If the United States hopes to promote its interests in combating extremism and promoting stability through the use of development assistance, then it must take steps to protect and coordinate both the short-term development projects that the military performs and the long-term development programs managed by its civilian agencies.
The first step is for the government to make clear to its own agencies, to other governments, and to partner organizations that both the short- and long-term assistance activities in non-combat environments are important to America’s interests. In large measure, this can be accomplished through the drafting and promulgation of a National Development Strategy that explicitly embraces a role for the military and for civilian agencies in providing development assistance.
Secondly, the division of labor between the military and civilian organizations should not simply be based on the duration of the project, but also on the principle of exception. Unless there is an explicit and near-term security objective that is the primary focus of a development project in a non-combat environment, then such an activity should generally be performed by civilian officials rather than military personnel. This will decrease the extent to which all U.S. development assistance—both fundamental and instrumental—could be skeptically viewed by beneficiaries and host nation governments. Furthermore, it is vital that the military’s objectives in performing development projects be both explicit and transparent to all parties involved.
Finally, budgets must be protected in such a way that the long-term and civilian-development missions are not harmed in the budget process relative to Defense Department budgeting and legal authorities. Joint select appropriations committees from the foreign affairs and armed services committees of both houses of Congress could have concurrent jurisdiction over development funding, to ensure that both fundamental and instrumental missions are adequately resourced and overseen.
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