Speaking at the USAID Frontiers conference, he pointed to the challenges of humanitarian assistance in complex situations like Somalia, where recent devastating drought, coupled with insurgency, makes traditional assistance difficult, and Libya, where one in seven Libyans live in refugee camps after the recent intervention. In these cases, said Stravridis, development will determine success and “defense is in a support role” with the logistics and communications capabilities to assist in less developed areas.
What should be done to ensure that civilian and military forces are prepared for such crises? Admiral Stravridis outlined two recommendations from the military. He called for the three Ds of diplomacy, development, and defense to “exercise and practice,” noting the military’s scenario-based training before crises occur. He called for adequately resourced crisis management centers, equipped with the latest technology that can provide rapid assistance in response to unexpected changes.
These sentiments echo other military leaders like General David Petraeus and Defense Secretaries Gates and Panetta. However, these sorts of capabilities require adequate funding. The International Affairs Budget, at just over one percent of the total U.S. federal budget, is at risk for cuts that could put U.S. security at risk. With the military mission over in Iraq and with a drawdown of troops in Afghanistan planned for later this year, Congress should bear in mind the advice of our military leaders—if we don’t invest in the necessary diplomatic and development programs to help address these new and non-traditional threats, we could be paying dearly for it down the line.