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The Politics of National Security Budgets
In a new Stanley Foundation Policy Analysis Brief, former senior White House budget official Gordon Adams gives a sobering assessment of how difficult it will be for the US government to build up its nonmilitary capabilities as a stronger complement to the military, despite the urgency of such a shift.
The military tool in the US national security toolkit is important, Gordon writes, but it is most effective when used in a balanced and synergistic way with the nation's other instruments of foreign policy: economic, diplomatic, political, and cultural capacities. As a matter of resources, however, these nonmilitary instruments are budgeted at a fraction of the spending levels allocated to the Defense Department.
Given the range of international challenges that the United States confronts in the 21st century—extreme poverty; failing states; religious and ethnic conflicts; booming traffic in drugs, people, and weapons, all contributing to terrorism and proliferation—the need for a robust toolkit is critical. None of today's challenges can be handled by the military alone; they demand an integrated use of diplomacy, assistance, and military capabilities.
In order for the United States to execute a coherent and comprehensive national security strategy, it must strengthen its nonmilitary instruments to be a more effective complement to its armed forces. Despite this urgent need, however, generating added resources will itself be a monumental task.
This brief examines several built-in advantages—political, bureaucratic, administrative, congressional—that the military enjoys in the competition for resources.
To read the full brief, visit www.stanleyfoundation.org.