A New Pool: The Global Contingency Fund

February 25, 2011 By John Glenn and Jane Kaminski

Among last week’s debates about cutting the budget, there was also news about next steps for efforts to balance our civilian and military resources and authorities to better face today’s global challenges.  Testifying before both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, Secretary of Defense Robert S. Gates and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen discussed a new program to fund security sector assistance and stabilization.

The Global Security Contingency Fund, part of the President’s FY2012 request, includes $50 million in the State Department’s budget and an additional $450 million that the Defense Department can transfer from its budget, if granted the authority by Congress.  This program would be in addition to 1206 funding that expires at the end of FY2011 and the Complex Crises Fund at State (that succeeded 1207 funding).

This new Fund follows from Secretary Gates’ proposal in December 2009 that State and DoD adopt a “pooled resources” approach like that used in the United Kingdom to strengthen their abilities to respond to situations where their missions overlap.  Admiral Mullen emphasized the pilot nature of the proposal, saying, “the request is modest, an initial $50 million appropriation, along with a request for authority to reprogram an additional $450 million if needed.  But what it will buy us is an agile and cost- effective way to better respond to unforeseen needs and take advantage of emerging opportunities for partners to secure their own territories and regions.”

The challenge for this new joint fund is the disparity in the budgets between the two departments.  At both hearings, Secretary Gates and Admiral Mullen reiterated their strong support for the vital programs housed within the International Affairs Budget.  Mullen stated, “I reiterate my unequivocal support to Secretary Clinton and her efforts to fully resource the State Department’s and USAID’s activities and an expansion of its diplomacy and development capabilities, particularly in Iraq to support the transition from a military to a civilian-led mission.”

Secretary Gates highlighted the critical nature of ensuring adequate funding for international affairs, saying:  “Our real worry that all that we have gained is potentially at risk if we don’t have the kind of State Department presence and State Department activities in Iraq, and here is the other piece of the problem.  The State Department can’t spend the money to get ready right now.  There are facilities to be built, there are people to be hired, and they can’t do any of that and they are going to run out of time to get this accomplished.  I hope that the passion reflects just how strongly we feel about this.  This is really, really important.”

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