George Moose, vice chair of USIP's board of directors, testified on March 5, 2009 before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations on "The Role of Civilian and Military Agencies in the Advancement of America's Diplomatic and Development Objectives." The hearing focused on the role of the military and civilian agencies in U.S. foreign policy, in permissive and nonpermissive environments. Like Moose, the Subcommittee's Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Member Kay Granger (R-TX) agreed that now is the time to strengthen civilian agencies and redress the imbalance that exists among diplomacy, development and defense.
Honorable Members of the Subcommittee:
I am pleased to have been invited to appear before the subcommittee, on a subject I believe requires urgent and serious attention: the severe and unsustainable imbalance between the military and civilian capacities of our government and the impact of that imbalance on our ability to address the complex international security challenges we will continue to face in the 21st century.
My views on this topic have been shaped by my 37 years with the Department of State, and by my affiliations with organizations that are engaged in serious efforts to help the USG improve the way it addresses issues of conflict. These include:
- The US Institute of Peace, where I serve as board vice chair. Founded by Congress twenty-five years ago, the Institute promotes research, education, and training on the prevention, management and peaceful resolution of international conflicts. It is also addressing the need to improve our national capacity to prevent conflict, manage existing conflicts and help societies struggling to build peace. In this mission, the Institute is grateful for the support it has received this subcommittee.
- Search for Common Ground, where I chair the board, and which has become an acknowledged leader in the field of conflict transformation and peacebuiding.
- And LMI Government Consulting, a not-for-profit government consulting company where I hold the position of Senior Fellow. LMI has a respected history of helping government leaders, both civilian and military, address their most critical management challenges, and it has developed special expertise in the area of post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction.
I wish to make clear, however, that the views I present here today are strictly my own.
The Hollowing Out of Foreign Affairs
At the heart of the problem the committee has chosen to address is the subject it took up at its hearing last week: the steep and steady erosion in staffing and resourcing of the Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies. It is not my intention to revisit that earlier testimony, but rather to build on it. In particular, I want to speak to the implications of this trend for the effectiveness of the U.S. response to complex international security challenges. In this regard, I will draw in particular on my experience in dealing with U.S. policy with respect to Africa.
But first, I would like to share a brief anecdote. In 1986, I was privileged to work for Ron Spiers, who served as State's Undersecretary for Management under Secretary George Shultz. At Shultz' direction, Ron launched a major campaign to increase funding for the diplomatic function, and to redress the imbalance that was evident even then between the resourcing of the military and non-military dimensions of our international machinery. The catch phrase we hit upon at the time to describe the situation was, "Less than two cents on the dollar." That was the portion of the federal budget that went to fund not only the State Department, but the entire Function 150 international affairs budget. The point was further underscored by the fact that State's entire operating budget, roughly $3 billion, was about equal to the cost of two B-2 bombers, then estimated at $1.5 billion a copy.
Today. while the total funding of international affairs has nearly tripled, its proportion relative to total federal spending has declined from two cents on the dollar to less than 1.3 cents. I cite these figures to underscore the point that others have already made: that the disequilibrium in our funding for international affairs has existed for a long time, and that the problem has only deepened over time.
Indeed, the trend toward contraction in our international affairs budget accelerated during the decade of the 1990's—a decade that logically should have been an era of expansion to address the growing challenges of globalization and a burgeoning list of transnational issues. As Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, I waged a continuing battle to stave off efforts to close embassies across the continent. The effects of this contraction were seen not only in the shrinking of our diplomatic, aid and public diplomacy establishments, but also in the withering of our intelligence assets.
The contraction was driven by a preoccupation with domestic issues, notably the economy, and by a belief that, with the end of the Cold War, the U.S. no longer faced serious international threats to its security. There were many events along the way that should have caused us to question that facile assumption. In Africa, we witnessed the effort by Usama Bin Laden to establish a base in Sudan for his international terrorist ambitions. After leaving Sudan he found a haven in Afghanistan. And, if nothing else, the bombings of our embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in August 1998 should have served as an ear-splitting wake-up call.
The Response to 9/11
But I think it is fair to say that it wasn't until 9/11 that we as a nation came fully to appreciate the true nature of threats that were brewing in the international environment, and the seriousness of the costs of failing to confront them. And when, in the aftermath of 9/11, we looked around for ways to respond, we found that our international security tool box—diplomatic, developmental, public diplomacy, even intelligence—was essentially bare. Indeed. it appeared that the only tools and resources readily at hand were those of the military. The propensity to resort to military responses was reinforced by an administration that seemed more comfortable with military approaches to complex security problems.
Not surprisingly, it was during this same period that we witnessed some of the most troubling examples of what can happen when there is an overreliance on military responses. In Africa, for example, the State Department found itself in a struggle with combatant commanders who felt they had been given a "hunting license" by administration political leadership to pursue their own hot war on terrorism, without regard to the responsibilities and authorities of the Secretary of State or chiefs of mission in the field, or even the traditional prerogatives of the CIA. I think one can fairly say that the primacy given to military action, as well as the failure to consult or coordinate, put in jeopardy a host of other foreign policy objectives, to include sustaining the hard-earned progress that had been in areas of democracy and human rights.
I want to be clear that I do not regard our military as the bad guys in this plot. On the contrary, the U.S. military has done exactly what we ask and expect them to when presented with clear and legitimate political instructions: salute smartly and get on with the mission. Most military leaders with whom I have spoken have grown increasingly uncomfortable in the expanding roles they have been asked to assume, and with their lack of skills and experience to perform them well. Most share Secretary Gates' conviction regarding the need for a rebalancing of the key elements of our foreign and national security policy, as well as the imperative for a civilian lead in the formulation of policy and the integration of the elements of national power. And I know from my conversations with him, as well as his articles and speeches, that General Ward at AFRICOM fully shares this view.
