says—they’re for the American people. By fighting hunger and disease, we defuse the anger and injustice that can fuel conflict. By investing in growth and prosperity, we create stronger trade partners for our country’s exports—10 of the top 15 American export markets are current or former recipients and aid.

And above all, by extending freedom, opportunity and dignity to people throughout the world, we express our core American values.