Clinton Pushes for an Integrated National Security Budget

    U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivers remarks on the National Security Strategy at the Brookings Institution. Photo by: Michael Gross / State Department

    There is a need to start integrating the budgets of the U.S. Agency for International Development and departments of State and Defense into a single national security budget, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.

    Clinton made the remarks May 27 at the Brookings Institution to officially debut the Obama administration’s national security strategy.

    Integrating the three bodies’ budget, according to the state secretary, is necessary to support the whole-of-government approach forwarded in the national security strategy, which views development, defense and diplomacy as “part of an integrated whole” instead of separate entities.

    “You cannot look at a Defense budget, a State Department budget, and a USAID budget without Defense overwhelming the combined efforts of the other two and without us falling back into the old stovepipes that I think are no longer relevant for the challenges of today,” Clinton said in response to one of the questions asked during her talk’s open forum.

    Josh Rogin, of the Foreign Policy’s “The Cable” blog, notes that most of Clinton’s arguments during the remarks were old, including on how the Department of State needs more money to support its wide presence and plans to increase civilian engagement in Iraq, Pakistan and Afghanistan.

    “But her open push for one unified budget for all three agencies is new,” Rogin says.

    It is a measure to avoid the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development’s budget from being “played” at in Capitol Hill, Clinton said.

    “So we want to begin to talk about a national security budget, and then you can see the tradeoffs and the savings,” Clinton explained. “And it’s not us going and making our case to our appropriators and DOD going and making their case to their appropriators.”

    Split budgets, according to Clinton, are rather easy for the White House and Congress to play against each other. She cited as example how the Office of Management and Budget of the former Clinton administration “always played” with the budget for the Department of State and USAID. Clinton’s OMB was headed by Jack Lew, who is currently the deputy secretary of state for management and resources.

    “Part of the reason I brought [Lew] in is because I knew when Jack headed OMB during the Clinton administration, State would come in with their budget, and AID would come in with their budget, and OMB would always play them off of each other,” Clinton said. “It was the easiest thing in the world to get money out of the 150 account. They would come in and say ‘Oh no, diplomats!’ and then ‘Oh no, development!” and OMB would go, ‘Great, take it and give it to someone else.’ We are trying to avoid that.”

    Clinton acknowledged that there is resistance to the idea, both within the government and the larger community of experts and policymakers.

    “They are afraid of the idea that we’re actually going to be better integrated. I think that is an incredibly shortsighted view,” the secretary said. “It’s shortsighted because in tough budget years, you’ve got to make the case, since most members of Congress feel their highest duty is to the security of the United States, how diplomacy and development support security.”

    An integrated national security budget is a “smart way to get to resources we desperately need,” Clinton added.

    Rogin notes that Clinton’s push for a national security budget is new, but the idea of an integrated budget is quite old. The idea has been pushed by experts for a while and has been met with strong resistance, he says.

    “But with Clinton’s endorsement, it could take on a new momentum,” the writer argues.

    About the author

    • Ivy Mungcal

      As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.