U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates is calling for a significant expansion in the budgets of government agencies that promote U.S. interests through diplomacy, foreign aid, information and other aspects of what he calls "soft" power. VOA's Al Pessin reports from the Pentagon.
Secretary Gates says the U.S. government needs "new institutions for the 21st Century with a 21st Century mind-set." He told an audience at Kansas State University recent conflicts, including the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have proved that military power alone can not prevail in this century's challenges. He said that means devoting "considerably more resources" to other parts of the U.S. government.
"There is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security - diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action and economic reconstruction and development," he said. "We must focus our energies beyond the guns and steel of the military, beyond just our brave soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen. We must also focus our energies on the other elements of national power that will be so crucial in the years to come."
Gates says that means more money for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, whose budgets are currently a small fraction of the size of his budget for the Defense Department.
He says the U.S. government might also need new organizations to expand and coordinate its capabilities to deliver assistance on governance, rule of law, internal reconciliation and basic services, and to communicate its policies and goals to the world. He suggests the need for a new National Security Act, updating the law passed in 1947 that established the current U.S. government foreign affairs structure, in order to better deal with the conflicts of the future.
"These conflicts will be fundamentally political in nature, and require the application of all elements of national power," he said. "Success will be less a matter of imposing one's will and more a function of shaping behavior - of friends, adversaries, and most importantly, the people in between."
Secretary Gates also said while U.S. military power will continue to be important in promoting U.S. interests, the most important U.S. military role may be to enable partner nations "to defend and govern themselves." He says the skills needed to do that are now a mission for the entire U.S. military.
He says more effective U.S. government civilian and military efforts to build democratic societies around the world could also "make it less likely that military force will have to be used" in various potential conflict zones of the future.