The Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicle program (MRAP) and its related offshoots have all focused on protecting the American warfighter. The veritable auto show of vehicles was acquired because of an urgent need to respond to a specific set of problems, primarily the threat of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) that had appeared in Iraq and subsequently in Afghanistan.
Today is the first day of the new fiscal year. Last night the President signed into law the Continuing Resolution (CR) that essentially maintains spending at FY 2009 levels until it expires October 31. CRs have become a regular part of the annual appropriations process and are used to keep the government operating a fiscal year ends while Congress finishes and enacts the regular appropriations bills.
Those who want foreign assistance spending to keep flowing and growing are wise to focus their attention on the handful of decision makers who really matter, starting with the President. But they must not ignore the misconceptions of the public.
Few issues infuriate the American public like Congressional earmarks. Whether real or imagined, many view earmarks as inherently unfair, a practice that redirects funding away from the most-deserving projects to those that somehow benefit Congressional members and/or their associates.
General McChrystal’s leaked Initial Assessment evaluating the situation in Afghanistan both strengthens and challenges the perspective many hold of the current strategy in Afghanistan.
The Chair and Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to the President last week voicing concern about the state of US development policy and leadership. Using baseball as the framework, here is the problem the Senators pointed to:
Despite a recent uptick in violence in northern Bamiyan Province, Sayghan is considered the most secure in this particular area of operations. And for members of the PRT who operate out of a remote patrol base here, Sayghan has become a focal point for development funding.
The C-130 Aircraft Modernization Program (AMP) has been recommended for termination by Air Force Chief of Staff Norton Schwartz. This recommendation comes in light of Secretary Gates’ call earlier this year for the Pentagon to reexamine its spending and come up with $60 billion in savings over the next five years. The cut is based on expectations that the defense budget will not experience significant growth in the mid term.
The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) released the 2009 National Intelligence Strategy (NIS) earlier this week. DNI overseas the coordination and integration of all 16 intelligence agencies, and the NIC, released every four years, outlines the strategic goals, objectives and priorities for the Intelligence Community (IC). Like previous years, the 2009 NIS uses standard language to outline priorities. There is, of course, a large classified portion to the NIS, but the four strategic goals, six mission objectives, and seven enterprise objectives mentioned in the public version conveys, in very overarching terms, the Administration’s intelligence priorities over the mid-term.
From a budgetary perspective, the NIS guides current and future decisions on budgets, acquisitions, and operations for the IC. But, substantively, the NIS offers little on how this will play out. The NIS states that the IC will “demonstrate sound financial management” through “financial management transparency, accountability, and auditability, compliant with applicable laws and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) guidelines.” There is no explanation if this goes beyond current practices already in place during the regular budget cycle.
Under “improving acquisition”, the NIS calls for the “synchronization of planning, programming, and execution of major acquisition programs with other IC and Department of Defense processes.” Specifics are not given on how this will take place.
And, the NIS defines DNI’s role as determining the National Intelligence Program (NIP) budget request to the President and overseeing the execution of budgetary resources to properly fund national-level priorities. The NIS does not expand on this point, although these are both current roles for DNI. Fundamentally, the broad parameters set by the NIS give the general public an idea of the goals, objectives and priorities of the IC, but they are just that: broad.
The people of Honduras celebrated their Independence Day this week amidst the ongoing constitutional crises that lead to the removal of President Manuel Zelaya in June 2009. Since that time, Roberto Micheletti’s interim government has failed to garner any significant international support as the Organization of American States (OAS), the UN General Assembly, and the US have called for Mr. Zelaya’s immediate return.
In a conference call this week with reporters, the Director for National Intelligence (DNI) Admiral Dennis Blair disclosed the FY 2009 top-line intelligence budget, at $75 billion. The traditionally opaque intelligence budget is not subject to the same type of public scrutiny as other federal budgets.
People who observe the Pentagon say at this blog and elsewhere that they see reform in the actions of Secretary of Defense Gates and in bills coming out of Congress.
Crucial Differences between the FY 2010 House and Senate State/ Foreign Operations Appropriations Bills
The House Appropriations Committee passed its version of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2010 Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs bill on June 26 and the Senate Appropriations Committee concluded its markup on July 9. The Senate bill is currently awaiting floor action.
The President requested $52.0 billion in new discretionary funding for State and Foreign Operations. While the Senate version provided $48.7 billion, the House bill provided $48.8 billion, $143.0 million more than the Senate. The FY 2009 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations bill, passed in June, provided “forward funding” for some of the programs requested for the FY 2010 State/ Foreign Operations bill. Congress has therefore provided less than the President’s request, which was anticipated.
