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Review by Dr. John M. Handley, Vice President, American Diplomacy Publishers

Mission Creep: The Militarization of US Foreign Policy? Edited by Gordon Adams and Shoon Murray, Washington, D.C.: Georgetown University Press, 2014. ISBN 13: 978-1-62616-114-6, pp. 264 (end-notes plus references, notes on contributors, and an index), $49.95 Hardcover.

The book is divided into three sections, starting with the five chapters under “The Institutional and Political Context” followed by six chapters in “Observing the Militarizing Trend” and concluding with two chapters under “Implications of Militarism.” The organization of the material reflects the editors’ theme: the military is encroaching on Foreign Service missions, to the detriment of U.S. foreign policy and relations with the international community. In addition to the two editors (Gordon Adams and Shoon Murray), both professors at the School of International Service, the book appears to be a collection of papers or presentations by six additional academicians (Derek Reveron, Charles Cushman, G. William Anderson, Connie Veillette, Sharon Weiner, and Nina Serafino) plus four former career State Department practitioners (Ambassadors James Dobbins, Brian Carlson, Ed Marks, and Tony Quainton, all of whom also have their own academic credentials).

The introductory chapter by Adams and Murray summarizes the subsequent chapters (2 through 12), while the last chapter by Adams summarizes the recommendations gleaned from the previous chapters. All of the contributors of DOD accepting and accomplishing missions previously assigned to DOS, in Chapter 7, only Nina Serafino, who works for the Congressional Research Service, questions whether the Department of Defense (DOD) actively sought an expansion of its mission and she reminds readers to consider Congress’s role in civilian oversight of U.S. activities and operations abroad. In 1961, Congress passed the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA), which makes the Secretary of State responsible for the supervision of all overseas assistance to include military assistance. This law remains in effect today, supplemented in 1976 when Congress charged the Secretary of State with the responsibility “for continuous supervision and general direction” (p. 122) of military education, training, and civic action. Serafino and her researchers came up with some very interesting comparisons: (1) for security assistance from 2001 to 2010 Department of State (DOS) accounts grew 65% while DOD accounts grew 32%; (2) for counterterrorism, peacekeeping, demining, and rule-of -law training DOS accounts grew 168% to DOD’s 20%; and (3) in two DOD accounts, demining and nonproliferation, DOD accounts decreased while similar DOS accounts grew substantially (p. 131). In addition to the still current FAA, Congress required DOS concurrence for almost all of the post 9/11 legislation dealing with Iraq and Afghanistan, expanding DOS concurrence in 2004 to all Special Operations support overseas, and transferring DOD monies to DOS for stabilization and security assistance, including funding the Pakistan Security Forces (p. 139). As Serafino points out, DOS has the authority to approve and supervise all U.S. activity on foreign soil to include spending funds allocated to DOD for projects DOS deems appropriate.

In Chapter 9, former ambassador Tony Quainton and Shoon Murray address the perceptional problem of any of the five regional combatant commanders entering an ambassador’s area of responsibility and engaging in some sort of project the ambassador believes unhelpful. The authors, using interviews with ambassadors and other anecdotal evidence, basically lay this perception to rest (with the possible exception of Jordan) and conclude that combatant commanders are considerably more helpful than hurtful to an ambassador by providing funds the ambassador needs to get projects done that DOS cannot afford. There is one major exception—SOCOM. Special Operations Command, unlike a regional combatant commander, has a global mission to fight terrorism thanks to an Executive Order signed by President Bush and re-instituted by President Obama. Because SOCOM considers just about everything it does classified, SOCOM operators often elect not to inform an embassy of their arrival in-country (and thus not to request country clearance). A lack of SOCOM-DOS coordination will surely continue until the current Executive Order is withdrawn or amended.

The concluding chapter (13), as mentioned above, contains a list of recommendations extracted from previous chapters but gives little credence, in my opinion, to the three major recommendations from Ambassador Marks, found chapter 12. Marks presents a “whole-of-government” approach which seems reasonable to me; however, I suspect his recommendations would require such a major shift in the DOS and DOD organizations, as well as in their cultures, that they are probably not “doable.” First, Marks wants career foreign service officers to fill at least five positions: one of the deputy secretaries of state, the under sectary for management, counselor of the department, director-general of the foreign service, and director of the Foreign Service Institute (with the last three positions mandated for fixed terms). Second, he suggests creating an intermediate management level at the under- or assistant secretary level of DOS giving these operational managers the oversight authority to coordinate policy down to the country team. The result would be to reorganize the DOS into the Department of Foreign Affairs Coordination. Marks’ last recommendation requires a DOD reorganization that leaves war planning and fighting in the hands of combatant commanders but takes all the other missions (security, terrorism, narcotics, smuggling, criminal networks, etc.) and places them in a multi-agency coordinating organization with representatives from all the pertinent players, with DOS oversight.

Although DOD is considerably larger in personnel than DOS and DOD has a significantly larger budget with a vast clientele, one has to keep in mind that DOS has the most important client of all—the President of the United States. Ambassadors, not military commanders, represent the Office of the President as well as the United States Government to foreign heads of state. Additionally, the Secretary of State maintains supervisory authority over all U.S. activity on foreign soil unless the country is in a state of war. With the president declaring the wars over in both Iraq and Afghanistan, the only “territorial” war in which the U.S. is currently engaged is with North Korea, which remains in a state of armistice. [Although perhaps not true today, when I served in South Korea in the early 1970s, the U.S. Army Eighth Army Commander headed the country team, not the ambassador, due to the armistice.]

Most of the contributors complained that DOD has taken over traditional DOS missions in nation building to include development, governance, and humanitarian assistance. In this sense “mission creep” is a fact. However, did DOD ask for these missions? No. Did DOD want these missions?  No. Why did the executive branch and Congress task DOD with these missions? Because, the DOS either could not or would not undertake them. These nation-building missions were integrated into military training and doctrine in 2005 after Congress and the President tasked the military to undertake them.  Even so, the 1961 Foreign Assistance Act, amended in 1976, gives the Secretary of State sole authority over all U.S. assistance overseas—civilian and military.bluestar

American Diplomacy is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to American Diplomacy

AuthorDr. John M. Handley, American Diplomacy Publishers Vice-President, Professor, International Relations for Webster University’s Ft. Bragg campus. A retired U.S. Army Colonel, Dr. Handley spent his Army career in military intelligence, including as a Defense Attaché, the Dean of the School of Attaché Training at the Defense Intelligence College, and Deputy, Resource Management, for the Defense Intelligence Agency.

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