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. |
Source: DoD photo by Cherie Cullen
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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)