New Players on the NSC Team

May 2, 2011 By John Glenn

President Obama announced changes to his national security senior leadership last week, prompting speculation about the impact on the smart power agenda moving forward.  Here is an initial snapshot of the players.

The most significant impact may not be who is coming in, but who is leaving.  Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has been one of the staunchest and most effective voices in support of the International Affairs Budget and has built a very strong working relationship with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.  Secretary Gates has been a constant voice in support of greater resources for our civilian-led agencies within the Administration, on Capitol Hill and in the public arena.  His departure certainly raises concerns at first blush.

The good news is that the incoming team is well known and has a history of support for a smart power foreign policy.  Not surprising since President Obama made clear his intention that there will be more continuity with the Administration’s policies than change, emphasizing the need for the United States to stay “focused on our missions, maintain our momentum.”

Defense-nominee Leon Panetta has a long history of support for International Affairs programs and a long history of working closely with Secretary Clinton.  The question is given the challenges with the Pentagon’s budget, will Panetta use his clout to advance Foggy Bottom’s budget too?  Here is a look at each of the new nominees.

Leon Panetta

Current Position: Director, CIA
Nominated Position: Secretary of Defense

 width=Leon Panetta, who served in the Army from 1964-66, brings a long record of public service to his   new job, serving as a member of the House of Representatives from 1977-93, Director of OMB from 1993-94, and White House Chief of Staff from 1994-97.  As Chairman of the House Budget Committee at the end of the Cold War, he led a debate about re-thinking the U.S. defense posture that considered cuts to the Defense Department budget to reduce the deficit.  It also considered changes in international affairs funding and proposed development assistance as a sensible priority for use for any savings.

While in the House, including as Budget Chair, Panetta was a strong and consistent supporter of the International Affairs Budget.  As President Clinton’s OMB Director and White House Chief of Staff, Panetta helped shape the deal with Congress over international affairs funding that protected USAID from being folded into the State Department.  Expect Panetta to work closely with Secretary of State Clinton.

While Director of the CIA, Panetta embraced the Agency’s role in dealing with today’s global threats that go beyond military conflict between nations.  He supported the Administration’s “comprehensive approach” to Afghanistan that uses all the tools of national influence to create stability.  He regularly refers to himself as a “creature of the Congress,” and his extensive budget experience on Capitol Hill will be critical in today’s climate.  After his recent nomination, Panetta’s comments reflected the challenge he faces in reducing the Defense Department’s budget, “This is also a time for hard choices.  It’s about ensuring that we are able to prevail in the conflicts in which we are now engaged. But it’s also about being able to be strong and disciplined in applying our nation’s limited resources to defending America.”

Bottom Line: Panetta has a long history of support for the International Affairs Budget and a close working relationship with Secretary Clinton. The only question is given the challenges he faces with Pentagon budget issues, will he use his considerable clout to support the civilian agencies like Gates.

General David Petraeus

Current Position: Commander, U.S. Forces in Afghanistan
Nominated Position: Director, CIA

 width=General Petraeus’ nomination to head the CIA highlights the growing cooperation between the military and intelligence communities in today’s complex security environment.  In fact, he is not the first general to head the CIA in recent years, as General Michael Hayden headed the agency from 2006-2009.

Petraeus has been one of the strongest voices in support of “smart power” as Commander of U.S. Central Command and of U.S. Forces and ISAF Forces in Afghanistan.  Both publically and behind the scenes, Petraeus has encouraged significant resources for our civilian-led agencies.  Highlight quotes:

While at U.S. Central Command, he spoke in Florida to the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, saying “I’ve testified as one of the biggest proponents of more funding for the Department of State….Maintaining a close civil-military partnership is a critical part of a comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign. In fact, tens of thousands of civilians are working closely with their military counterparts in the Central Command region to achieve the conditions we hope to establish, and this is obviously a hugely important aspect of our operations.”

