State-Defense Colaboration Proposed by Robert Gates is Critiqued

The latest round of proposals by U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates to create new and permanent shared resources and authorizes between the Defense and State departments on issues of conflict prevention, security assistance and post-conflict reconstruction undermines civilian authorities and capabilities, Laura Hall and Gordon Adams of the Stimson Center argue.

In an article on Foreign Affairs, Gates proposed the creation of several new funding pools to be jointly managed by Defense and State, including one for the equipping and training of foreign militaries.

Hall and Adams suggest that these proposals may be counterproductive.

“DoD should be continuing efforts to build civilian capacity and supporting increases in the international affairs budget instead of continuing to creep into mission areas for which it claims to have no interest or expertise,” the foreign affairs experts argue.

“The Secretary of State should remain the lead on foreign policy activities and maintaining control of funding ensures she, and her successors, can exercise that authority,” Hall and Adams add. “The larger problem with these proposals is the continued perception that the role of diplomatic and development activities is supporting military operations.”

The first funding pool Gates is proposing is for conflict prevention. Hall and Adams write that diplomatic and development tools, not military ones, are the most important tools when it comes to conflict prevention. The two argue that giving Defense a key role in managing funds for conflict prevention “would distort the decision making on when, where, and for what purposes such funding should be applied.”

Another funding pool proposed by Gates covers post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction. The Stimson Center fellows argue that it has long been cleared “that reconstruction and stabilization should be a civilian activity funded through the Department of State.”

A third shared pool suggested by Gates is for train and equip missions. Hall and Adam argue that while security assistance is vital to foreign policy and should be considered part of the U.S. overall relations other countries, its impact on human rights should be reviewed closely. The fact that funding for train and equip mission is overseen by State and implemented by Defense balances these two.

“Creating funding outside this arrangement and moving to a “dual-key” would undermine this balance,” Hall and Adams argue.

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  • 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.