In a speech Secretary of Defense Robert Gates gave at Kansas State on Monday, he called for additional funding of the State Department. Among his comments about the Department:
"...But, my message today is not about the defense budget or military power. My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad. In short, based on my experience serving seven presidents, as a former Director of CIA and now as Secretary of Defense, I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use “soft” power and for better integrating it with “hard” power....
...The key, over time, was to devote the necessary resources – people and money – and get enough things right while maintaining the ability to recover from mistakes along the way. Ultimately, our endurance paid off and the Soviet Union crumbled, and the decades-long Cold War ended.
However, during the 1990s, with the complicity of both the Congress and the White House, key instruments of America’s national power once again were allowed to wither or were abandoned. Most people are familiar with cutbacks in the military and intelligence – including sweeping reductions in manpower, nearly 40 percent in the active army, 30 percent in CIA’s clandestine service and spies.
What is not as well-known, and arguably even more shortsighted, was the gutting of America’s ability to engage, assist, and communicate with other parts of the world – the “soft power,” which had been so important throughout the Cold War. The State Department froze the hiring of new Foreign Service officers for a period of time. The United States Agency for International Development saw deep staff cuts – its permanent staff dropping from a high of 15,000 during Vietnam to about 3,000 in the 1990s. And the U.S. Information Agency was abolished as an independent entity, split into pieces, and many of its capabilities folded into a small corner of the State Department.
Even as we throttled back, the world became more unstable, turbulent, and unpredictable than during the Cold War years. And then came the attacks of September 11, 2001, one of those rare life-changing dates, a shock so great that it appears to have shifted the tectonic plates of history. That day abruptly ended the false peace of the 1990s as well as our “holiday from history.”...
...these new threats also require our government to operate as a whole differently – to act with unity, agility, and creativity. And they will require considerably more resources devoted to America’s non-military instruments of power.
So, what are the capabilities, institutions, and priorities our nation must collectively address – through both the executive and legislative branches, as well as the people they serve?...
...I mentioned a moment ago that one of the most important lessons from our experience in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere has been the decisive role reconstruction, development, and governance plays in any meaningful, long-term success.
The Department of Defense has taken on many of these burdens that might have been assumed by civilian agencies in the past, although new resources have permitted the State Department to begin taking on a larger role in recent months. Still, forced by circumstances, our brave men and women in uniform have stepped up to the task, with field artillerymen and tankers building schools and mentoring city councils – usually in a language they don’t speak. They have done an admirable job....But it is no replacement for the real thing – civilian involvement and expertise....
...The importance of deploying civilian expertise has been relearned – the hard way – through the effort to staff Provincial Reconstruction Teams, first in Afghanistan and more recently in Iraq. The PRTs were designed to bring in civilians experienced in agriculture, governance, and other aspects of development – to work with and alongside the military to improve the lives of the local population, a key tenet of any counterinsurgency effort. Where they are on the ground – even in small numbers – we have seen tangible and often dramatic changes. An Army brigade commander in Baghdad recently said that an embedded PRT was “pivotal” in getting Iraqis in his sector to better manage their affairs....
...we need to develop a permanent, sizeable cadre of immediately deployable experts with disparate skills, a need which President Bush called for in his 2007 state of the union address, and which the State Department is now working on with its initiative to build a civilian response corps. Both the President and Secretary of State have asked for full funding for this initiative. But we also need new thinking about how to integrate our government’s capabilities in these areas, and then how to integrate government capabilities with those in the private sector, in universities, in other non-governmental organizations, with the capabilities of our allies and friends – and with the nascent capabilities of those we are trying to help.
Which brings me to a fundamental point. Despite the improvements of recent years, despite the potential innovative ideas hold for the future, sometimes there is no substitute for resources – for money.
Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but it remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities. Consider that this year’s budget for the Department of Defense – not counting operations in Iraq and Afghanistan – is nearly half a trillion dollars. The total foreign affairs budget request for the State Department is $36 billion – less than what the Pentagon spends on health care alone. Secretary Rice has asked for a budget increase for the State Department and an expansion of the Foreign Service. The need is real.
Despite new hires, there are only about 6,600 professional Foreign Service officers – less than the manning for one aircraft carrier strike group. And personnel challenges loom on the horizon. By one estimate, 30 percent of USAID’s Foreign Service officers are eligible for retirement this year – valuable experience that cannot be contracted out.
Overall, our current military spending amounts to about 4 percent of GDP, below the historic norm and well below previous wartime periods. Nonetheless, we use this benchmark as a rough floor of how much we should spend on defense. We lack a similar benchmark for other departments and institutions.
What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development. Secretary Rice addressed this need in a speech at Georgetown University nearly two years ago. We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military, beyond just our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen. We must also focus our energies on the other elements of national power that will be so crucial in the coming years....
...I hear all the time from the senior leadership of our Armed Forces about how important these civilian capabilities are. In fact, when Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen was Chief of Naval Operations, he once said he’d hand a part of his budget to the State Department “in a heartbeat,” assuming it was spent in the right place.
After all, civilian participation is both necessary to making military operations successful and to relieving stress on the men and women of our armed services who have endured so much these last few years, and done so with such unflagging bravery and devotion. Indeed, having robust civilian capabilities available could make it less likely that military force will have to be used in the first place, as local problems might be dealt with before they become crises."
Here is the link if you want to read the speech in its entirety.