Admiral Mullen: Foreign Policy Is Too Dominated by the Military

By Lubold, Gordon | The Christian Science Monitor, March 3, 2010 | Go to article overview

Admiral Mullen: Foreign Policy Is Too Dominated by the Military


Lubold, Gordon, The Christian Science Monitor


Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says US foreign policy is too dependent on military generals and admirals and not enough on the State Department.

The Pentagon's top officer said the military cannot continue to do the bulk of the heavy lifting overseas, and it's time for the State Department and other agencies to step up.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Wednesday evening that there are limits to American military power and diplomatic efforts must be just as important if not more so. But despite recognition of this, the military has become the default for American foreign policy.

"It's one thing to be able and willing to serve as emergency responders, quite another to always have to be the fire chief," Mullen said in prepared remarks at Kansas State University.

Time to invest in other departments

Citing a speech delivered by President Obama late last year, Mullen said it's time to invest in other departments, such as homeland security, intelligence, and the State Department, whose budget pales compared to massive Pentagon funding.

"My fear, quite frankly, is that we aren't moving fast enough in this regard," he said. "US foreign policy is still too dominated by the military, too dependent upon the generals and admirals who lead our major overseas commands and not enough on the State Department."

As critical as the admiral's remarks appeared to be, he's not the first one to make them.

Mullen is reinforcing an appeal that his boss, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, made when he appeared at the same lecture series at Kansas State University in 2007. Mr. Gates told the audience that there are limits to American military power, and that agencies such as State and USAID must be resourced properly. He highlighted the lopsidedness of how Congress funds the defense and state departments.

Pentagon budget much larger than State's

This year, for example, the proposed Defense Department budget is $708 billion, and that does not include all war costs. The State Department's proposed budget, on the other hand, is approximately $52 billion and that includes funding for overseas development efforts conducted by USAID.

One former USAID official agreed with Mullen's premise. He said part of the problem is that an agency like USAID doesn't have the bureaucratic instincts to demand more money from Congress. And even if it did, it lacks the capacity to handle the additional funding to hire the kind of qualified people with development experience that the US needs to deploy overseas. …

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