WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates was part of a high-powered panel discussion of the new U.S. global development policy here today.
“Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers,” Gates said during the discussion.
Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Rajiv Shah, director of the U.S. Agency for International Development, told a meeting of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition that focused development is an integral part of American foreign and security policies.
President Barack Obama laid out the policy during his speech to the United Nations last week. The idea is that the global development policy will be a pillar of American power, alongside diplomacy and defense. The policy seeks broad-based economic growth, promotion of good governance and it seeks the stabilization of countries emerging from crisis or conflict. At its heart, the policy looks to alleviate poverty and advance basic human dignity.
“We are making sure that development is an integral part of America’s national security policy and is part of an integrated approach that includes development, diplomacy and defense,” Clinton said.
There are short- and long-term objectives to the policy, Gates said. In the short run, the United States cannot succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan without development. “In the fights that we’re in, the civilian component is absolutely critical to success,” he said. “What we’ve discovered as we went along – and I think we came to it way late – was that the civilian side of the government in the arena of development was significantly under-resourced.”
When he retired as director of Central Intelligence in 1993, Gates said, the Agency for International Development had 16,000 people. “They were deployable, they were expert, they expected to live in harsh conditions – often in fragile security,” he said. “When I came back into government (in 2006), AID had about 3,000 people and it was basically a contracting agency.”
The U.S. government needs an inherent development capability with committed professionals to carry out this work, Gates said.
For the longer term, development policies support what in the military is known as ‘Phase 0,’ the way to prevent conflict and the need to send in troops, Gates said. “The way you do that is through development. Development creates stability, it contributes to better governance,” he said. “If you are able to do those things, if you are able to do it in a focused and sustainable way, then it may be unnecessary to send soldiers.”
Still, in some areas and for some crises, it may be necessary to send military personnel to provide security, Gates said. “But development and security are inextricably linked – you can’t have development without security and you can’t have security without development,” he said.
Gates outlined three aspects of the policy he thinks are most important: sustainability; the need for U.S. government and the country being helped to make choices; and partnering with non-governmental organizations.
The military has carried the burden of development since 2001, but that burden is lifting, Gates said. “In the past year, the civilian representation in Afghanistan has tripled,” he said. “We can contribute and we do some development work, but it’s not our core competency. The truth is, if you talk to a colonel who is a brigade commander in Afghanistan and ask him about the contribution that a single civilian professional leading a (provincial reconstruction team) brings, he will tell you they are a giant force multiplier.”
Having that civilian expertise and the kind of people who look on this work “as a calling and a profession,” makes all the difference, Gates said.
Clinton and Gates both criticized congressional action to strip development money from the State Department budget. Clinton joked that the Defense Department gets all the money it asks for, while State has to argue over what would be small change in Defense. Gates compared the stripping of the money to the scene in the movie Charlie Wilson’s War when Congress, after spending billions to help the Afghan mujaheddin toss the Soviets out of Afghanistan, wouldn’t spend a million dollars for schools.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)