While the Pentagon's budget has risen to heights
not seen since World War II, US diplomatic and foreign aid assets have largely
atrophied and must be quickly rebuilt by any new administration that takes office
in January, according to a new report released here this week by former senior
foreign service officers.
The report by the American Academy of Diplomacy (AAD) and the Henry L. Stimson
Center is calling for a nearly 50 percent increase in the number of diplomats
and aid and development specialists recruited into the foreign service over
the next five years. This would cost about three billion dollars or approximately
what the Pentagon is currently spending every 10 days on military operations
in Iraq over current budget estimates.
''Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the diplomatic capacity of the United
States has been hollowed out," according to the 26-page report, "A
Foreign Affairs Budget for the Future." "The status quo cannot continue
without serious damage to our vital interests."
The vacuum created by the lack of diplomatic resources particularly
in comparison to the Pentagon's budget and manpower has translated into
the militarization of US foreign policy, warns the report.
''Today, significant portions of the nation's foreign affairs business simply
are not accomplished,'' it says. "The work migrates by default to the military
that does have the necessary people and funding but neither sufficient experience
nor knowledge. The militarization of diplomacy exists and is accelerating."
To that end, the report calls for the State Department to take over control
from the Defense Department (DOD) of nearly 800 million dollars a year budgeted
for several security assistance programs, including humanitarian aid, created
in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks to help friendly militaries prosecute
the "global war on terrorism."
"Our view is that the Secretary of State has and should have responsibility
for assuring that all foreign and security assistance is carried out in accord
with US foreign policy, including setting overall policy, approving countries
to receive assistance, and setting the budget for such assistance," the
"DOD's expanded policy responsibility for security assistance programs
risks the additional atrophy of the civilian agencies' ability to plan and conduct
foreign policy and foreign assistance and raises serious concerns that such
programs could conflict with broader US strategic and foreign policy interests."
"Moreover, these expanded missions are not the core competence of the
military and thus may detract from the readiness to perform more central military
missions," it added. "Finally, it is important for the US to ensure
that its nonmilitary international presence and engagement be carried out primarily
by civilians, not by the military."
Indeed, the latest report echoes the views albeit in more diplomatic
language of a growing number of non-governmental organizations and foreign
policy experts that the Pentagon, simply by virtue of its enormous budget and
its worldwide presence with nearly 800 overseas bases, has become far too dominant
in policy making.
Even Pentagon chief Robert Gates a former senior intelligence officer, has
complained about the imbalance between US military and diplomatic resources.
"Funding for nonmilitary foreign affairs programs...remains disproportionately
small relative to what we spend on the military," he declared in a much-discussed
speech last November. "What is clear for me is that there is a need for
a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security."
"Our diplomatic leaders be they in ambassadors' suites or on the State
Department's seventh [top] floor must have the resources and political support
needed to fully exercise their statutory responsibilities in leading American
foreign policy," he said in July.
He has also noted ruefully that there are more people serving in military bands
than in the entire State Department.
Despite his support, however, Gates' views have not yet substantially altered
the political equation in Congress, which has routinely approved or even increased
the Bush administration's budgetary requests for the Pentagon over the last
eight years while casting a far more skeptical eye on requests for the State
Department, which lacks a comparably broad-based geographic, commercial, or
The Defense Department is slated to receive well over 527 billion dollars for
2009 not including some 15 billion dollars a month for operations in
Iraq and Afghanistan or roughly 13 times more than the State Department's
budget of less than 40 billion dollars.
Moreover, despite his concerns, Gates has asked so far without success
that substantially more money be allocated to the new discretionary accounts
that the Pentagon currently may disburse for allies in the war on terror, a
request which, to the dismay of most foreign service officers, Secretary of
State Condoleezza Rice supported in hearings before Congress earlier this year.
Last week, the Pentagon submitted a new estimate for defense spending that
is 450 billion dollars more over the next five years than it had previously
announced, according to Congressional Quarterly, beginning with a nearly 10-percent
increase in its 2010 budget to nearly 600 billion dollars.
Compared to that request, the recommendation by the AAD-Stimson report to increase
the State Department's planned budget by roughly 3.3 billion dollars over the
next five years seems paltry, indeed.
According to the report, which was put together by a task force of 14 former
senior foreign service officers with the help of an advisory group chaired by
former U.N. Amb. Thomas Pickering, the State Department currently suffers serious
shortages in personnel in virtually all of its operations, from consular activity
to development assistance and public diplomacy.
The report noted the decline in the foreign service and State Department spending
began at the end of the Cold War when the international affairs budget was reduced
by roughly 30 percent in real terms. Former Secretary of State Colin Powell
succeeded in creating more than 1,000 new State Department posts between 2001
and 2004, according to the report, but these increases were quickly absorbed
by diplomatic surges in Iraq and Afghanistan, leaving other key areas and global
issues with significant staff shortfalls.
It called for total State Department staffing to increase from roughly 10,000
today to nearly 15,000 by 2014.
(Inter Press Service)