The Cable

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50 military “good ole boys” support shifting money to the State Department

As if the endorsement of Defense Secretary Robert Gates weren’t enough, the development community has rounded up 50 senior retired military officers to support its drive to shift money and authorities from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom. "While our military power can provide the logistics and organizational support to help those in need in times ...

As if the endorsement of Defense Secretary Robert Gates weren't enough, the development community has rounded up 50 senior retired military officers to support its drive to shift money and authorities from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom.

"While our military power can provide the logistics and organizational support to help those in need in times of humanitarian crisis, as demonstrated by our current efforts in Haiti, it can only help create the conditions necessary to allow the other tools of statecraft - our diplomatic, development and humanitarian programs - to effectively address these issues," reads a letter to Congress organized by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a network of more than 400 businesses and non-governmental organizations.

The group is trying to protect the president's $58.5 billion fiscal 2011 budget request as it winds its way through the legislative process. That's the biggest request ever for foreign operations and international assistance, but in this time of fiscal peril, lawmakers are expected to try to use that part of the budget request to fund other priorities.

As if the endorsement of Defense Secretary Robert Gates weren’t enough, the development community has rounded up 50 senior retired military officers to support its drive to shift money and authorities from the Pentagon to Foggy Bottom.

"While our military power can provide the logistics and organizational support to help those in need in times of humanitarian crisis, as demonstrated by our current efforts in Haiti, it can only help create the conditions necessary to allow the other tools of statecraft – our diplomatic, development and humanitarian programs – to effectively address these issues," reads a letter to Congress organized by the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, a network of more than 400 businesses and non-governmental organizations.

The group is trying to protect the president’s $58.5 billion fiscal 2011 budget request as it winds its way through the legislative process. That’s the biggest request ever for foreign operations and international assistance, but in this time of fiscal peril, lawmakers are expected to try to use that part of the budget request to fund other priorities.

Among the letter’s signatories is retired Gen. Michael Hagee, who was commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps from 2003 to 2006, and retired Adm. James Loy, commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard from 1998 to 2002. Hagee and Loy sat down Tuesday morning to explain their activism on behalf of the diplomatic and development community to The Cable.

Hagee said the letter is remarkable because it represents the opinions of "50 retired three-and-four-star good-old boys," who have seen first-hand the military’s encroachment upon traditional development issues, which was unavoidable but now needs to be addressed.

Many have expressed doubt that the State Department has the capacity to take on these missions, such as managing foreign military training or supervising crisis money disbursement.

"But you can’t get the capability and the capacity unless you get the resources," Hagee explained.

Loy said the military officials represent a broader swath of senior officers that agree with Gates’s pledge to rebalance the tools of American statecraft because using the military to do development is just not the right way to do business.

"Our collective experience from lots of time in uniform and in very significant positions around the world in military jobs have convinced us that the notion of American influence has to be dealt with in multiple ways," he said.

We’re hearing that Congress is planning to take up the fiscal 2011 State Department and foreign operations budget bill in May.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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