Rep. Sam Farr: Invest in our civilian capacity now, spend less on war later

June 8, 2010 By Eric Peckham

Rep. Sam Farr

Yesterday in Politico, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA) penned a refreshing op-ed urging his colleagues to start closing the major gap between military spending and civilian diplomacy and development spending. He argues that the United States should spend more on civilian-led efforts not despite the budget deficit but because of it: “if we invest in increasing our civilian capacity in the areas of stabilization and reconstruction, we limit the need to spend billions on war fighting…”

By spending more in diplomacy and development now, we will quicken the pace of creating stability abroad, reducing the length of time our troops need to remain deployed and thus saving billions of dollars in defense spending down the road.

“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” Farr stated. “Increase funding for conflict resolution, agriculture support programs and economic growth, and you lose many of the basic causes of conflict.” He recommended renewed investment in the small State Department (especially in USAID, which has seen its size and funding shrink to less than one quarter of what it was a few decades ago), as well as the interagency Civilian Response Corps created by bipartisan decree in 2008 to rapidly respond to a wide variety of civilian reconstruction needs overseas.

Representative Farr’s prescription for improving our country’s foreign policy and saving billions of dollars in the long term is boosting the international affairs budget today. He is one of many politicians and foreign policy experts from both sides of the aisle who has taken a stand for prioritizing diplomatic and development spending during this budget season.