The Pentagon and Global Development: Making Sense of the DoD's Expanding Role - Working Paper 131

Kaysie Brown
November 12, 2007

One of the most significant trends in U.S. development policy since September 11, 2001 is the growing involvement of the Department of Defense (DoD) in providing U.S. foreign aid. The Pentagon now handles more than 20 percent of U.S. official development assistance (ODA), up from 6 percent only five years ago. DoD has also increased non-ODA activities, such as the training of foreign military forces, previously conducted under the authority of the Department of State or USAID. The Pentagon's expanding foreign assistance role raises concerns that U.S. foreign and development policies are being subsumed by a short-term security agenda.

In this new working paper, CGD research fellow Stewart Patrick and program associate Kaysie Brown look at the budget numbers to see what foreign policy and development activities DoD is engaged in, and where. They find the overwhelming bulk of ODA provided directly by DoD goes to Iraq and Afghanistan, which are violent environments that require the military to take a lead role through instruments like Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and the use of Commanders' Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds. The authors argue that this funding surge is likely to disappear when the U.S. involvement in both wars ends. However, they also find that beyond these two conflicts, DoD is expanding its operations in the developing world to include activities that may be more appropriately undertaken by U.S. civilian actors, such as the U.S. Agency for International Development or the U.S. Department of State. These initiatives include the use of Section 1206 authorities to train and equip foreign security forces, the establishment of the new Combatant Command for Africa (AFRICOM), and the administration's Building Global Partnerships Act. The authors caution against a growing DoD aid role outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, for fear that a short-term security agenda will exacerbate the longstanding and glaring imbalance between the military and civilian components of the U.S. approach to state-building in the developing world, and may undermine long-term U.S. foreign policy and development objectives to advance security, good governance and growth.

Specifically, the authors propose that the U.S. government should:

  • Adopt a strategic and integrated approach to fragile and war-torn states;
  • Clarify agency roles and responsibilities in carrying out this agenda;
  • Provide civilian agencies such as the State Department and USAID with the resources, personnel and training they need to do the job; and
  • Better incorporate development perspectives and expertise in DoD-led counter-terrorism, capacity-building and post-conflict initiatives.

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