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Buying National Security: The Lopsided Toolkit February 26, 2010

Posted by Rebecca Williams in Analysis.
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By Gordon Adams, Cindy Williams, Rebecca Williams and Trice Kabundi

There is a large, growing, and increasingly troubling imbalance between the civilian and military capabilities that support US international engagement.[1] The military tool in the US toolkit has become, in many ways, the “leading edge” of American statecraft.[2] This has had the consequence of eroding the civilian foreign policy agencies, while it has added missions to the overburdened military.  The size of the military, its budget, and its overseas footprint are all substantially larger than the US civilian foreign policy agencies, as the data below shows.

  • The defense budget is nearly 13 times bigger than all US civilian foreign policy budgets combined.  For Fiscal Year 2010, Congress has provided $636.3 billion for defense and $50.6 billion for diplomacy and foreign assistance.  Although the diplomacy and foreign assistance budget has grown faster since 9/11 than defense, this growth has not significantly changed this fiscal imbalance.[3]
  • The Defense Department (DOD) has the largest overseas presence of any federal agency, including the State Department and US Agency for International Development (USAID).  In November 2008, for every 1 USAID employee deployed overseas, there were 23 State Department employees deployed and 600 military/civilian personnel deployed overseas from DOD.[4] Increasingly US interests are represented by someone in uniform or working for the military, as contrasted with a diplomat or foreign assistance provider.
  • The overseas footprint of DOD is significantly larger than that of the civilian agencies. In November 2008, for every 1 USAID overseas mission, there were 3 embassies/consular posts, and 9 military bases.
  • A symbol of the imbalance between DOD and State − in 2008, DOD spent roughly $16 billion on fuel.  That is more than the entire cost of running the State Department, which was $13.5 billion.[5]

DOD has also significantly expanded its own portfolio of security assistance, foreign assistance, and public diplomacy activities. The US government provides security assistance to foreign countries, training and equipping foreign militaries and security personnel (including police).  Historically, and according to statute, these programs have been established and funded by the State Department, as part of the broader US overseas engagement strategy.  State and USAID are also the principal providers of foreign assistance. State is responsible for US public diplomacy programs.

  • DOD’s share of overall US security assistance has grown from 6 percent in 2002 to 51 percent in 2009.[6] This includes major training and equipment programs for Iraq, Afghanistan, and now Pakistan, as well as a new global program for foreign military assistance.[7]
  • DOD is providing a growing share of US foreign assistance.  The OECD Development Assistance Committee, which regularly reviews members’ development assistance programs, reported that the DOD share of all US bilateral development assistance grew significantly, from 4 percent of the US total in 1998, to nearly 22 percent of the total in 2005.[8]
  • DOD’s foreign assistance spending for just three countries is growing faster than USAID’s bilateral assistance programs for the entire globe.  DOD’s foreign assistance development, governance and rule-of-law programs and projects in Iraq and Afghanistan (the CERP program) was 6 percent as large as USAID’s global, bilateral development, governance, and health assistance in FY 2004.  By FY 2008, CERP funding covering three countries (adding the Philippines) came to 49 percent of all USAID bilateral funding.  It has since declined a bit, to about 37 percent in FY 2009.[9]
  • Although strong and responsive governance is key to stability in the more dangerous parts of the world, the US spends far less promoting governance and democracy than it spends on combat missions.  Defining such programs as broadly as possible, the State Department says the total FY 2010 request for “governing justly and democratically” was $2.9 billion, or 8 percent of overall US bilateral and regional assistance.  This was just 2 percent of the $130 billion FY 2010 DOD request for Overseas Contingency Operations, which funds this year’s war costs in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • DOD’s message risks overwhelming the civilian message the US communicates to publics in other countries through its public diplomacy programs.  While complete data on DOD “public diplomacy” spending is hard to obtain, the best available data indicate that DOD’s public diplomacy (information operations) has an FY 2010 budget of at least $626 million.  The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees all US overseas broadcasting operations outside the Pentagon, had a $745 million budget request for FY 2010.[10]

[1]Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned in a Spring 2009 talk at Princeton, of the looming “militarization of US foreign policy” Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called for strengthening US capabilities at State and USAID. The growing DOD/military role is exemplified by more than 500,000 troops deployed overseas, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, a broad quasi-diplomatic responsibility in the hands of regional Combatant Commanders (COCOMS), and a growing DOD portfolio of security and foreign assistance authorities.

[2] Within the beltway, DOD and the military are seen as the 800 pound political and budgetary gorilla.  It is the largest federal department in terms of personnel, has the largest budget, is the most trusted government institution, and is responsible for the “kinetic” (combat-related) defense of the US.  Americans are less aware of the significant overseas presence and growing non-kinetic (outside of combat) capabilities DOD and the military have to engage overseas. This growing DOD international engagement has begun to swamp civilian diplomatic and foreign assistance capabilities.

[3] The Defense budget has grown 76 percent from FY 2002 to FY 2010.  The International Affairs budget has grown by 102 percent over that same time period.

[4] The military/civilian number would be 356, if one subtracted active duty personnel currently in Iraq, Afghanistan, and counter-terror operations.  All figures derived from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, with the exception of military personnel taken from DOD’s Statistical Information Analysis Division, available at http://siadapp.dmdc.osd.mil/personnel/MILITARY/miltop.htm.

[5] The military travels on its fuel lines.  Last summer, when oil prices soared above $100 per barrel, it cost $1.8 million to fill a destroyer’s tanks.  In 2008, DOD spent roughly $16 billion on fuel alone; State Department Operations were $13.5 billion and entire International Affairs budget was $42.9 billion.

[6] These are security assistance programs funded through the Defense Department budget.  Data collected by the Stimson Center.

[7] Section 1206, DOD’s Global Train and Equip program was established in 2005.  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has recently proposed a significant expansion of this program; see http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/12/23/AR2009122302553.html.

[8] Until the Iraq invasion, DOD played only a small role in development assistance, limited largely to humanitarian assistance.  Today, the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP), originally created for Iraq and Afghanistan, provides regional combatant commanders with a source of funds that allows them to fund reconstruction and development projects in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Philippines. CERP has become a large, uniquely DOD development program, with $1.3 billion in funding for FY 2010 alone.

[9] CERP is the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, created to provide foreign assistance in Iraq, expanded to Afghanistan, and then to the Philippines.

[10] The DOD total is an amalgamation of multiple programs in Army, Air Force, and Special Operations Command accounts, including both global and Iraq/Afghanistan information operations.  It is nearly impossible to obtain funding data for all of DOD’s overseas public affairs activities as these sums are buried within overall Operations and Maintenance budgets.



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