U.S. national security rests on three pillars: Diplomacy, Development, and Defense.   Although other departments and agencies of the U.S. government certainly contribute to the nation’s security, these three Ds, represented by the Department of State (State), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and Department of Defense (DoD or Defense) provide the foundation for promoting and protecting U.S. interests abroad. Each represents a critical component of national security with unique roles and responsibilities. The functions performed by each of the “three Ds” provide greatest value to the nation when they are complementary and mutually reinforcing.

State and USAID’s diplomats and development experts work hand-in-glove with their military counterparts to promote growth and foster stability.  They don’t think about which subcommittee funded them or what their respective agency budget allocations are.  All they know is that they work together, with a common purpose, and often in dangerous and deadly environments.   We need a budget that reflects that reality.

Here are some examples of the integration of our civilian and military efforts in some of the most critical areas around the world:

In Afghanistan, USAID programs are designed to support US foreign policy, with military stabilization programs informed by USAID technical expertise. Funding is provided by USAID/Kabul for Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) activities in the field as well as national-level programs. It would be physically impossible for USAID to operate independently in Afghanistan without close military support. USAID field program officers serve alongside military counterparts in forward operating bases and PRTs, where they undertake jointly planned civil affairs and quick-impact development programs.

In Iraq, USAID works with US and multinational units to help cities recover from the effects of battle and to gain a sense of balance after the insurgency has departed. Projects are aimed at a series of small, rapid programs that are followed by more complex projects that return public services to operation, promote representative local government, and reactivate the economy.   USAID programs are closely integrated with military operations, working directly with community groups, local government officials, and PRTs in the development and implementation of activities that foster more productive and peaceful communities.

In Yemen there is a strategic convergence between conventional USAID concerns about human development indicators and security concerns, as the poorest areas of the country pose the biggest security threats. USAID shares operational space with the US military, and the USAID program is driven by development needs impacted by the ongoing security and conflict concerns.  The Country team ensures that development assistance planning is undertaken in conjunction with USAID/Yemen activities, which are designed and implemented alongside those of Joint-Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA).  On the military side, the programs are integrated with the military’s theater security cooperation planning.

USAID/Colombia’s Alternative Development (AD) Program supports Colombian Government efforts to strengthen the licit economy through productive projects, enterprise development, natural resource protection, institutional strengthening, and promoting access to markets.  To support the legitimacy of the Colombian government, a program from both the Department of Defense and USAID delivers small, discrete community based grants for capacity building, community organization and mobilization. It will also support strategic communications and public information and outreach by the Government of Colombia.

USAID/Kosovo cooperates with the 38 nations supporting the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO’s) Kosovo Force or KFOR, helping to increase KFOR’s visibility in order to assure all Kosovars that security is in place. Several Mission programs directly support KFOR, helping to increase KFOR’s visibility, particularly in minority communities which feel most at risk. Quick-impact small infrastructure projects identified jointly by KFOR and USAID, and implemented by local construction companies, such as footbridges or road repairs, help keep channels of communications between KFOR and communities open. A small community self-help grant program allows KFOR soldiers to submit requests for simple inputs, such as cement or lumber, from community organizations to construct their own projects, often with additional labor provided by KFOR soldiers.

In western Pakistan, on Afghanistan’s border, USAID’s Office of Transitional Initiatives is working with local government officials and communities to identify small infrastructure projects to improve Pakistani citizens’ lives and the credibility of the Pakistani government.  USAID’s development experts, on a daily basis, rely heavily on the military for information and advice.  By working closely together, both USAID and the military have been able to create larger areas of stability and begin longer term development projects.

Why does this matter?  As General John R. Allen said, “In many respects, USAID’s efforts can do as much—over the long term—to prevent conflict as the deterrent effect of a carrier strike group or a marine expeditionary force.”  Despite this, civilian funding for national security represents only a small fraction of US military expenditures.

In other words, investments in development and diplomacy can help to keep boots off the ground–a better proposition than waiting to address a national security threat when it is too late.