Development: Flexible Funding for State and USAID

The Complex Crises Fund:
Rapid Response Funding to Help Prevent Deadly Conflict

The lack of flexible funding for civilian agencies has contributed to the militarization of the U.S.' response to global crises. Without rapid response funds available for civilian agencies to act, the military has been left to fund and direct many activities that should be civilian-led. The Complex Crises Fund is an innovative tool for civilian agencies to help prevent wars before they start, instead of pouring billions of dollars into warmaking.

PDF version

What is the Complex Crises Fund?

The Complex Crises Fund (CCF) is an account appropriated by Congress that provides much-needed, unprogrammed money for the State Department and United States Agency for International Development (USAID) "to prevent and respond to emerging or unforeseen crises." The CCF has been used to help mitigate violence in critical places like Kenya, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Cote D'Ivoire, Tunisia and Yemen.

Why Do U.S. Civilian Agencies Need Rapid Response Funding?

The State Department and USAID submit budgets to Congress for their program work at least a year before they use the money. If a crisis breaks out, civilian agencies have few resources available to engage in rapid preventive diplomacy or launch crisis mitigation programs. Without funds available to quickly engage the tools of diplomacy and development, the U.S. government's ability to effectively prevent and mitigate crises is severely hampered. For example, when violence broke out in Kenya after disputed elections in late 2007, the State Department struggled for weeks to find funds to support the African-led mediation effort that helped halt the crisis.

The lack of flexible funding for civilian agencies has also contributed to the militarization of the U.S.' response to global crises. Over the past decade, Congress has provided the Department of Defense (DoD) with multiple "flexible funds" to respond to conflict situations in real time. Without rapid response funds available for civilian agencies to act, the military has been left to fund and direct many activities that should be civilian-led.

Congress often criticizes civilian agencies for their slow response to crises, but instead of funding rapid response capabilities within State and USAID they continue to disproportionately fund the military. When conflicts escalate or erupt into violence it is imperative that flexible funding be available to civilian actors who are trained to undertake prevention, reconstruction, and crisis response activities-activities where the military lacks expertise and mission focus.

Back to Top

The Complex Crises Fund in Action

The Complex Crises Fund supports activities to prevent or respond to emerging or unforeseen crises that address security or stabilization needs. This account focuses on countries or regions that demonstrate a high or escalating risk of conflict, instability, or an unanticipated opportunity for progress in a newly-emerging or fragile democracy. Projects aspire to address and prevent root causes of conflict and instability through a whole-of-government approach and will include host government participation, as well as other partner resources, where possible and appropriate.


The Complex Crises Fund was used in Kenya to prevent renewed violence during the contentious August 4, 2010 constitutional referendum and in the wake of the International Criminal Court's (ICC) announcements in December 2010 of high level public figures they intended to indict. The CCF succeeded in prioritizing areas at high-risk of conflict from ICC and referendum related activities. Ultimately, neither the referendum nor the ICC announcement sparked violence that so many had feared.

Cote D'Ivoire

After the contested November 28, 2010 presidential elections in Cote D'Ivoire, an outbreak of intense violence followed during which 3,000 people lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands of civilians were displaced. The Complex Crises Fund has supported the establishment of a more equitable, responsive, and legitimate government. Through work with the government and local groups, CCF resources have helped identify and respond to community-prioritized needs and encouraged a peaceful political transition.


After a month of youth-led protests fueled by economic inequality, corruption, and political repression, Tunisians toppled President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali on January 14, 2011, ushering in a wave of political excitement and uncertainty. In this window of opportunity, USAID was funded by the Complex Crises Fund and began a program to support Tunisia's transition process. A key component of these efforts is supporting local organizations to conduct outreach and awareness activities on topics related to democratic transitions, including basic democracy, and the importance of citizen participation.

Sri Lanka

Since the 2009 military defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), Sri Lanka has faced and continues to face immense challenges in resettling the conflict-affected population. In Northern Sri Lanka, the conflict disrupted local economies and damaged essential infrastructure. The Complex Crises Fund supported the local population in planting over 100,000 acres, through which farmers have been empowered to develop their livelihoods, support their families, build permanent shelters, and participate positively in their communities.

Back to Top

The role of Congress

In 2010, Congress appropriated the funding for the Complex Crises Fund. FCNL has vigorously lobbied for the Complex Crises Fund in the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill since its inception.

What has happened so far?

As a relatively new fund, advocates for the Complex Crises Fund struggle each year to secure funding. The amount requested is a small portion of the international affairs budget. Since the beginning of the CCF, it has not received full funding. Fiscal year Requested Enacted Congress first appropriated $50 million to the CCF in the FY2010 foreign operations appropriations bill, which was only half the original request. Although Congress appropriated funding, it was not permanently authorized. This means that FCNL will have to continue lobbying for renewing and increasing the Complex Crises Fund every year. Additionally, House and Senate appropriators disagree about who should control the Fund. Some favor USAID receiving the money and others prefer giving the Secretary of State direct control.

Even though Secretary Clinton had specifically mentioned the importance of the Complex Crises, the CCF suffered a significant cut from 2010 levels and received only $40 million in funds in 2011. However, this was much better than the earlier House proposal, which would have eliminated the account.

President Obama's FY2012 budget requested $75 million for the Complex Crises Fund, and FCNL urged Congress to fully enact this request. After the House attempted to completely eliminate the Complex Crises Fund, the final FY2012 budget allocated $10 million for general use and placed $33 million in "Overseas Contingency Operations" (OCO). For FY2013, the President has requested $50 million, which is a decrease from the amount requested in previous years. However, FCNL was relieved that none of the requested amount was classified as "Overseas Contingency Operations" costs and will continue to lobby appropriators to allocate the full $50 million request.

The Complex Crises Fund helps rebalance the U.S. foreign policy toolbox

The Complex Crises Fund specifically replaces the temporary "1207 transfer authority" given to the Department of Defense (DoD) since 2006. Under 1207 (named after the section of the bill that first authorized it), the Pentagon has transferred funding of up to $100 million to the State Department to undertake stabilization and reconstruction activities. While the State Department was given these funds, the Pentagon also exercised influence and veto power over the programs. The 1207 authority was never intended to remain permanently housed with DoD, and in 2010, Congressional appropriators ended 1207 funding for DoD and directly provided such funds to the State Department and USAID through the Complex Crises Fund.

What should Congress do next?

Congress should fully fund and authorize the Complex Crises Fund. The House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on State Department and Foreign Operations will largely determine whether the Complex Crises Fund is fully funded at the Administration's request. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committees hold the key to getting the fund permanently authorized.

Back to Top

The image above was published on Flickr creative commons.

About Us
Sign Up

Press Room »

Events »

Work at FCNL »

Programs for
Young Adults »

Email Options »

© 2016 FCNL | 245 Second St, NE, Washington, DC 20002 202-547-6000 | Toll Free 800-630-1330

© 2016 FCNL | 245 Second St, NE, Washington, DC 20002 202-547-6000 | Toll Free 800-630-1330