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Striking the Appropriate Balance

SOURCE: AP/Tech Sgt Jerry Morrison, U.S. Department of Defense, HO

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates holds a press briefing at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan last year. The Department of Defense's expanding role in foreign assistance comes from the recognition that conventional military operations are often insufficient to achieve strategic war objectives and that there is great value in preventing conflicts instead of reacting to them.

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CAP Action’s Reuben Brigety testifies before the U.S House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Read the full testimony (CAP Action)

It is my distinct honor to address you today on the matter of “Striking the Appropriate Balance: The Defense Department’s Expanding Role in Foreign Assistance.” In the invitation to appear before you, there was a series of very specific questions that I was asked to address. I shall do my best to answer each of them in turn. During the course of my presentation, I intend to convey a central message: The successful performance of foreign assistance programs across the spectrum of conflict should be seen as a matter of vital national interest. Accordingly, it is imperative to reform our civilian development institutions to perform the tasks our brave men and women in uniform often find themselves performing due to a lack of capable civilian partners present in the quantity in which they are needed.

What are the fundamental causes of DoD’s expanding role in foreign assistance?

The Defense Department’s expanding role in foreign assistance comes from the recognition of two important circumstances.

The first is that conventional, or kinetic, military operations are often insufficient to achieve the strategic objectives of a given war. Put another way, the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have retaught the military that you can win the war through decisive military operations, but you cannot necessarily win peace that way.

The second is that there is great value in preventing conflicts instead of reacting to them. Investing in a country’s development today could prevent it from becoming a battlefield tomorrow. Certain threats, such as the spread of violent extremist ideologies, can best be countered through proactive measures. These measures, however, are almost all nonkinetic in nature. To the extent that they help counter a present or future threat, the military often avails itself of these nonkinetic instruments to prevent conflict and counter extremism in various locations around the world.

CAP Action’s Reuben Brigety testifies before the U.S House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Read the full testimony (CAP Action)

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