U.S. military officers strongly support increasing U.S. diplomacy and development spending, according to a new poll released Tuesday by a Washington advocacy group.
If that's not enough to convince anyone, on Tuesday afternoon the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition meeting will back up it up with a heavy-hitting a lineup of Obama administration cabinet members Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, and U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah.
Gates has called for more "non-military" resources to take some burden off the servicemembers fighting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and help prevent future deadly conflicts. In August, the secretary said Congress was "part of the problem," for not doing more for the international affairs budget.
Tuesday morning, Adm. James Loy, former U.S. Coast Guard commandant and Gen. Henry Shelton, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff led a panel of supporters. "Talk is cheap," Loy said, amid a "litany of rhetoric" from all sides.
"How long do you want to be there?" Shelton asked rhetorically of appropriators, saying inadequate non-military resources has only prolonged U.S. military operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
A Hart-Public Opinion Strategies poll of over 600 active duty and recently retired officers in September found most saying that these “non-military tools” are “more effective” in many ways and that the military should be used to conduct those operations only as a last resort.
Overwhelmingly, officers said the military should not be in lead of education, health care, and economic development projects.
But notably most officers also felt the military should not be leading infrastructure tasks such as water projects. The counterinsurgency playbook expressly calls for the military to do those items – such as providing power, sewer and water services -- to win over the allegiances of local populations.
The only warzone tasks the officers felt should be military-led were training police and armies and providing security to local populations. Those won the most respondents; 43 and 38 percent.
It's an important finding. Last month, Gates visited a combat outpost in Kandahar, Afghanistan where U.S. soldiers where trying to build a new school amid Taliban-infested territory, where they had to station sentries at the construction site 24-hours a day against attackers.
When asked if the U.S. should be supporting more military resources, non-military, or both sides equally, 51 percent of the officers said “both are equally important”, 31 percent said military, and 18 percent said the non-military.
Looking to the future, most officers, 47 percent of officers said the non-military sides should play a “bigger role” in national security.
Later on Tuesday, the big guns give their pitch.