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CGD seeks to inform the US government’s approach to international development by bringing evidence to bear on questions of “what works” and proposing reforms to strengthen US foreign assistance tools.
The policies and practices of the US government wield formidable influence on global development. CGD seeks to strengthen US foreign assistance tools with evidence of “what works” and propose reforms grounded in rigorous analysis across the full range of investment, trade, technology and foreign assistance related issues. With high-level US government experience and strong research credentials, our experts are sought out by policymakers for practical ideas to enhance the US’s leading role in promoting progress for all.
Is the U.S. military’s growing involvement in activities formerly reserved for civilian-led agencies such as the State Department and USAID good for the U.S.? How about for developing countries? CGD research fellow Stewart Patrick investigated these and other questions as the lead co-author of Integrating 21st Century Security and Development Assistance (PDF, 784 KB), a new report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Task Force on Non-Traditional Security Assistance. Patrick sees cause for concern—but also encouraging signs of an emerging consensus on a fresh whole-of-government approach to U.S. foreign policy that integrates all three of the so-called three Ds: Defense, Diplomacy and Development.
Q: According to the New York Times, a forthcoming U.S. Army manual will elevate stabilizing war-torn nations as a mission for the U.S. military, putting it on par with war fighting. The Times quotes the new manual as saying: "Winning battles and engagements is important but alone is not sufficient. Shaping the civil situation is just as important to success." Is this part of a larger trend?
A: Yes. The new manual reflects a sea change in the role of the U.S. military, the mission of which is to fight and win the nation's wars. But Iraq and Afghanistan have taught us that you only win the war if you win the peace. Success in both counter-insurgency and "stability" operations requires fostering home-grown institutions that can provide security, governance and social services. For the Pentagon this represents a huge cultural shift from the 1990s, when the uniformed military disdained "military operations other than war" (or "MOOTWA"). And it's a big adjustment for the Bush administration, which came to office disdainful of "nation-building" -- an attitude encapsulated by Condoleezza Rice's remark in a 2000 Foreign Affairs article that "we don't need to have the 82nd Airborne escorting kids to kindergarten." The military's expanding nation-building role has made it a significant provider not only of security but also of aid for governance and development assistance. These trends show up in U.S. foreign aid figures:between 2002 and 2005, the share of all U.S. official development assistance (ODA) channeled through the Pentagon nearly quadrupled, rising from just under 6 percent to nearly 22 percent -- or approximately $5.5 billion.
Q: What's driving this trend?
A: As our report outlines, there are three main factors. The first is the Bush administration's strategic focus on the "global war on terror," which treats fragile and war-torn states as the main battlegrounds of the 21st century. As the military's 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review explains, the United States needs agile aid instruments to help build the capacities of fragile states that are recovering from conflict and to contain "ungoverned areas" that can be exploited by terrorists and other non-state groups. The second is the vacuum left by civilian U.S. agencies. Despite Condi Rice's commitment to "transformational diplomacy," both the State Department and USAID have fallen short in their efforts to deploy adequate personnel and other resources to the field, particularly in insecure environments. A good example is the difficulty of both agencies to staff "provincial reconstruction teams" (PRTs) in Afghanistan and Iraq. This shortcoming reflects the third driving force: chronic underinvestment by the United States in the non-military instruments of state-building. As my colleague Kaysie Brown and I pointed out in a recent CGD working paper, the dramatic expansion of the Department of Defense's aid role reflects a serious mismatch between the Secretary of State's responsibilities to control U.S. foreign assistance and the actual resources budgeted to the civilian side of the U.S. government to fulfill this role.
Q: What are the implications for U.S. development assistance of the growing Pentagon involvement in "nation building"? Is this good or should it be seen as a cause for concern?
A: It really depends on the context. In violent environments like Iraq and Afghanistan -- where friendly governments confront active, determined insurgencies and civilian actors have difficulty operating safely -- a big military role in nation-building is both inevitable and welcome. In such "non-permissive" contexts, military civil affairs teams will be called upon not only to provide public security but also to help restore the rule of law, re-establish local governance, revive commercial activity, and restore basic services. What is potentially more problematic for U.S. development and foreign policy is the Pentagon's growing aid role in more peaceful environments. Since 9/11, the Department of Defense (DoD) has expanded its role in the developing world, taking on tasks that might more appropriately be undertaken by the State Department, USAID, or other civilian actors. These activities include new authorities to train and equip foreign security forces for counterterrorism missions; the establishment of a new Combatant Command for Africa (AFRICOM); and the Bush administration's Building Global Partnership (BGP) Act, which would further expand DoD's assistance authority. Unless handled carefully, these trends could skew U.S. engagement with fragile developing countries in a military direction, undermining broader efforts to build effective, accountable, and sustainable local institutions.
Q: There's been a lot of talk recently about the need for U.S. "Smart Power," that is, relying less on military and more on civilian instruments. Is there any hope of building U.S. civilian capabilities?
A: The prospects are better today than at any time since 9/11. There is serious momentum, both outside and inside the U.S. government, to re-balance the three-legged stool of U.S. national security, so that the wobbly diplomatic and development legs can keep up with the defense leg. The need to invest in these civilian instruments was a central theme of the recent Center for Strategic and International Studies Commission on Smart Power and HELP Commission reports, and it's the main recommendation of our own Task Force Report. These voices have been echoed within the Bush administration. In his eloquent Landon Lecture at Kansas State University in November 2007, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates delivered a clarion call for greater federal investment in U.S. civilian agencies, to help make a difference in fragile and war-torn states. Equally important, the administration has finally put its money where its mouth is. In its budget request released last week, the White House asked Congress for more than a thousand foreign service officers in State and USAID, as well as for $250 million to fund a new Civilian Stabilization Initiative to create a civilian expeditionary capability to support stabilization and reconstruction operations. This would include hundreds of staff in State and USAID and a 2,000-person Civilian Reserve Corps--a sort of Peace Corps on steroids--drawn from U.S. citizens with appropriate technical expertise. These are all promising developments. The two dark clouds on the horizon are the political calendar and the looming recession. Although advisers to Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama have all been on record as supporting strong civilian capacity, securing passage of major new spending in an election year can be problematic, particularly at a time of looming budget austerity.
