Civilian foreign-aid agencies neglected as DoD role grows

Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff deserve thanks for their detailed research and prescriptions for reforming foreign aid to meet the challenges of the growing link between security and development assistance.

The new U.S. Army and Marines counter-insurgency manual points out exactly how inadequate funding is for U.S. civilian agencies, noting “more people play in Army bands than serve in the U.S. foreign service.”

Yet instead of significantly increasing funds for State Department or USAID programs, Congress increasingly channels funds for development assistance to the Department of Defense. The Pentagon’s share of bilateral aid has grown from 7 percent to about 22 percent since 2001.

Last week Defense Secretary Robert Gates called for a dramatic increase in foreign aid. And those implementing the Defense Department’s Directive 3000.05 to build the military’s capacity for reconstruction and stabilization are also urging Congress to invest in their civilian counterparts required to complete their mission.

The report argues USAID programs are the “neglected stepchild in D.C. but in the field it  … plays either the designated hitter or the indispensable utility infielder for almost all foreign assistance launched from the post.”

USAID programs in good governance, economic development, education and healthcare are a humanitarian imperative, but they also create an architecture that grows security from the ground up.

And as military experts forewarn of climate change-induced migration of hundreds of millions of people and increasing instability in already fragile states around the world, the requirements for a robust civilian infrastructure for conflict prevention is even greater.

European countries are creating five-year “Conflict Prevention Funds” to ensure security concerns are not hampered by restrictive, short-term funding lines.

Members of Congress should read this new report carefully — and adequately invest in U.S. civilian agencies in the spring 2008 appropriations process. The Pentagon needs frontline experts in conflict prevention and stabilization from the State Department and USAID to have the funds and staff to be adequate partners.

Harrisonburg, Va.

Coleman gets the job done

As a Minnesota corn, soybean and sugar beet farmer, I want to set the record straight regarding your article about Sen. Norm Coleman (“The farm bill isn’t so sweet for Coleman,” Nov. 20).

Like most Minnesotans, I vote for the person, and not the party, and I have done so all of my life. I am proud to be represented in Congress by the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, Collin Peterson, whom I strongly support. But, I also voted for Norm Coleman in 2002 and I will proudly cast my vote for Norm again next year — not because of his party affiliation but because he meets the one litmus test I apply to all candidates for office: Norm gets the job done.

So, as both an independent voter and a farmer, I found your article terribly misleading. The article gives readers the impression that Norm is a Johnny-come-lately on the farm policy scene, even though he has served on the Senate Agriculture Committee and has been a leader on our issues ever since he was elected.

I have served and continue to serve in the leadership of key Minnesota farm groups and I stay on top of the issues important to farmers. From this vantage point, I have been in a position to work very closely with Norm and his staff, and what you see is what you get. Norm’s reputation at home is of a guy who does not get hung up along partisan lines, but who works across the political aisle to get the best results for Minnesota.

The Senate farm bill’s positive impact for Minnesota farmers serves as a prime example of Norm’s work. His recent vote to move this farm bill forward is yet another. Norm did the right thing, and The Hill’s effort to recast that vote as anything less than a principled vote for the people of his state will not hold water at home.

Now, the Senate needs to knock off the politics and pass the farm bill, which is already long overdue. The House passed a good bill and the Senate has a good bill before it. It is a bipartisan farm bill whose passage this year is absolutely vital to millions of people all across the country who are watching this issue closely.

Renville, Minn.