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Mullen goes to bat for State Department budget

The Pentagon is actively lobbying for the State Department and USAID as next year’s budgets get formed, and now we can add Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the list of Defense Department leaders who are going out on a limb to support money for diplomacy and development. In ...

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Pentagon is actively lobbying for the State Department and USAID as next year's budgets get formed, and now we can add Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the list of Defense Department leaders who are going out on a limb to support money for diplomacy and development.

In separate letters to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, Mullen criticized the $4 billion cut that Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, proposed for the fiscal 2011 budget request in his budget resolution. That cut has already been criticized by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the entire development community.

"We are living in times that require an integrated national security program with budgets that fund the full spectrum of national security efforts, including vitally important pre-conflict and post-conflict civilian stabilization programs," Mullen wrote. "Diplomatic programs are critical to our long-term security."

The Pentagon is actively lobbying for the State Department and USAID as next year’s budgets get formed, and now we can add Adm. Michael Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the list of Defense Department leaders who are going out on a limb to support money for diplomacy and development.

In separate letters to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-NV, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-CA, Mullen criticized the $4 billion cut that Sen. Kent Conrad, D-ND, proposed for the fiscal 2011 budget request in his budget resolution. That cut has already been criticized by Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and the entire development community.

“We are living in times that require an integrated national security program with budgets that fund the full spectrum of national security efforts, including vitally important pre-conflict and post-conflict civilian stabilization programs,” Mullen wrote. “Diplomatic programs are critical to our long-term security.”

But the Pentagon isn’t just writing letters. Hill sources say that Pentagon officials of various stripes are actually lobbying foreign affairs appropriators while making the rounds on Capitol Hill. Traditionally, the Pentagon guys talk to the defense appropriators, leaving the foreign affairs lobbying to the State Department.

There’s also new traction on Gates’s idea for a $2 billion jointly managed fund to handle issues that overlap the security and diplomatic spheres. The Pentagon is actively pushing the idea, Hill sources say, while the pushback is actually come from the State Department, which is still skeptical the funds could be jointly managed in a fair and uncomplicated way.

Regardless, Gates’s push to actually take money from his own department and giving it to State is real, despite some bureaucratic wrangling over the assistance. And the Pentagon’s lobbying will no doubt have an effect if and when Conrad’s budget resolution makes it to the Senate floor. We’re hearing that a bipartisan effort led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry, D-MA, is preparing to try to roll back Conrad’s cuts. Then again, Congress might not even tackle the issue directly this year.

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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