Q: What's needed to make sure the Pentagon's expanding role advances rather than detracts from development prospects?
A: The overriding objective should be to ensure that the Pentagon's expanding aid role is not independent but embedded in a broader U.S.-government wide strategy, with civilians having the lead in determining policy and integrating all instruments of U.S. national influence, both in Washington and in the field. This should be equally true both for post-conflict operations and for U.S. military assistance to fragile states. In Iraq and Afghanistan, for example, it is critical to involve civilian development and governance experts in the design and evaluation of U.S. reconstruction efforts, even where U.S. troops are taking the lead in implementation. When it comes to more "permissive" environments -- such as the U.S. military activities of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa or the newly created AFRICOM -- the executive branch and Congress should work to ensure that the U.S. military sticks to its lane, focusing on security sector issues and military-to-military cooperation, while leaving development and governance interventions to civilian professionals who have the training and expertise required to promote effective institutions. The ultimate goal should be a "whole of government" approach based on a partnership of equals.
In a major policy speech hosted by CGD, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton declared international development a central pillar of U.S. foreign policy, together with diplomacy and defense. She hailed Raj Shah, recently confirmed as administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, and said she intends to rebuild USAID into, “the premier development agency in the world.”
In her speech, Clinton said that, especially in tough economic times, the American people have the right to ask why the United States spends tax dollars to help developing countries. Development overseas is critical to U.S. security and prosperity, she said, and development professionals must do a better job of measuring and communicating the impacts of their work.
“We must evaluate our progress and have the courage to rethink our strategies if we're falling short,” said Clinton. “We must not simply add up the dollars we spend or the number of programs we run, but measure the results—the lasting changes that those dollars and programs have helped achieve.”
Seasoned observers in the standing-room-only audience of development professionals said afterwards that the speech was the most detailed and forceful on development by a top U.S. official in many years. This reflected, they said, both Secretary Clinton’s personal interest in global poverty reduction the Obama administration’s broad commitment to elevate development policy issues.
Introducing Clinton, CGD president Nancy Birdsall said that “in the rich world no country … has more unrealized potential to make a difference than our own USA—and doing this well is in our own best interest.”
Birdsall said that she has been pleased to learn that a 2008 CGD book, The White House and the World: A Global Development Agenda for the Next U.S. President has been widely read within the administration. “I won’t mind if its ideas and recommendations are reflected here today—indirectly or directly!” she said, drawing laughter from the crowd.
Birdsall also thanked Clinton “as the world’s most powerful diplomat” for putting “women and girls at the center of U.S. foreign relations,” for speaking out for women’s rights and “giving voice to the most vulnerable women in the Congo and beyond by calling for an end to sexual violence and mass rape.”
Clinton Ties U.S. Security to Better Aid Delivery (Reuters)
Hillary Clinton on Development Issues (New York Times Blog)
Hillary Clinton: Yemen Needs more Than Air Strikes and Diplomacy (Christian Science Monitor)
Read all the media coverage
CGD Analysis and Commentary
Clinton Stresses the Need to Re-balance Health Assistance Away from AIDS Treatment (Mead Over)
Secretary Clinton Pushes the Development Envelope in CGD Speech (Sarah Jane Staats)
The End of Exile for Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (Rachel Nugent)
Clinton, Innovation, and the MCC (Darius Nassiry)
A central idea in Clinton’s remarks was the need for better coordination of development assistance, both within the U.S. government and in U.S. activities overseas. She highlighted the multitude of U.S. agencies involved in international development and described the complexity of today’s aid environment, in which aid flows not only from traditional bilateral and multilateral donors, but also from the emerging powers, from non-profit organizations, individual charity, venture capital funds, and for-profit corporations.
“Now, I know that the word integration sets off alarm bells in some people’s heads. There is a concern that integrating development means diluting it or politicizing it—giving up our long-term development goals to achieve short-term objectives or handing over more of the work of development to our diplomats or defense experts,” she said.
“That is not what we mean, nor what we will do. What we will do is leverage the expertise of our diplomats and our military on behalf of development, and vice versa. The three D's must be mutually reinforcing.”
In interactions with developing countries, Clinton declared that U.S. approach should be based, “on partnership, not patronage.” She spoke of the need for shared responsibility between donors and recipient countries and highlighted the Millennium Challenge Corporation model, which rewards countries that meet economic, governance and human rights benchmarks, as one way of sharing control.
Clinton also highlighted key sectors where she says the United States will focus its assistance. She described significant commitments to global health and agriculture, and stated that support for women and girls will be a theme that runs through all of the U.S. development work. “I will not accept words without deeds when it comes to women’s progress,” Clinton said.
Clinton closed by recalling some of the successes of development assistance over the past half-century—from the eradication of smallpox to the success of South Korea, Thailand, and Mozambique, to massive humanitarian relief operations. She said these are achievements that Americans can take pride in, and said the mission of development is fundamentally in tune with American values.
“We can succeed,” Clinton concluded, “and when we do, our children and grandchildren will tell the story that American know-how, American dollars, American caring, and American values helped meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
On Tuesday, June 12, 2007, Steve Radelet testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on International Development, Foreign Assistance, Economic Affairs, and International Environmental Protection on "Foreign Aid Reform: Successes, Failures, and Next Steps."