Biden Addresses Military's Expanding Role in U.S. Foreign Policy

By Biden, Joseph R., Jr. | DISAM Journal, December 2008 | Go to article overview

Biden Addresses Military's Expanding Role in U.S. Foreign Policy


Biden, Joseph R., Jr., DISAM Journal


[The following are excerpts from a press release from the office of Senator (Vice President-elect) Biden, July 31, 2008.]

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Joseph R. Biden, Jr. held a hearing entitled "Defining the Military's Role Towards Foreign Policy. "At [the] hearing, committee members examined the Department of Defense's greater role in delivering foreign aid, the increasing prominence of regional military command posts, the effectiveness of civilian and military coordination on policies and programs, and the policy implications of broader military engagement in sectors that have been traditionally run by civilians.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Eric Edelman testified before the Committee. [Note: An excerpt from Deputy Secretary of State Negroponte's testimony before the committee and Senate Foreign Relations Committee Republican leader Dick Lugar's opening statement at the hearing immediately follow this article.] A second panel of experts and NGO [NonGovernmental Organization] representatives and practitioners followed, including Dr. George Rupp, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee; Dr. Reuben Brigety, Director of the Sustainable Security Prograra at the Center for American Progress; Mary Locke, former senior professional staff for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and Robert Perito, Senior Program Officer for the Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations at the United States Institute of Peace.

Senator Biden's Opening Statement

We are here today to discuss an important trend affecting this country--the expanding role of the military in U.S. foreign policy.

The events of September 11th made it clear that our armed forces could not focus solely on traditional challenges--threats from traditional states with traditional military capabilities. This new world we have found ourselves in has compelled us to think in a very different way.

In response we have given our military greater funding flexibility and more resources. The Administration is trying a new model for an integrated combatant command for Africa. The military is much more deeply engaged in stabilization activities, humanitarian assistance, and foreign aid programs.

In fact, there has been a migration of functions and authorities from U.S. civilian agencies to the Department of Defense.

Between 2002 and 2005, the share of U.S. official development assistance channeled through the Pentagon budget surged from 5.6 percent in 2002 to 21.7 percent in 2005, rising to $5.5 billion. Much of this increase has gone towards activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. But it still points to an expanding military role in what were traditionally civilian programs.

I share the concern that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates recently raised. "The military," he said, "has become more involved in a range of activities that in the past were perceived to be the exclusive province of civilian agencies and organizations...This has led to concern ... about what's seen as a creeping 'militarization' ... of America's foreign policy. This is not an entirely unreasonable sentiment."

This is problematic for several reasons.

First, the increasing dominance of the military in our foreign policy may inadvertently limit our options--when the military is the most readily available option, it is more likely to be used, whether or not it is the best choice. …

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