WASHINGTON, April 29, 2011 — The federal government needs to strike a better balance between funding the Defense Department and civilian agencies for long-term national security, the undersecretary of defense for policy said last night.
“I am a strong proponent of very robust defense spending,” Michèle Flournoy said at a question-and-answer session at Johns Hopkins University’s “Rethinking Seminar” here. “But right now we have one instrument of national power on steroids and everything else on life support. It is very difficult to have a balanced, integrated and coherent foreign policy when you have very limited tools on the diplomacy and development side because we’ve chosen to not invest in them as seriously as we have invested in defense.”
Flournoy spoke about the rise of Asia and its impact on U.S. national security policy before taking questions that focused on the tightening federal budget. She echoed calls by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that State Department agencies such as the U.S. Agency for International Development need more funding. NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan issued a press release today also seeking funding for USAID.
It is critical for the United States to succeed in its military conflicts, such as the war in Afghanistan, Flournoy said. But in the long term, she said she’d “like to see our strategy be funded to put more emphasis in preventing those crisis … not only military tools of prevention, but diplomatic and development.”
Even a little funding in diplomacy and development goes a long way, Flournoy said, noting the progress of USAID in working with a small group of U.S. Special Forces to keep al-Qaida out of the Philippines.
Defense Department officials are working to meet President Barack Obama’s goal to cut $400 billion from DOD’s budget over the next 12 years.
Calling a healthy economy “the core foundation of our national strength,” Flournoy said DOD leaders also will have to consider nondiscretionary parts of the department’s budget. “There are many, many cost drivers in the Department of Defense that currently are in the nondiscretionary accounts,” she said. “That will require partnership with the Congress. But if you’re serious about deficit reduction, those have to be on the table.”
Noting there’re “a lot of things we can do to spend smarter,” Flournoy added that keeping a balanced approach “is very important to protecting the nation, long-term.”
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)