Rather, to return to my opening remarks, the current imbalance in the alignment of our diplomatic, development and defense capacities can be explained by two interrelated phenomena: The steep and sustained erosion over the past two decades of our diplomatic resources and capacities; and the growing tendency of political leaders, especially notable over the past eight years, to look first to military responses to our complex international security challenges. Those two phenomena have been mutually reinforcing, driving more and resources out of the budgets of the international affairs agencies and into the budget of the Pentagon. It is a trend for which many must share responsibility, including the Congress, and the State Department itself, which in my view became too accepting of its diminished status and role, and which for too long tried to pretend that it could do more with less.
But I believe it is also important to point out that this trend has also been driven by a steady drumbeat of attacks from some who would have us believe that the State Department cannot be trusted to be a reliable implementer of the President's foreign policy — a scurrilous allegation that does a great injustice to the dedicated and loyal foreign service and civil service professionals who serve our country with honor and courage.
Restoring the Balance
Restoring the balance in our national security apparatus will require action on several fronts. The proper way to address is not to take assets away from the military. From the perspective of Africa, it is clear to me that we need the U.S. military to be more engaged, not less. There are many appropriate and legitimate tasks in which the military can and should be engaged.
- We want them to be making a larger contribution to the solving of the continents deep and seemingly intractable security problems.
- We want our military to make a greater contribution to helping build the capacity of democratically controlled African security forces to contribute to regional and international peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts, an aspiration shared by Africans themselves.
- We want our military to make a greater contribution to contribution to security sector refonn efforts, especially in countries like Sierra Leone and Liberia that are emerging from decades of civil conflict.
- We need the U.S. military to help African militaries address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, not least because African militaries are at present one of the major vectors of the disease.
For these missions, the U.S. military may well need more resources rather than less. But it is equally clear that we need a military whose programs and activities are fully integrated and coordinated, and that serve to support our broader foreign policy goals.
As last week's panel testified, the first and most urgent step required to restore balance in the conduct of our foreign policy is the rebuilding of the capacities of our civilian foreign affairs agencies. We can no longer pretend that State and USAID can responsibly assume the burgeoning list of diplomatic tasks central to protecting and advancing America's global interests without substantial increases in staff. This is true across the full spectrum of diplomatic activity, but it is especially true with respect to our response to situations of conflict and the threats they to our national security interests.
Both Iraq and Afghanistan are exceptional in the magnitude of the challenge and of the level of effort required. But a quick survey will reveal that there are many situations around the world that — in addition to posing immediate threats to the lives, welfare and rights of those caught up in them — pose wider risks for the security interests of the United States and the international community. The World Bank annually publishes what they call their list of "Low Income States Under Stress," or what others might simply call fragile states. A recent index listed 27 states, of which 17 were in Africa. Even a prudent and conservative risk management strategy would argue that we need to make a greater investment in capabilities that allow us, proactively, to take action that might prevent or mitigate these risks.
In that regard, I applaud congressional support for the proposed Civilian Reserve Corps that would create a surge capacity for responding to crisis situations. But I will also insist this surge capacity holds only part of the solution. We must also address the need for substantial increases in full-time, resident core staffing, both in the field and in Washington. And we must make provision for the intensive training that this growing staff will surely need if they are to be able to assume the new duties we are asking them to perform.
Mandates, Authorities and Structures
But the solution we need is not just a matter of numbers. In addition to hiring more staff, we also need to rethink the issues of mandates, authorities and structures that will be required to empower the civilian foreign affairs agencies, the State Department in particular, to assume their appropriate and essential roles. The needed increases in personnel will prove ineffective if not accompanied by a re-examination of the way the State Department is organized to make use of those resources, as well as the authorities needed to enable it to fulfill its responsibilities with respect to the formulation and execution of foreign policy.
Again, taking Africa as an example, the establishment of AFRICOM has highlighted the need for a mechanism in Washington that can support the ambition of integrating our diplomatic, development and defense capabilities. To date, that construct does not exist.
This issue is central to General Jones' vision for a revamped National Security Council, one that focuses on the need for a more effective integration of all our instruments of national power and influence. There will always be some situations that are of such magnitude and high priority that they require coordination at the level of the NSC. Iraq and Afghanistan are clearly in that league. But there are many others that do not rise to that level; and it is simply not possible to lodge responsibility for managing all situations in the White House and the NSC. For those situations we require other mechanisms.
In my view, the proper locus for these coordinating mechanisms is the Department of State. That proposition is supported by many existing mandates, both executive and legislative. But I would argue that those mandates and authorities have suffered serious erosion in recent years. They are in need of restatement and reaffirmation, and in some aspects enlargement, to take into account new realities and requirements.
The Role of Congress
Finally, I cannot end without noting that the challenge of rebalancing the instruments of national power will require changes not only within the executive branch, but also within the Congress. My colleague Gordon Adams, from the perspective of his years of experience at OMB, is far better placed than I to comment on this critical dimension. The fact that responsibility for the 150 account is scattered among a dozen different authorizing and appropriating committees and subcommittees greatly complicates the challenge of bringing both coherence and sustained commitment to efforts to strengthen our government's foreign affairs functions. The balance that needs to be restored between our defense and non- defense capacities is not likely to be found in a budgeting process that pits State's needs against those of the Commerce and Justice Departments.
In conclusion, I welcome the attention the subcommittee is focusing on this issue. I believe that such an examination is urgently needed. I greatly appreciate the opportunity the subcommittee has given me to speak to these issues, and I look forward to your questions.
The views expressed in this testimony are those of the author, not the U.S. Institute of Peace, which does not take positions on policy issues.