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MFAN Principal Jim Kunder on Development and National Security

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Below is a great blog post from MFAN Principal Jim Kunder, senior resident fellow at the German Marshall Fund, that explores the role of development in a national security framework.  Kunder looks to the newly created UK National Security Council — which includes a Secretary of State for International Development in its leadership — as a model for what development can and should be in the U.S.

Development and National Security:  Clarity in London, but a Foggy Bottom in Washington

Jim_KunderIn a recent German Marshall Fund blog (In the United State: A Breakthrough in the Tortured Foreign Aid Debate?), I summarized an early draft of the White House’s Presidential Study Directive 7 – the Obama Administration’s first cut at a comprehensive policy on international development.  I argued that “PSD-7,” while proposing modest enhancements in the status of the U.S. Agency for International Development, mostly reflects “continued uncertainty about whether the United States government really wants a center of excellence, strong and vocal, in international development.”

Most serious national security analysts, on both sides of the Atlantic, recognize that there is a clear correlation between poverty and hopelessness, on the one hand, and threats to national security, and instability, on the other.  Although the correlation is complex – and may include intervening variables of culture, belief systems, efficiency of security forces, and mobilization dynamics – few policymakers fail to appreciate that individuals and groups with little hope for their, or their children’s, advancement can be relatively easy recruits for violent movements and ideologies.

Certainly, the new government in London recognizes this link.  In announcing the formation of the UK “National Security Council,” the Prime Minister’s Office noted that “The Council will coordinate responses to the dangers we face, integrating at the highest level the work of the foreign, defence, home, energy and international development [my emphasis] departments, and all other arms of government contributing to national security.”  The National Security Council, to be chaired by the Prime Minister, includes, as permanent members, the Deputy Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, the Home Secretary, the Secretary of State for Defence, and the Security Minister.  And, of course, the National Security Council permanent membership includes the Secretary of State for International Development – a clear recognition by the British government that international development is intrinsic to national security.

In the United States, regrettably, a clear understanding of the strong linkage between international development and national security remains elusive; USAID’s status in national security deliberations remains “foggy;” and, despite soaring rhetoric in PSD-7, international development remains at the bottom in the theoretically equilateral defense-diplomacy-development triangle.  Based on the draft Presidential Study Directive, instead of USAID being invited as a full-time member of the United States version of the National Security Council, the USAID Administrator “will be included in NSC meetings when appropriate.”  Since the same document states unequivocally that the USAID Administrator will report to the Secretary of State, those familiar with policy dynamics within the Obama Administration question whether USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will ever sit regularly at the NSC table.

When evaluating the national security of the Atlantic nations, a strong defense clearly counts; an active diplomacy counts; and, equally clearly, reducing poverty, enhancing democratic participation, and providing hope for the future – which go by the name “international development” – also counts.  London’s newly created National Security Council reflects all foreign policy elements of national security.  It’s time for similar clarity in Washington.

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