As Co-Chairs of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition’s National Security Advisory Council, we represent more than 100 retired 3 and 4-star flag and general officers who are deeply concerned the International Affairs Budget could be forced to shoulder disproportionate deep cuts this year compared to other security accounts. What brings all of us together is the belief the military alone is not sufficient to protect our nation, and we need strong civilian operations as well to ensure our safety.
As our nation commemorates the 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks, it’s an important moment for a national conversation on how best to keep our families safe. From our service, we know the powerful impact development and diplomacy programs have had on our national security since then. That’s why we’re concerned. The dramatic reductions to the International Affairs Budget made earlier this year and another round proposed by the House for Fiscal Year 2012 – in some cases more than 30 percent below current levels – may reverse many of the hard-fought gains we have worked to achieve since 9/11.
We must use all the tools available to achieve our national security objectives, including a strong State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other civilian-led agencies. At only 1.4 percent of the federal budget, further deep and disproportionate cuts to the International Affairs Budget threaten U.S. global engagement. America cannot retreat from today’s world, which is why military leaders from General Petraeus to Admiral Mullen have made clear that, in an era of global threats, U.S. national security requires strong civilian partners working alongside the military. As former Defense Secretary Gates is fond of saying, “without development we will not be successful in either Iraq or Afghanistan.”
This is indeed a critical moment for U.S. leadership, not only in those two countries, but around the world. As our troops draw down, our civilian leaders must surge forward and fill the gap in order to protect the fragile gains we have fought so hard for. If we act now to invest a tiny fraction of our budget into promoting stability, free markets and democratic values in the most dangerous regions of the world, American families will see a tremendous return on that investment in terms of their safety and security for many years to come.
That is why we stood together to urge our leadership in Congress to support a strong and effective International Affairs Budget and oppose deep and disproportionate cuts to these programs. Support for U.S. global engagement is one area where military leaders and members of both parties can find common ground and come together to ensure a better, safer world and a more prosperous future. We hope they heed our call.
General Michael W. Hagee, USMC (Ret.), was the Commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 2003 to 2006, and Admiral James M. Loy, USCG (Ret.), was the Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998 to 2002. They are co-chairs of the National Security Advisory Council of U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.