Thursday, December 24, 2009

Gates memo suggests joint State-Defense funds for 'nation-building'

A recent unclassified memo from Sec. of Defense Gates to Sec. of State Clinton has been obtained by the Wash Post and is reported on today (Mary Beth Sheridan and Greg Jaffe, "Gates proposes 3 funds to aid unstable countries," WP, 12/24, p.A2 link). The memo suggests creation of "three long-term funds...dedicated to training security forces, preventing conflicts and stabilizing violence-torn societies around the world."

The State Dept and AID, as the Post story notes, have traditionally "taken the lead" in this kind of work, but in recent years the military has become increasingly active in it, and not just in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Gates memo makes specific reference to "complaints about the militarization of U.S. foreign policy," according to the Post report, stemming from the "huge increase in funding for stabilization efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan" (but, as just noted, the Pentagon's involvement in traditionally civilian work goes well beyond those two countries). Obstacles to joint funds of the sort proposed include the existing structure of congressional oversight; the memo suggests the creation of "special standing committees in the House and Senate" to avoid having to report to eight different congressional committees.
The State Dept has not yet responded formally to the proposal, but a spokesman is quoted as saying the memo "contains some creative ideas on moving forward."

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