Security Requires Balanced Spending, Flournoy Says

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) 

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