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Gates Urges More Emphasis, Funding for All Aspects of National Power

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates called today for the United States to strengthen all elements of its national power – the “soft” power as well as “hard” military might -- to faces challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan and others it will confront in the future. (Video)

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Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates delivers a speech as part of the Landon Lecture Series at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan., Nov. 26, 2007. Defense Dept. photo by Cherie A. Thurlby

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

“ My message today is not about the defense budget or military power,” Gates said during a Landon Lecture speech at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kan.

“My message is that if we are to meet the myriad challenges around the world in the coming decades, this country must strengthen other important elements of national power both institutionally and financially, and create the capability to integrate and apply all of the elements of national power to problems and challenges abroad.

“In short,” Gates told the attendees, “I am here to make the case for strengthening our capacity to use ‘soft’ power and for better integrating it with ‘hard’ power.”

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated that military success alone isn’t enough to win, the secretary said. He noted the long list of other critical elements: economic development, institution-building and the rule of law, internal reconciliation, good governance, basic services for the people, trained and equipped indigenous military and police forces, strategic communications and more.

“These, along with security, are essential ingredients for long-term success,” Gates said.

The secretary cited important lessons learned from the U.S. experience in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the decisive role reconstruction, development and governance have played in the successes taking place there.

The Defense Department has taken on many of these efforts, but Gates urged better resourcing for civilian agencies so they can take the lead.

“Forced by circumstances, our brave men and women in uniform have stepped up to the task, with field artillerymen and tankers building schools and mentoring city councils – usually in a language they don’t speak,” he said. “They have done an admirable job.”

The armed forces will need to institutionalize and retain these non-traditional capabilities, he said. “But there is no replacement for the real thing: civilian involvement and expertise.”

Gates pointed to the example of provincial reconstruction teams and the successes they have demonstrated in Afghanistan, and more recently, in Iraq. These teams are designed to bring in civilians with experience in agricultural, governance and other aspects of development to work alongside the military to improve the local population’s lives.

This initiative, “a key tenet of any counterinsurgency effort,” is paying off in a big way, the secretary said. “Where (PRTs) are on the ground, even in small numbers, we have seen tangible and often dramatic changes,” he said. He noted that an Army brigade commander in Baghdad called the embedded PRTs “pivotal” in getting Iraqis in his sector to better manage their affairs.

“We also have increased our effectiveness by joining with organizations and people outside the government – untapped resources with tremendous potential,” he said. He noted a broad range of civilian experts who have supported rebuilding efforts: anthropologists, agricultural experts and veterinarians among them.

“I have been heartened by the works of individuals and groups like these,” Gates said. “But I am concerned that we need even more civilians involved in the effort, and that our efforts must be better integrated. And I remain concerned that we have yet to create any permanent capability or institutions to rapidly create and deploy these kinds of skills in the future.”

Gates repeated President Bush’s call during his 2007 State of the Union Address for the country to develop a permanent, sizeable cadre of experts with disparate skills that can be deployed immediately when it’s needed.

The State Department is working on its initiative to build a civilian response corps, but Gates said the need goes even deeper. “We also need new thinking about how to integrate our government’s capabilities in these areas, and then how to integrate government capabilities with those in the private sector, in universities, in other non-governmental organizations, with the capabilities of our allies and friends,” he said.

Also to be considered, he said, are the emerging capabilities of those the United States is working to help.

For these efforts to succeed, Gates said, there’s a desperate need for better funding for the programs that support them.

“Funding for non-military foreign-affairs programs has increased since 2001, but remains disproportionately small relative to what we spend on the military and to the importance of such capabilities,” he said. He noted that the State Department’s entire foreign affairs budget request for fiscal 2008 is $36 billion, less than what the Pentagon spends on health care.

With military spending at 4 percent of gross domestic product – below historic norms and well below previous wartime periods – there’s no similar benchmark for other departments and institutions, he said.

“What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security: diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development,’ he said. “We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steels of the military, beyond our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen We must also focus our energies on all the other elements of national power that will be so critical in the years to come.”

Gates acknowledged it’s unusual for a defense secretary to travel halfway across the country to make a pitch to increase the budgets of other agencies. But he emphasized that military leaders recognize the important role civilian experts play in U.S. national defense, and that success in those arenas could reduce the demands placed on the military.

“After all, civilian participation is both necessary to making military operations successful and to relieving stress on the men and women of our armed services who have endured so much these last few years, and done so with such unflagging bravery and devotion,” he said.

“Indeed, having robust civilian capabilities available could make it less likely that military force will have to be used in the first place, as local problems might be dealt with before they become crises.”

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Robert M. Gates

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