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Why foreign aid is critical to US national security

U.S . Secretary of State Rex Tillerson | Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In our active duty days, we were honored to help lead the finest fighting force in the world and we strongly support an increase in military spending to maintain the readiness of those forces . But our experiences also taught us that not all foreign crises are solved on the battlefield; in the 21st century, weapons and warfighters alone are insufficient to keep America secure. That s why we support a robust development budget to advance our national security objectives and we are not alone in this belief . This week, we will join 14 other experienced former four-star generals and admirals in submitting testimony to Congress that military power alone cannot prevent radicalization, nor can it, by itself, prevent despair from turning to anger and increasing outbursts of violence and instability . Over the last 15 years, our national experience in Afghanistan, Iraq, in the Middle East, and now in Africa has shown clearly that development aid is critical to America s national security.

Unfortunately, the administration s budget would cut 32 percent from the budgets of the U.S . Agency for International Development and State Department including a cut of nearly half to development assistance . This is exactly the wrong decision at a time when development efforts in the world s poorest and most fragile countries are needed more than ever . In turn, these severe cuts to USAID would only increase the risk to Americans and to our brave military service members . Congress should reject this dangerous path. Strategic development assistance is not charity; it is an essential, modern tool of U.S .

national security . Foreign assistance should be respected and budgeted as an investment in the enhancement of stability in the world s most vulnerable places, not as a no-strings-attached giveaway to poorer nations. Strategic development assistance is not charity; it is an essential, modern tool of U.S . national security. American security is advanced by the development of stable nations that are making progress on social development, economic growth, and good governance; by countries that enforce the rule of law and invest in the health and education of their own people .

In short, America s interests are served by nations that give their people hope for a more prosperous and safe future. Conversely, American security is undermined by frail and failing nations where hope is non-existent, and where conditions foster radicalism, produce refugees, spark insurgency, and provide safe havens for terrorists, criminal gangs, and human traffickers with global reach. Fighting extremist groups after they emerge as well-trained and well-funded entities is costlier in lives and money than efforts to prevent such groups from forming in the first place . Research suggests that investing in prevention is, on average, 60 times less costly than war and post-conflict reconstruction costs . It is also more difficult .

To prevent the expansion of terrorist groups, states must deprive them of ungoverned territory and the oxygen on which they flourish the belief that the terrorists radical agenda can provide purpose and meaning to the lives of their recruits . That can be a challenge for Western nations, much less for developing ones with weak governance structures. A host of international terrorist groups al Qaeda, al Shabaab, Boko Haram, and ISIS, among others have taken root in highly fragile regions and countries with shared characteristics, such as corruption and poor governance, weak institutions, high poverty and inequality, widespread indignity, and low quality of life for ordinary citizens . Local populations frustrated with poor governance and lacking meaningful opportunities to improve their lives or provide for their families are prone to tolerate, if not actively support, extremist groups that challenge government authority or assume the government s role as social-service provider . To combat these groups and prevent such areas from serving as fertile recruiting grounds, training areas, and transit routes for violent extremists, the United States and its allies should become much more proactive in helping address underlying conditions that, left unchecked, invite and foment instability.

Congress can, and should, make America safer with a robust and strategic Phase Zero initiative that engages the U.S . government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector to synergistically prevent conflict and promote security, development, and governance rooted in the rule of law . Such an initiative accompanied by other targeted reforms to our foreign assistance programs would fill a dangerous vacuum that military intervention alone simply cannot address . Proactive conflict-prevention strategies are far less expensive in terms of resources and lives expended than reactive use of our Armed Forces. Proactive conflict-prevention strategies are far less expensive in terms of resources and lives expended than reactive use of our Armed Forces.

Development experts under the auspices of USAID, State Department, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and other federal agencies must be fully committed to a coherent whole-of-government stability-enhancement strategy that will protect America s interests in the modern security environment while minimizing the exposure of our young men and women to harm s way. The faithful service, courage, and sacrifice of our service members deserves and demands that we address and develop the strongest possible strategy for conflict-prevention that our nation can muster . Cutting the International Affairs budget will hurt our country s ability to stop new conflicts from forming, and will place our interests, values, and the lives of our men and women in uniform at risk . Congress should reject the administration s proposed cuts and instead fully fund the international affairs budget . Our military is counting on it.

Admiral (Ret.) Michael Mullen served as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011 .

General (Ret.) James Jones was the commandant of the Marine Corps and served as Supreme Allied Commander-Europe from 2003 to 2006.

