USA — Congress Must Adequately Fund Federal Partners, Gates Says

SAN FRANCISCO — Con­gress must ade­quate­ly fund the fed­er­al part­ners that aug­ment U.S. mil­i­tary efforts dur­ing wartime and are the face of the Unit­ed States after hos­til­i­ties are over, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates said here last night.

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates speaks as part of the Marines' Memorial Association's George P. Shultz lecture series in San Fransisco, Aug. 12, 2010. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen
Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates speaks as part of the Marines’ Memo­r­i­al Association’s George P. Shultz lec­ture series in San Fran­sis­co, Aug. 12, 2010.
Source: DoD pho­to by Cherie Cullen
Click to enlarge

Gates told a Marines’ Memo­r­i­al Asso­ci­a­tion George P. Shultz lec­ture series audi­ence that agen­cies such as the State Depart­ment and the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment are “woe­ful­ly underfunded.” 

The State Department’s world­wide total of rough­ly 6,000 for­eign ser­vice offi­cers would­n’t pro­vide enough man­pow­er to crew an air­craft car­ri­er, Gates noted. 

When he left gov­ern­ment in the 1990s, the sec­re­tary said, USAID had 17,000 employ­ees, all ded­i­cat­ed per­son­nel with skills in areas such as agron­o­my, rule of law, dis­as­ter relief and engi­neer­ing who would deploy to dan­ger­ous areas around the globe at a moment’s notice. 

“When I came back at the end of 2006, there were 3,000 employ­ees, and [USAID] main­ly was a con­tract­ing agency,” he said. “This is a capa­bil­i­ty we’ve denied our­selves, and it is a huge oppor­tu­ni­ty for us.” 

The employ­ees in these agen­cies have answered the call, the sec­re­tary said, not­ing that the num­ber of State Depart­ment and USAID employ­ees in Afghanistan has tripled from 300 at the begin­ning of the year. But that’s not enough, he added. These insti­tu­tions need to be rebuilt, Gates said, and that means more money. 

“Con­gress is part of the prob­lem,” he told the audi­ence. “When I sent my bud­get to the Hill for rough­ly $550 bil­lion, the Sen­ate vot­ed me $550 bil­lion. [Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton] sent up a bud­get of about $50 bil­lion, and they whacked $5 bil­lion out of it.” 

Actions like this show that Con­gress still does­n’t under­stand the crit­i­cal role that agen­cies such as the State Depart­ment and USAID play in the “whole-of-gov­ern­ment” approach to world prob­lems, Gates said. Once the fight­ing ends in Iraq and Afghanistan, he added, these agen­cies will be the lead agen­cies for the Unit­ed States, and they deserve the resources they need to rep­re­sent the country. 

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs) 

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