December 29, 2011 in News
Pentagon is the security aid king in Washington (iWatch News):
A new bill approved by Congress last week would again make the Defense Department the premier funder of security assistance to foreign countries, giving it more than double the comparable budget of the agency popularly associated with America’s foreign aid, the State Department.
The $17 billion Pentagon aid budget for the 2012 fiscal year is the second in a row to exceed the State Department’s by $10 billion, a disparity that has begun to provoke debate among foreign policy experts in Washington. Seven years ago, circumstances were reversed, with the State Department spending triple the amount the Pentagon spent on such aid.
Some foreign aid experts have complained that, as a result of the shifting responsibilities, U.S. aid priorities have shifted from trying to establish good governance to supporting stronger foreign military partners.
Defense-funded security assistance programs, like those funded directly by the State Department, include military and police training, counter-drug assistance, counterterrorism activities, and infrastructure projects. These programs, detailed in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, have been steadily expanding, according to a March 2011 report by the Stimson Center, a nonprofit research group in Washington.
The expansion has largely come at the expense of the authority of the State Department, which was long chiefly responsible for the planning, budgeting and oversight of security assistance – including military training – with the Department of Defense responsible for implementation. After 9/11, the Pentagon has assumed more authority in foreign aid budgeting and planning.
The Pentagon has argued that supporting foreign forces reduces the chance that U.S. troops will be deployed overseas. The Pentagon has also long complained that State Department-run aid programs are too slow and inflexible. Its combatant commanders now frequently tap funds that can be distributed almost at will, known in aid parlance as “walking around money” and formally as the Combatant Commander Initiative Fund and the Commander Emergency Response Fund.
The 2012 budget bill authorizes spending of more than $415 million for these funds, or around $100 million less than in 2011.
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