Military Leaders Take the Hill

March 23, 2010 By General Michael Hagee and Admiral James Loy

You might not expect a couple of men who used to be in uniform to show up on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon talking about the need for more money for the State Department and USAID, but that’s what we’re doing today.  With all the challenges our nation presently faces, our civilian tools of development and diplomacy have never been more vital to our national security.  All three pillars of our foreign policy–development, diplomacy, and defense—must work together.  This is essential for extending legitimate governments in failing states and reinforcing the values that America shares with the world.

That’s why we are joining with some of our fellow flag officers of USGLC’s National Security Advisory Council today to brief lawmakers on the importance of the International Affairs Budget. We will be meeting with senior members of the budget and appropriations committees in the House and Senate, and with officials in the Pentagon, to talk about the vital roles development and diplomacy play in securing our country.

Earlier this month, we joined more than 50 of our peers in signing a letter to Congress urging full support for the part of the federal budget that funds these vital development and diplomatic activities.  The letter calls the International Affairs Budget “a fundamental pillar of US national security and foreign policy.”  Fully funding it will extend our diplomatic and development efforts to help maintain international stability by responding to urgent humanitarian needs, advancing human rights and freedoms, and promoting sustainable economic growth.

America’s top military officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, said last month that “U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military, too dependent upon the generals and admirals who lead our major overseas commands.”   We know this is true from our own experience, and it’s time for us to begin looking at all our civilian and military tools can accomplish together.

Our country faces hard financial challenges, and we know this budget cycle will force many tough choices.  Yet, echoing the bipartisan group of 247 Members of Congress who asked the President to make a bold request for the International Affairs Budget, we call on Congress as a whole to prioritize international affairs and defense spending equally.