MFAN Principal Calls for Strengthening US Civilian Power

MFAN Principal Bill Anderson, Visiting Professor at Virginia Tech’s School of Public and International Affairs and career Foreign Service Officer at USAID, urges the Obama administration to move beyond resources to ensure that efforts to strengthen USAID, the State Department, and other foreign assistance programs are not lost in the new political and economic environment. In an op-ed for The Hill, Anderson writes that many of the current reforms underway, including those led by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, need bipartisan political support to be truly lasting. He also argues for civilian and military leaders to work closer together to keep the momentum for reform going. See key excerpts below:

“While the president has called for sufficient funding for foreign aid programs and diplomatic initiatives, focusing squarely on funding may minimize the daunting task of rebuilding lost human capital (such as engineers and agricultural specialists) and basic operating systems to plan, design, implement and evaluate U.S. foreign assistance. The wide range of reforms launched by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah are an excellent first step, but they will require bipartisan political support to modernize, streamline and strengthen U.S. aid efforts. When effectively delivered, U.S. assistance will accelerate inclusive growth, reduce poverty, improve people’s lives, support stability and build democratic governance in fragile states. Those results support American security and contribute to our prosperity.”

“Our military leaders must do more than talk the talk on civilian power; they must also walk the walk. When senior State, USAID, Treasury and Millennium Challenge Corporation officials appear before Congress to justify their budget requests, they should be joined by the Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of State, or the four-star commanders of DoD’s regional commands and Special Operations Command.  In defense budget hearings, DoD witnesses should be accompanied by witnesses of similar rank from relevant civilian agencies.  Such joint public appearances and subsequent private meetings would make clear to the bipartisan Congressional leadership that the FY 2012 DoD, State and foreign assistance budgets need to be seen as parts of a unified national security budget and considered as a whole, not piecemeal. A strong military alone is not enough to protect America, and our budget – even under duress – ought to reflect that.”

“Without an innovative “civil-military” political strategy and careful consultation with both authorizing and appropriations committees, a Republican-dominated House is likely to place the International Affairs budget on the chopping block, even though it only accounts for a sliver of our federal budget. Our civilian and military leadership must speak in unison to underscore how vital rebuilding our civilian institutions is to our national security.”

You Might Also Like