Within explicit legal parameters and in consultation with the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, Department of Defense personnel have wide latitude on the tactical level for the disbursal of humanitarian assistance and humanitarian and civic assistance. This discretion is even greater for the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program, or CERP funds, in which tactical military commanders with no previous development experience in Afghanistan and Iraq can spend tens of thousands of dollars at their own discretion to assist the local civilian population in order to advance U.S. military objectives.
In contrast, USAID development officers and mission directors with years of practical development experience around the world are deeply constrained in their ability to disperse program funds by congressional earmarks and administrative restrictions. This leads to the perverse situation in which well meaning but inexperienced military officers often have much more leeway in the spending of development dollars than do highly trained and experienced civilian development officers. This undermines the ability of our civilian development agencies to be capable partners of their military counterparts and arguably undermines the effectiveness of development programs, especially in conflict areas.
Therefore, civilian development officers must have greater flexibility in designing their programs and spending their funds in the field if they are to be successful in achieving both fundamental and instrumental objectives. Their spending authority in the field should be comparable to that of their military counterparts, who have much greater ability to tailor their programs based on their assessment of conditions on the ground. The administration will work with Congress to reduce earmarks on development funds and find more efficient means of accountability.
For more on this topic, please see: