USIP President Jim Marshall spoke at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) on March 11 for the release of a new report, “U.S. Navy Humanitarian Assistance in an Era of Austerity.” Marshall delivered the keynote address and participated in a panel discussion with Admiral (ret.) Gary Roughead (Hoover Institution), Rear Admiral (ret.) Thomas Cullison (CNA Institute for Public Research), and moderated by CSIS’s Dr. J. Stephen Morrison.


The report is the product of a year-long effort led by Admiral Roughead and the CSIS Global Health Policy Center. It argues that U.S. Navy proactive humanitarian engagement—missions that go beyond U.S. Navy response to natural disasters to include more sustained and strategic engagement through planned aid projects—is valuable and should be continued. The report further notes that under increasing budget pressure, the performance of these missions must be enhanced, long-term sustainability must be taken into account, and the Navy must find ways to clarify goals, demonstrate impact, and improve funding practices and policies in the future. Moreover, the report calls for expanded planning time that integrates a wider range of actors, including with other U.S. government agencies and potential nongovernmental (NGO) partners.


In his keynote, Marshall underscored the importance of “soft power,” especially during a time of federal budget constraints. He argued that sustained programs like U.S. Navy proactive humanitarian engagement are important pieces of U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. Nevertheless, Marshall said, a core challenge now is how to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of these programs and, importantly, how to communicate impact to funders—notably the U.S. Congress. Marshall argued that in today’s fiscal and political environment, in which it is increasingly difficult to convince many in Congress and elsewhere of the value of funding foreign aid, “it’s never been more important to demonstrate the effectiveness of soft power” as a means to advance U.S. interests. In particular, he underscored the need for planners and funders to reassess the appropriate mix of military and civilian capabilities in meeting U.S. soft power objectives.

While the military can and should play a key role, adequately funding civilian engagement projects over potentially more costly military deployments could lead to meeting core objectives at lower cost. Leveraging capabilities, increasing budget flexibility, and legitimizing the actions of partners and actors—particularly those that are low-cost, high-impact—across a variety of sectors are increasingly important to meeting these goals.

Explore Further


Related Publications

Frank Aum on North Korea Nuclear Negotiations

Frank Aum on North Korea Nuclear Negotiations

Thursday, June 20, 2019

By: Frank Aum

A year after the first summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, “both sides are very much committed to diplomacy and trying to reach an agreement,” says Frank Aum. Despite the stalled talks, Aum says that Chinese President Xi’s visit to North Korea will likely encourage Kim to continue along the path of diplomacy.

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

China’s Role in North Korea Nuclear and Peace Negotiations

China’s Role in North Korea Nuclear and Peace Negotiations

Monday, May 6, 2019

By: USIP China-North Korea Senior Study Group

This is the second in the Senior Study Group (SSG) series of USIP reports examining China’s influence on conflicts around the world. A group of fifteen experts met from September to December 2018 to assess China’s interests and influence in bringing about a durable settlement of the North Korean nuclear crisis. This report provides recommendations for the United States to assume a more effective role in shaping the future of North Korea in light of China’s role and interests. Unless otherwise sourced, all observations and conclusions are those of SSG members.

Conflict Analysis & Prevention; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

Amid War in Libya’s North, a Peace Effort Launches in the South

Amid War in Libya’s North, a Peace Effort Launches in the South

Friday, April 26, 2019

By: Nathaniel L. Wilson; Abigail Corey

The Libyan faction leader, Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, made global headlines this month with his assault on the capital, Tripoli. But in January, fewer people noticed his preparatory move: a takeover of the country’s vast southern region, Fezzan. Fezzan is mostly desert but flecked with oil fields and agriculturally rich oases. Libya’s U.N.-recognized government, which is Haftar’s rival in claiming power, has largely neglected the south, leaving armed groups from different tribes to fight for control of economic resources. This absence of governance, across an area larger than California, offers a haven for threats to regional and U.S. security interests: human trafficking, arms smuggling, and violent extremist groups.

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue

View All Publications