- The Washington Times - Monday, February 2, 2009




It has become a truism in the Washington debate that the State Department and its main programs and activities are underfunded. Their combined $40 billion annual budget is of course dwarfed by the Pentagon’s spending of nearly $700 billion a year - but such an asymmetry between diplomacy and defense is probably inherent in their respective tasks and structures.

Still, when the defense secretary himself advocates increases in spending for diplomacy, development, and similar matters, there probably is something to the idea that we need to beef up the tools wielded by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In a forthcoming Brookings Institution study, I have attempted to critically review the literature on what might be termed the “hard power” instruments of the budget of the State Department and related activities. These include funding for nuclear disarmament abroad, for peacekeeping, for the State Department’s role in missions like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, for the nuts-and-bolts of diplomacy on matters such as war and peace, and for helping other countries including Pakistan better prepare their own armed forces for challenges of civil conflict and counterterrorism.

Such a review reveals many gaps in our attention. The Bush administration did a reasonably good job in some areas of the so-called “150” budget, beginning to strengthen the Foreign Service and some aspects of public broadcasting and peacekeeping training for African militaries. But the neglect had gone on for so long beforehand that much remains to be done.

Leaving aside issues such as development assistance and energy policy, which are beyond the purview of my study, I estimated that somewhat less than $7 billion a year in additional funding would go a long ways toward creating the diplomatic and developmental tool kit required by the times in which we live. This is real money, to be sure, but only 1 percent of the Pentagon budget and less than 1 percent the size of the fiscal rescue package.

The following general areas of hard power aspects of the “150” budget would benefit from the indicated increases in their annual budget. Of course, these numbers are debatable, and approximate, but they do reflect an effort to understand the basic requirements of the tasks they are addressing and as such should be a rough indication of what is needed.

c Expansion of peacekeeping training for foreign militaries: $400 million.

c Nonproliferation initiatives: $500 million.

c Expansion of diplomatic capabilities at State: $1 billion.

c Public diplomacy efforts including increased scholarships: $800 million

c Expansion of Agency for International Development (AID)/Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRT) capacity (in same or separate agency): $1 billion.

c Expansion of flexible Economic Support Fund (ESF): $200 million.

c Afghanistan security/economic aid expansion: $1.700 billion.

c Pakistan security/economic aid expansion: $750 million.

c Development aid expansion associated with “War on Drugs”:$250 million.

c Net Budget Changes, “hard power” aspects of “150” budget: $6.6 billion.

A few words are in order to explain the basic concept behind some of these initiatives. The peacekeeping training effort would seek to size the scale of our effort to the need - as reflected in the frequency of major civil conflicts in the world in recent decades - and is a bargain compared with having U.S. military forces add even one very modest mission to their own portfolio at any given time.

As for nonproliferation, no instrument of foreign policy and foreign assistance can be more crucial to the nation’s security than efforts to ensure the safety and security of nuclear weapons and other dangerous materials around the world. As underscored by Graham Allison of Harvard and other scholars, the world needs to move toward a “Fort Knox” standard of nuclear security. This means plutonium and enriched uranium would be guarded as securely as gold is today, everywhere they are found in the world.

Several steps are needed to achieve this, including convincing more countries to modify research reactors running on highly enriched uranium to use fuels that are not usable in bombs if stolen, helping countries test their security procedures at nuclear plants through exercises and other on-site inspection procedures, and funding any resulting remedial security measures for countries unable to do so themselves.

Regarding diplomacy, a recent American Academy of Diplomacy/Stimson Center task force documented gaps in capacities and calculated needs accordingly. Its recommendations for another 1,100 staff members for core diplomacy, above the 6,000 or so now employed, and nearly 1,300 more personnel to allow ongoing training and professional development are convincing and worth the recommended $1 billion a year in total costs. Such increases are not pie in the sky; they are calculated fairly carefully and rigorously, and would have numerous very tangible benefits. For example, they would allow the Foreign Service to pursue midcareer education opportunities for its officers akin to what the Defense Department provides its senior leaders. They would also allow better preparation of Foreign Service officers for their roles in provincial reconstruction teams.

Examining these PRTs is one way to understand how much the Agency for International Development also needs beefing up. Scaling from the experiences of Iraq and Afghanistan, and recognizing that other missions could occur as well, it seems reasonable to try to create a capacity to deploy up to 2,000 American civilians in PRTs at a time rather than continuing to rely primarily on military personnel.

Since these missions can go on for an extended time, a rotation base of individuals is needed. Some could be full-time employees of the Office of Stabilization and Reconstruction; others could be designees from other parts of government; others could be the equivalent of military reservists.

This type of logic leads to a broad requirement in the range of 10,000 such individuals, in contrast to the several dozen originally authorized for this part of the State Department. Most of these would not be State’s main contingent of Foreign Service officers, so additional resources beyond those noted in the preceding paragraph would be needed.

There are also strong arguments for increased aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan and several other specific parts of the world with major direct implications for American security. But the point is that even when reasonable estimates are made of required resources, the bill does not wind up that great - at least not compared with the Pentagon budget, and with the other kinds of numbers we are getting used to discussing in Washington.

President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should join Defense Secretary Robert Gates in pushing hard for several billion dollars a year in additional funding for these crucial aspects of our foreign policy.

Michael O’Hanlon is author of the Brookings Institution’s forthcoming book, “Budgeting for Hard Power.”

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide