WASHINGTON -- Congress has granted unusual authority for the Pentagon to spend as much as $200 million of its own budget to aid foreign militaries, a break with the traditional practice of channeling foreign military assistance through the State Department. (...) The initiative addresses an issue that the Pentagon and State Department have identified as crucial in fighting terrorism and bolstering stability abroad -- namely, "building partnership capacity" in Africa and other developing regions. (...) The final version -- section 1206 of the authorization act -- says the Pentagon can provide training, equipment and supplies "to build the capacity" of foreign militaries to conduct counterterrorist operations or join with U.S. forces in stability operations.Interestingly the act makes provisions for conducting "anti-terror operations" which then in the same line becomes "stability operations". The Global War on Terror is slowly being transformed into the Stability and Reconstruction (S&R) Operations that characterize System Administration.
But the section also stipulates that orders for such aid must originate with the president, and it requires the Pentagon to work closely with the State Department in formulating and implementing the assistance. This new authority cannot be used to provide any assistance banned by other U.S. laws, the provision adds. Further, the measure grants less money than initially requested -- $200 million instead of $750 million. And it expires after two years, far short of the open-ended mandate Rumsfeld sought. "We're calling it a pilot program," said Sen. John Warner, R-Va., chairman of the Armed Services Committee. "But I think it'll prove its worth."Defense officials say they are pleased. "It's a very good start," said Jeffrey Nadaner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for stability operations. "For the Congress, which hasn't done this before, we think it's a bold, cooperative move."
Reaction at the upper levels of the State Department also has been positive. Under a separate provision approved with the train-and-equip measure, the department is getting $200 million from the Pentagon to bolster a new Reconstruction and Stabilization Office for coordinating civilian assistance. This provision stirred its own controversy among lawmakers, who as a matter of principle have opposed shifting Pentagon funds to the State Department. Having gained this much, the Pentagon and State Department are now setting their sights on a more ambitious overhaul of foreign-assistance rules.
This is not the development of well-drilling and micro-finance, but development it is nevertheless. And probably also the most effective, if we are to believe the calculations by Oxford Professor Paul Collier. What we are dealing with here are instruments for supporting stability and development of states in the Gap.
Critics will be fast to point out that training and equipping troubled states' militaries and security services for them better to be able to take part in anti-terror campaigns is hardly the obvious road to democracy. They will be right to the extent that the Pentagon only teaches local militaries to hone their aim. But reducing military assitance to target practice would be wrong: numerous other inititives are underway to strengthen African peacekeeing capabilities, both seperately with the Pentagon, the French, under UN auspices, etc.
In the long run, for the Pentagon too, or if we just look at the situation from a purely operative perspective -- elements of security sector reform, accountability measures, etc. will surely be part of the package. For the local institutions to function effectively, they must be trustworthy as well. Moreover, the additional funding for State's civilian side Stabilization and Reconstruction (S/CRS) office means that the other half of the equation gets their share. If the S/CRS is only stepping in when crisis is more imminent, it will of course be appropriate if other, civilian state-strengthening development initiatives are carried out alongside the Pentagon's military cooperation projects.