Military Combatant Commanders Agree, Once More: Civilian Forces Essential to National Security

March 14, 2018 By Abhik K. Pramanik

In recent weeks, some of our nation’s top military leaders—the heads of the regional Combatant Commands—have testified on Capitol Hill. Speaking about the threats they face around the world, every Commander stressed that the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) are critical partners to the U.S. military. America’s tools of development and diplomacy are vital to protecting our national interests and keeping the country safe.

Admiral Harry Harris, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, March 15th 2018:

  • “In terms of funding, a weak State Department means you have to have a stronger Defense Department. And I think it would be so much better to have both funded to the level they should be funded.”
  • “Sustainable security requires effective and enduring institutions, both civilian and military, that are guided by these principles. Defense, diplomatic, and development efforts are intertwined and continue to reinforce each other to promote stability to build and sustain stable democratic states.”

General Joseph Votel, Commander of U.S. Central Command, March 13th 2018:

  • “The Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) have been invaluable partners from the inception of combat operations in Iraq and Syria to efforts focused on consolidating hard fought gains.”
  • “The destruction of ISIS’ so called physical “caliphate” is imminent, but now we must consolidate gains by investing in the population that will hold this territory and keep ISIS from returning.”

General Thomas Waldhauser, Commander of U.S. Africa Command, March 13th 2018:

  • “AFRICOM activities directly support U.S. diplomatic and development efforts in Africa. Working with our interagency partners—primarily the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)—is a core tenet of our strategic approach in Africa.”
  • “Very few if any of the challenges on the African continent can be resolved through the use of exclusive military force, accordingly AFRICOM’s first strategic tenant underscores our military activities and is designed to support and enable U.S. diplomatic and development efforts. We can create time and space for governments to establish effective and accountable governance while fostering conditions for economies to develop.”

General Curtis Scaparrotti, Commander of U.S. European Command and NATO Supreme Allied Commander, March 8th 2018:

  • “Everything we do in EUCOM, we look at it as an interagency activity. Generally with State in the lead, as diplomacy leads, is the way that we work here in a democracy. So everything I do, we look at from a whole of government approach…And in each country, my first goal is to ensure – our objective, I should say, is to support the Ambassador and the Ambassador’s country teams in that country. So a reduction of their abilities would not be positive.”

Admiral Kurt Tidd, Commander of U.S. Southern Command, February 15th 2018:

  • “So many of the programs that are critical to building effective partners across the region actually – they come out of the State budget. We implement them, but we could not do it if they are underfunded.”
  • “I know the situation in Venezuela weighs heavily on the minds of this Committee, as it could spark its own mass migration event, impacting economies and stability across the region and requiring a large-scale international humanitarian response. Crises of this magnitude can entail a significant, costly, and lengthy U.S. response, but are manageable with sufficient attention, prevention, and preparation. Continued support to the important work being done to plan and prepare to address humanitarian needs in Venezuela—especially by USAID’s Offices of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance and Food For Peace and the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM)—is essential.”

General Raymond Thomas, Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command, February 15th 2018:

  • “The U.S. cannot succeed in facing today’s national security challenges with the military alone.”
  • “The SOF relationship with the Department of State and USAID is one example of how we work with our interagency partners in the interest of pursuing sustainable security operations. Together, we more effectively coordinate efforts to incorporate security, development, and diplomacy across the entire continuum of U.S. government activities.”

General Lori Robinson, Commander of U.S. Northern Command, February 15th 2018:

  • “Every single day we talk about anything, Secretary Mattis says, “Diplomacy leads.” And so the fact of the matter – that he says diplomacy leads – then I know my role and responsibility is to support diplomacy.”