Ted Kaufman - United States Senator for Delaware

Letter to the Editor: Send in the Civilians

Source: Foreign Affairs

By Edward E. Kaufman

September 1, 2010

To the Editor:

U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ("Helping Others Defend Themselves," May/June 2010) calls failing states "the main security challenge of our time." Given this strategic reality, the U.S. government must change its approach to the national security challenges of the future.

Gates outlines ways to improve the advising and mentoring capacity of the Defense Department; the U.S. government needs to take this a step further by building a complementary capacity within its civilian agencies. The State Department's ability to partner with the military on stabilization and conflict-prevention programs should be expanded, as should its efforts to partner with foreign governments to improve their governance capacities.

In the Senate, I have advocated for programs, such as joint civilian-military training prior to deployments in Afghanistan, that would foster greater cooperation between the State Department and the Pentagon. Such coordination is essential, because the wars of the future will likely involve counterinsurgency, which relies on the military to clear and hold and on civilians to build and transfer.

The U.S. military has been transforming to address new threats and the defense budget has been rebalanced, but these efforts must be complemented by a stronger civilian capacity to engage in counterinsurgency alongside the military. Congress should therefore support efforts to help civilian and military leaders work in concert around the world.

First, Congress must make structural changes, particularly regarding the national security budget. Gates' proposal for a pooled interagency fund for building partner capacity and stabilization capabilities should receive serious consideration. Congress also must provide the State Department with more flexible and discretionary funding streams so that diplomats can respond to crises rapidly, just as military officers are able to dispense Commander's Emergency Response Program funds quickly.

The U.S. government must also better train foreign police. The State Department's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs has had success in training civilian law enforcement agencies around the globe, but its model has not worked in Afghanistan. The United States needs a more robust civilian approach to partnering with foreign law enforcement and defense counterparts. Something so critical should not be an afterthought or be contracted out to private companies.

A major challenge to interagency cooperation is the discrepancy between the size of civilian and military staffs. The United States needs more diplomats and development professionals to serve around the world -- especially in Afghanistan, where there are nearly 100,000 U.S. soldiers but barely 1,000 U.S. civilians. The fiscal year 2011 budget resolution is shortsighted in cutting $4 billion from the president's $58.5 billion international affairs budget; this would mean fewer resources for U.S. civilians deployed around the world, including in war zones. Although Congress must carefully weigh budgets in a difficult economic environment, it should not do so at the expense of national security interests.

Finally, just as Gates advocates for building stronger security partnerships with foreign governments, so should the United States build foreign governance capacity by creating civilian advising and mentoring programs. These would allow experts to work in foreign ministries, parliaments, provinces, and municipalities to improve governance, economic development, and the rule of law. The State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization has been charged with standing up the Civilian Response Corps, which -- if properly resourced -- would be a natural home for such teams. It should recruit and train the best and brightest among the federal work force, foster interagency coordination, promote best practices, and be on the frontlines of defending U.S. national security interests. So far,
unfortunately, it has fallen short of meeting these goals.

The U.S. government cannot afford to think of national security only in military terms. The more it integrates its civilian and military capacities, the better able it will be to defend the nation.

Print this Page E-mail this Page