March 27, 2012
What it takes to keep U.S. safe today
By GEN. MICHAEL W. HAGEE, (RET.) and ADM. JAMES M. LOY (RET.)
The challenges we face today as a nation are far more complex and nuanced than the clear enemies of decades past. Consider the Arab Spring or the global financial meltdown. As former military leaders, we know that we must deploy all our tools of development and diplomacy, alongside a strong defense, to ensure U.S. leadership in the 21st century.
Stark budgets and unsustainable debt require an honest look at how we are spending taxpayer dollars. But we should not sacrifice the fraction of the budget that ensures U.S. leadership in this turbulent world. Our military can rise to meet whatever challenges may come — but not without our civilian partners. The nation's security depends on Congress' support of a strong international affairs budget.
Our men and women in uniform alone can't solve the myriad challenges ahead. The development and diplomacy programs are a critical part of our national security. Even as our policy leaders work to put our fiscal house in order, we cannot leave this vital investment out in the cold.
At slightly more than 1 percent of the federal budget, these programs are effective and efficient ways to confront the multifaceted threats we face today. Not just in terms of dollars, but more important, in lives saved.
Tuesday, we are joining more than 80 of our fellow retired three and four-star general and flag officers in sending a letter urging Congress to enhance our civilian tools to keep Americans safe and protect the hard-fought gains made by our troops.
"Development and diplomacy," we write, "keep us safer by addressing threats in the most dangerous corners of the world and by preventing conflicts before they occur."
With the military drawdown in Iraq and the coming transition to a civilian-led mission in Afghanistan, these civilian programs are even more essential to preserving peace and preventing these countries from falling back to tyranny and terrorism.
Other trouble spots around globe have shown that civilian-led tools can diffuse threats and prevent them from becoming conflicts that require us to put our troops in harm's way. From enduring poverty to endemic diseases to severe food insecurity, these programs address the roots of so many of today's security challenges.
Military leaders together with national security experts from both Republican and Democratic administrations have repeatedly underscored the importance of robust funding for the State Department and other nonmilitary agencies.
As Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently said, "Strong national security is dependent on having a strong diplomatic arm, a strong development arm." And former Defense Secretary Robert Gates noted, "Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers."
Cutting the International Affairs Budget would have little effect on reducing the deficit. It would, however, have significant reverberations for our security — as well as our economy. Ninety-five percent of the world's consumers are outside the U.S., and the fastest-growing markets for our exports are in the developing world, so our investments in development and diplomacy can help get our economy rolling again.
As Gen. Douglas MacArthur said, "The soldier, above all other people, prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war." As soldiers and officers, we not only pray for peace — but must work to secure it. One of the most cost-effective ways to do this is through our International Affairs Budget.
Gen. Michael W. Hagee, (Ret.), served as commandant of the Marine Corps from 2003 to 2006. Adm. James M. Loy (Ret.), served as commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998 to 2002. They are co-chairmen of the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.