FY 2010 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Bills
($ in millions)
Senate Bill Markup
New Discretionary Budget Authority
This report assesses the critical differences between the House bill and the Senate markup, as well as the FY 2010 request. Click here for the full report.
Eight years ago, Al-Qaeda carried out a series of coordinated attacks on the US which killed 2,993 people, including the 19 hijackers. Many remember spending the day in front of the television, in shock and disbelief as the day’s events unfolded. Today, a different kind of disbelief is reflected in US sentiment. Americans are taking stock of the last eight years with a sense of sadness and uncertainty; its hard to believe it has been eight years since 9/11 and even harder to believe that the US is still involved in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The national mood reflects several issues. Americans understand that the threat of terrorist attacks changed the US security environment. National security conversations today revolve around terrorist organizations, non-state actors and WMDs, and ungoverned spaces. Weak, fragile or failing states are cause of concern, and supporting the reconstruction or rebuilding of essential governance processes and institutions is viewed as imperative towards protecting US security interests abroad. Yet, even though Americans understand the new security dynamic, national fatigue is setting in with America’s engagement in seemingly unending “military initiatives” in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Viewing both wars through a budgetary lens reveals some facts behind the nation’s disposition. As shown in the chart below, the war in Iraq has received significantly more funding and resources than Afghanistan, nearly three to one. Although the outcome in Iraq is still unclear, the insurgency has largely been contained, Iraq is experiencing some level of security, and the drawdown of US troops is moving forward. The war in Afghanistan, on the other hand, has been comparably underfunded, and has only recently begun to reemerge in the national conversation. Given the enormous cost in both blood and treasure for the moderate successes in Iraq, it’s hard to “gear up” for the forgotten war in Afghanistan.
Source: Data provided by CSIS, Resourcing for Defeat by Erin Fitzgerald and Anthony Cordesman
Moreover, in the case of both wars, the DOD requested emergency supplemental funding or “bridge funding” outside the regular defense budget. Supplemental appropriations bills, by definition, are used to fund unexpected/ unanticipated events which neither Iraq nor Afghanistan were after the first year of engagement. After FY 2002, the planning and process used to fund both wars should have shifted to the regular budget and appropriations process; it did not. The complexities of supplemental funding can confound even the most informed budget watcher, and the continued use of emergency supplementals has meant that war funding has not received the same scrutiny or oversight as the regular defense budget, long-term cost estimates have been overly optimistic, and year-to-year supplemental funding has obscured the total costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Source: Data provided by CSIS, Resourcing for Defeat by Erin Fitzgerald and Anthony Cordesman
Looking forward, the Obama administration has tough decisions to make regarding wartime funding and resources. The economic crisis further compounds these hard choices, as Americans are understandably more cautious about the direction of US foreign policy and their associated financial costs. While concern grows, for the immediate future the unsettled mood in America is not enough to drastically change the funding patterns of the last few years. In fact, the Senate Defense appropriations committee approved $128.2 billion for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan yesterday for FY 2010.
The full Senate Appropriations Committee will vote on the FY 2010 Defense Appropriations Bill today. The Obama Administration requested a total of $550.2 billion in baseline defense and Department of Energy defense activities funding.
It took the firings of two top officials, the truncation or termination of several major acquisitions programs and a heated, months-long political battle, but in the past year or so, U.S. Secretary of Defense Bob Gates has successfully reformed the once-hidebound U.S. Air Force.
Several accounts of debauchery and unethical behavior by contractors working at the US embassy in Kabul were reported this week. Aside from an unsettling and embarrassing scandal, such behavior evokes serious questions about the current structure of US engagement abroad as the DOD increasingly relies upon contractors to support overseas operations.
With such bleak reports, it’s no wonder that George Will and others are calling for the withdrawal of US troops. US strategy, however, is not gearing down and funding trends suggest that Afghanistan is growing in importance.
As Washington prepares for Congress to return after Labor Day, the annual federal budget process is coming to a close. But, as any runner will tell you, there are two races in any marathon: the first 20 miles and the last 6. Congress may be nearing the end of the FY 2010 budget cycle, but September will resolve what may be wide disparities between the House and Senate, not to mention those between Congress and the President.
Of all the consequences of the interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, perhaps the most important for U.S. policymakers will be the desire to avoid another prolonged and costly engagement of U.S. ground forces. Yet America’s global security responsibilities are not going away.