Diplomacy and Development in an Age of Austerity

January 21, 2011 — Dr. Gordon Adams joined us for a discussion on the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), pressures to reduce government spending and the national debt, and the implications for the future of U.S. diplomacy and development.  Dr. Adams is a Professor in the US Foreign Policy Program at the School of International Service at American University.  He is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Stimson Center, where he directs the Budgeting for Foreign Affairs and Defense program.  Dr. Adams served as the senior White House official for national security and foreign policy budgets during the Clinton Administration at the Office of Management and Budget.

Dr. Adams opened his discussion on budget cuts with a slide presentation highlighting projections of US debt.  According to the information he collected, US debt is scheduled to reach 100% of the national GDP by the year 2019 and total more than $17 trillion.  In the years following 9/11, Dr. Adams explained how budgets for the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and others significantly increased.  The result is a large disparity between civilian and military instruments that requires rebalancing to affectively address foreign policy issues. 

The question then becomes how does the United States correct this imbalance while trying to decrease spending.  The QDDR attempts to address this issue from two different angles. First, by recommending an integrated strategic planning and budgeting process and second, addressing organizational problems.  Dr. Adams added that the ability to make tough decisions over prioritization of future missions is critical to achieving results.  Part of this process involves analyzing both civilian and military missions and asking ourselves, how important is this mission to the foreign policy goals of the United States?  This process will prove difficult as questions will be raised over sensitive issues.

Following Dr. Adam’s remarks, questions were raised about the internal organization of government agencies such as the Department of State, as well as opinions regarding the implementation of the QDDR.  One point that fostered debate centered on domestic support and the difficulty of convincing the public that civilian diplomacy can be just as effective as military force in promoting national security.

Security for a New Century is a bipartisan study group for Congress. We meet regularly with U.S. and international policy professionals to discuss the post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment. All discussions are off-the-record. It is not an advocacy venue. For more information, please call Mark Yarnell at (202) 224-7560 or write to [email protected].


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