- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2007

American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are foremost in our thoughts and prayers, but the U.S. military has been quietly fighting the war against terror in scores of other foreign countries. Since September 11, 2001, the number of military personnel and Defense Department activities in non-combat countries has soared.

Finding, capturing and eliminating terrorists and their support networks are only part of the military’s new mission. They have won new authority outside the traditional foreign aid framework to provide military training to foreign countries. Increasingly, the military is taking on roles once reserved for civilian agencies, such as building schools and clinics, drilling wells and conducting public information campaigns.

A strong military response is necessary for the war against terrorism. When our foreign friends use our training and intelligence to round up global terrorists on their soil, it is clearly a mutual success. But over-reliance on the military also carries risks.

To succeed, we need diplomats who can shape complex bilateral relationships, repair and build alliances and navigate through a labyrinth of foreign languages and cultures. We need foreign aid experts who know how best to promote democratic practices and economic development. And we need communication professionals to get our message across to foreign audiences.

These civilians are our best hope for defusing religious extremism and defeating international terrorism long-term. They are found in the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and other civilian agencies. The military’s encroachment into traditionally civilian activities risks blurring lines of authority and weakening the secretary of state’s lead role in foreign policy.

Worse, it could actually hurt our anti-terror efforts by giving too strong a military cast to our programs and policies, fueling suspicion and resentment overseas.

The shift is not the result of carefully considered policy. Often, the Pentagon is taking on these civilian responsibilities simply because it has the money to do so. Currently we have almost a 14:1 ratio of military spending to spending on the diplomatic and foreign aid agencies. The president’s new budget for fiscal 2008 seeks an increase in routine defense spending (excluding supplemental requests for Afghanistan and Iraq) over the fiscal 2006 appropriation of some $71 billion. This two-year increase alone is roughly twice what we spend on the entire civilian foreign affairs budget.

And because the Pentagon now has authority to conduct its own foreign assistance programs, albeit with the “concurrence” of the State Department, the likelihood increases of skewing the balance between civilian and military programs. In the Dominican Republic, for instance, the Pentagon has $7.5 million to offer for military equipment and training, but only $800,000 in U.S. funds goes to public diplomacy.

While the military has received hefty budget increases since September 11, 2001, Congress has shortchanged the president’s requests for civilian foreign affairs funding by $5.6 billion. Yet it is precisely vigorous action by those agencies that we need for success.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff members who recently visited a number of embassies to assess the impact of our growing military presence found that our ambassadors and a number of foreign officials are concerned. In particular, in countries where U.S. military assistance now exceeds our traditional economic aid, they worry that the U.S. ambassador could lose effective leadership of the bilateral relationship in-country as well as control over the coordination between Pentagon and civilian agencies.

I welcome the increased resources the military brings, and I believe strong military-to-military relations are an important ingredient in winning cooperation against terrorism. But the administration and Congress should adopt three important principles to bolster our civilian forces in the campaign against terror.

Full authority for ambassadors. An ambassador is the personal representative of the president and must direct all U.S. government activities in-country. That means he or she must be consulted ahead of time on all planned U.S. military activities and programs, and must have authority to overrule the Pentagon when necessary.

One voice in foreign policy. All security assistance, like other foreign aid, should go through the secretary of state, who should rationalize and prioritize our many assistance programs according to the president’s strategic vision.

Match money to mission. Civilian foreign policy agencies get far less funding than they need. The administration should develop a comprehensive spending plan for robust diplomatic capability and assistance in every country important to our anti-terror campaign. Money should flow to the agencies with the expertise to accomplish the mission, rather than assigning the mission to whomever happens to have the money to pay for it.

Richard Lugar of Indiana is the Republican leader of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

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