Recently, he emphasized his support before the Senate Armed Services Committee, saying “I am concerned that levels of funding for our State Department and USAID partners will not sufficiently enable them to build on the hard-fought security achievements of our men and women in uniform. Inadequate resourcing of our civilian partners could, in fact, jeopardize accomplishment of the overall mission.”

Bottom Line: While these views will surely shape his work at the CIA, expect General Petraeus to be less public in his support for the smart power agenda, but very persuasive privately with Congress and the Administration.  He remains one of the most influential voices across party lines, and he clearly supports a smart power agenda.

Ambassador Ryan Crocker

Current Position: Dean of George Bush School of Government and Public Service, Texas A&M University
Nominated Position: U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan

 width=Ambassador Crocker is a five-time Ambassador and career Foreign Service officer who had retired to academia before agreeing to serve again as the next Ambassador to Afghanistan.  He replaces Ambassador Karl Eikenberry, who had been widely seen as being at odds with Afghan President Karzai.  Ambassador Crocker has been deeply involved in both frontline states since 9/11, opening the U.S. Embassy in Kabul after the invasion in 2001, serving as Ambassador to Pakistan and as Ambassador to Iraq where he worked closely with General Petraeus on the “surge” policy that turned around the rising violence.

Ambassador Crocker is known to be a strong supporter of civilian power, recognizing the impact of U.S. economic development and military assistance on Pakistan’s recovery after the earthquake in 2005.  As Ambassador to Iraq in the post-war period, he praised the work of Provincial Reconstruction Teams as “great enablers.”  Highlight quotes:

“As chief of mission in Iraq I am constantly assessing our efforts and seeking to ensure that they are coordinated with and complementary to the efforts of our military.”

He testified to Congress:  “Our assistance has shifted to concentrate on people and capacity building rather than large-scale infrastructure projects, increasing the [Government of Iraq’s] ability to provide essential services to its citizens. We are also providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and funding small, high-impact projects to support security gains by Iraqi and U.S. military forces. Our policy goal is to leverage remaining U.S. foreign assistance to enable the Iraqis to invest their own resources more responsibly and productively.”

Bottom Line: As the U.S. prepares to begin to withdraw troops from Afghanistan this summer, Ambassador Crocker can be expected to continue the Administration’s policies of promoting stability through greater civilian capacity and economic development.

Lt. Gen John Allen

Current Position: Deputy Commander, United States Central Command
Nominated Position: Commander, U.S. Forces in Afghanistan

 width=Marine Lieutenant General John Allen succeeds General Petraeus as Commander of U.S. and ISAF Forces in Afghanistan, having served as Deputy Commander at Central Command.  Like General Petraeus, he is often thought of as a scholar and strategist, having earned three Masters’ degrees and been a Marine Corps Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and member of the Council on Foreign Relations.  He is widely thought of as contributing to and embracing the “counterinsurgency” doctrine focused on economic development as a means to create stability in frontline states.

General Allen is widely credited with helping to turn around the war in Iraq through his appreciation for non-military solutions, willingness to develop local knowledge, and ability to work with local groups, helping bring together Sunni Tribes in the Anbar Province to turn against Al Qaeda and support American forces.  Highlight quotes:

In his words, “in the counterinsurgency struggle, you can only kill your way so far to victory.”

Describing his work in Iraq, he emphasized his effort to combine military and civilian approaches to working with the Sunni tribes:  “we did that both in terms of a kinetic alliance against al-Qaeda, but also supported the sheikhs in affecting projects in their tribal areas to the good of the people, turning on water treatment facilities again, reconnecting the electricity, paving the roads that had been blasted by years, now, of IEDs, repairing bridges, helping merchants to get their shops open again.”

Bottom Line:  Like General Petraeus before him, General Allen has shown a commitment to a “smart power” approach that recognizes economic development as the key to stability in the frontline states.  We can anticipate that he will build on the work of his predecessor in the same spirit.