Students in the village of Atome, Togo oversee the construction of a new school built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in coordination with USAID’s West Africa Regional Mission. / Jennifer Aldridge, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Students in the village of Atome, Togo oversee the construction of a new school built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in coordination with USAID’s West Africa Regional Mission. / Jennifer Aldridge, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Did you know that USAID and the U.S. Department of Defense work side by side on many international development projects? In fact, our collaboration is so important that we released a new policy on Cooperation with the Department of Defense today.

USAID’s partnerships with the Defense Department and other U.S. Government agencies are vital to improving the effectiveness and impact of our work around the world.

The global challenges we confront – from violent extremism to climate change and global health security – are so large and complex that no single agency can handle them all alone. By partnering, the U.S. Government can achieve development and security outcomes that exceed the capacity of a single agency.

USAID’s new policy is designed to serve as a guide for our staff on how and when to coordinate with members of the U.S. military throughout the USAID program cycle.

Dozens of USAID staff participated in the two-year process to draft this important resource – an update to the Agency’s 2008 policy on civilian-military cooperation, which recognized the increasingly important role of development in advancing national security priorities along with defense and diplomacy.

The revised policy seeks to build a mutual understanding of each agency’s roles and responsibilities to avoid misunderstandings that could lead to confusion, duplication of effort, and disappointing outcomes.

USAID’s West Africa mission and U.S. Africa Command worked together to host broadcast roundtables (pictured) on improving civil-military relations. More than 250,000 people listened in on these radio programs hosted by local leaders. / Rod Stubina, USAID

USAID’s West Africa mission and U.S. Africa Command worked together to host broadcast roundtables (pictured) on improving civil-military relations. More than 250,000 people listened in on these radio programs hosted by local leaders. / Rod Stubina, USAID

Providing a solid foundation at the policy and planning level ensures that strong coordination in the field is possible. USAID and the Defense Department have joined forces on several programs through the years, including building safer maternal health clinics in Timor Leste, expanding inclusive education programs in Macedonia and constructing nutrition centers in Ghana. Other programs have expanded alternative development programming in Peru, created opportunities for Jamaican youth, and fostered disaster resilience in the Philippines.

These successful programs illustrate the real, measurable development outcomes that result when the USAID and the Defense Department work in partnership with one another.

So what does USAID cooperation with the Defense Department look like? This relationship can take on many forms, but joint collaboration and planning are at the heart of the policy we’ve crafted.

USAID and the Defense Department work together to ensure perspectives from both partners are incorporated into our respective policies and strategies. For example, when the Defense Department carries out humanitarian assistance activities, it follows the guidance of a policy document that ensures USAID — the lead U.S. Government agency for development and humanitarian assistance — is involved in the process, so that the humanitarian work is well coordinated, mutually reinforcing and transparent.

The next level of cooperation focuses on planning. Through USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, the Agency has a strong network of experienced Foreign Service officers located within the Defense Department’s Combatant Commands and the Pentagon to help coordinate USAID and Defense Department regional, country and contingency plans.

These development advisors serve as USAID’s voice in the Defense Department planning process, and reciprocally ensure that the voice of the Defense Department is included when developing five-year, country-based strategies that illustrate how USAID’s assistance is synchronized with other agencies’ efforts.

USAID and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) are partnering with Bangladesh agencies to protect the Sunderbans mangrove forest (pictured), the largest remaining habitat for endangered tigers in the world. / Karl Wurster, USAID

USAID and U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) are partnering with Bangladesh agencies to protect the Sunderbans mangrove forest (pictured), the largest remaining habitat for endangered tigers in the world. / Karl Wurster, USAID

Moving forward, USAID hopes to share its best practices with the Defense Department. The USAID’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation is continuing to build interagency learning through Development in Vulnerable Environments trainings for members of the U.S. military. This course helps the Defense Department employees learn about the USAID’s field capabilities and understand the critical role of development in supporting national security and prosperity.

As we work to end extreme poverty by 2030 and continue to create resilient, democratic societies, this new framework for interagency collaboration helps USAID strengthen its efforts with one of its strongest partners – the U.S. Department of Defense.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Beth Cole is the director of the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation, and Sergio Guzman is the policy team lead at the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation.