ARLINGTON, Va. — The Obama administration is considering creating a unified national security budget that would combine elements of the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development with the Pentagon, according to a draft copy of a long-awaited foreign policy strategy review shared with Congress this week.
Citing the joint planning required between U.S. military and civilian agencies in Iraq and Afghanistan, the proposal is one of several that would put the U.S. diplomatic corps and its lead global humanitarian agency on a stronger national security footing, according to a draft of the State Department’s first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, or QDDR.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton ordered the review last year to be modeled after the Pentagon’s four-year review, intended as a strategic guide for appropriators. It is part of an ongoing White House-led effort to link development and national security.
“To advance American interests and values and to lead other nations in solving shared problems in the 21st century, we must rely on our diplomats and development experts as the first face of American power,” Clinton said in the introduction of a “consultation draft” version leaked to The Washington Post this week. “We must lead through civilian power.”
Ultimately, USAID and the State Department should “embrace conflict prevention and response as a core mission,” the document says. It calls for the U.S. to build a “deployable civilian surge capability” and create an “Overseas Contingency Operations” spending account for State and USAID’s budgets, referring to the Pentagon account known under President George W. Bush as the “Global War on Terror.”
The idea of combining budgets has been floated for decades in foreign policy circles as an effort to give foreign aid and development spending, historically unpopular in Congress, all the political clout and cover fire of defense spending.
But in nearly a decade at war, in the absence of an army of civilian aid workers, U.S. combat troops increasingly performed development and humanitarian work, such as building schools and delivering food. Those tasks are considered vital to the counterinsurgency goal of winning local allegiances.
Seeking relief for troops, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has made more than a dozen public appearances with Clinton in two years, calling on Congress to fully fund the civilian budget for transitioning from military to civilian control in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Instead, congressional committees have cut those budgets in spending bills still awaiting passage this year.