The U.S. Military and Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
The use of the U.S. military to respond to foreign disasters has a long but relatively simple history. For nearly three decades, military aircraft have been under contract with the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance to transport U.S. government relief commodities in situations where private contract aircraft were unavailable on very short notice, usually after a fast-onset natural disaster. Nongovernmental organizations have been able to use empty cargo space on military aircraft to transport their commodities and equipment under the Denton Amendment, though the act is more frequently utilized for development projects than relief efforts. Finally, the Defense Department has provided surplus military equipment to developing countries for humanitarian purposes.
With the end of the cold war these straightforward functions changed notably, a situation with which the military has not been entirely comfortable. These changes have increased the complexity, danger, and frequency of the tasks the military has been ordered to perform in crises and has forced it into partnership with institutions that during the cold war had been among its most vocal critics -- humanitarian relief organizations.
It is the rise of complex humanitarian emergencies and the U.S. response to them, more than any other circumstance, that has led to the assignment of these new tasks. Two characteristics of these emergencies have encouraged the president to use the military. First, they often occur in remote and inhospitable