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Report

Civil-Military Relations, Fostering Development, and Expanding Civilian Capacity

Frederick Barton and Noam Unger

Introduction

This is a critical moment for the United States’ approach to global engagement. Concerns have been rising over an apparent imbalance in American statecraft, principally resulting from too heavy a reliance on the military. As such, the Obama Administration is launching related policy reviews. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has repeatedly noted “the decisive role” reconstruction, development and conflict prevention play, and he has called for greater resources for civilian agencies. Similarly, upon taking office, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton highlighted development as “an equal partner, along with defense and diplomacy,” in advancing US national security. She has also announced aims to reverse the “migration of the authority and the resources to the Defense Department,” and committed to bolster USAID with clear authorities and resources. Her new additional deputy at the State Department has been charged with boosting the resourcing and effectiveness of U.S. foreign assistance.

Within this context, on February 11, 2009, more than 40 policy experts and practitioners convened at Brookings to discuss efforts to build civilian stabilization capacity within the U.S. government’s international affairs agencies and broader efforts to reform U.S. foreign assistance. The day-long workshop also sought to explore pathways for rebalancing civilian-military roles and to ensure necessary increases in civilian capacity. This event was hosted by Brookings Global Economy and Development and the Center for Strategic and International Studies Post-Conflict Reconstruction Project with the generous support of the Connect US Fund. Workshop participants offered a range of expertise in defense, diplomacy, and development, as well as varying perspectives from the executive branch, Capitol Hill, civil society and the research community.

This brief report attempts to capture and distill the themes and insights that emerged over the course of the workshop’s exchanges, and it also presents further research questions and future steps as we continue our joint CSIS-Brookings project – Civil-Military Relations, Fostering Development, and Expanding Civilian Capacity. The project aims to develop priorities and investigate the connections between various investments to effectively execute programs in the overlapping areas of development, humanitarian aid, stabilization and reconstruction. After further study and outreach, the project will publish a more detailed report with our findings and recommendations in the summer of 2009.

This brief is divided into five sections. Section one captures the thoughts of the participants on why expanding civilian capacity in international development and stabilization is important within the United States’ broader foreign policy objectives. Section two details participants’ suggestions for how these objectives could be implemented. In particular, expanding the capacity of USAID (or its successor agency) is highlighted as an important first step. Section three identifies some of the potential political and institutional challenges in implementing the necessary reforms. Section four offers some of the participants’ solutions in overcoming these challenges. Finally, this brief concludes with a set of questions and issues for further analysis.

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