Related stories on these topics:

Sturgeon: Corbyn was not defending terrorists

Nicola Sturgeon has said it was “slightly unfair” for Theresa May to accuse Jeremy Corbyn of providing an “excuse for terrorism” following the Manchester attack. Speaking to Sky News, the First Minister said she did not believe the Labour leader had said UK foreign policy meant “we only have ourselves to blame” for the deadly bombing. Earlier this week, Mr Corbyn used a speech to discuss links between Britain’s involvement in Middle East conflicts and terrorism at home – but had stressed this “in no way reduces the guilt of those who attack our children”. In an interview with Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Mrs Sturgeon said it was wrong to accuse critics of UK foreign policy of “trying to justify the horrific and dreadful actions of terrorists”. She added: “I think we must be free, particularly in a General Election campaign, to have honest debates about foreign policy – and to have honest debates about security and how we keep the population of the country safe.

“In any healthy democracy – and remember terrorists are trying to undermine our democracy – we’ve got to protect our ability to have these debates.” The SNP leader also highlighted her long-standing opposition to the war in Iraq, and her criticism of the UK’s role in the air campaign on Syria.

Her remarks came as both Labour and the Conservatives push their plans for security in the wake of the Manchester attack. Mrs May has fleshed out her proposals for a new Commission for Countering Extremism to advise the Government on how to “stamp out” extremism. It will be a statutory body with “proper teeth and a clear remit” and a legal responsibility to carry out its work in challenging extremism, especially non-violent forms, and promote “pluralistic British values” including women’s rights. A Conservative source said the commission is designed to address the societal causes which can lead to extremism and is not intended to replace Prevent, which aims to stop young people becoming terrorists or supporting terrorism. Labour has also amplified elements of its manifesto following Monday’s terrorist attack, which killed 22 people. As well as promising an extra 10,000 police officers, Mr Corbyn says he will recruit another 1,000 security and intelligence agency staff.

There would also be more money to recruit thousands of staff in the fire service and prisons, as well as 500 extra border guards. The Labour leader argues these commitments would return staffing levels close to where they were when Labour left office in 2010.

Image: The gap between Labour and the Tories in the opinion polls is narrowing

“Only Labour is serious about properly resourcing our security and frontline services,” he added. But the Conservatives hit back, with a source saying: “Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott spent decades opposing the security services and voting against the powers they need to protect us .

It’s the height of cynicism they are now pretending to back them.”

Shop security guards emerge as heroes following Chelmsley fire

A pair of quick-thinking security guards at a Solihull shopping centre helped to evacuate terrified residents after a fire tore through the roof of a nearby tower block . The fearless guards at Chelmsley Wood1 Shopping Centre were on patrol when they spotted the flames and smoke coming from the top of the building in nearby Moorend Avenue. As shoppers watched the drama in horror, the brave duo sprinted across to the block, which is managed by Solihull 2Community Housing (SCH) and alerted the concierge to the danger.

Smoke from the fire in Chelmsley Wood

The plucky twosome, who would not be named, swiftly took to the stairs and banged on the doors of the flats in the 10 storey building. Residents told the Birmingham Mail they had been unaware of the blaze which could be seen for miles away after the fire took hold at around 1.45pm. Twenty-five firefighters3 tackled the incident and gave oxygen therapy to one man who was injured.

Residents from the top two floors were evacuated.

The fire at the block of flats in Moorend Avenue Chelmsley Wood

One of the security guards said: There didn t seem to be a fire alarm in the block.

We tried to find one so that we could actually hit a panic button.

My colleague went to the top floor and I started on the fifth so we worked it between us.

We were there for about five to 10 minutes but it seemed longer.

We didn t think about it, we just went in to help . Then the fire brigade took over. Liberty Chester, who has a four year old daughter Lacie, said she didn t feel safe.

I m just glad Lacie wasn t there, she said.

If she had been she would not have gone back into the flat. The 24-year-old added: It was the security guards from the shopping centre who saw the smoke and ran over to tell us.

They tried to find the fire alarm but couldn t.

Then they began banging on all the doors to tell us.

We were waiting outside for maybe half an hour to 45 minutes.

We weren t told anything . Nobody knew what was going on.

A West Midlands Ambulance Service4 spokeswoman said one ambulance was at the scene.

One man was treated for minor burns and smoke inhalation.

Residents were allowed to return to their homes after the blaze was extinguished at about 3pm.

Chloe Moore, 18 and her mum Michelle Thomas at the scene of the fire in Chelmsley Wood

Michelle Thomas lives on the third floor and her daughter Chloe Moore lives on the top floor of the building. Michelle said: When I got there I saw a roofer who was working there . He tried to put it out himself and his arm was covered in bandages.

Chelsea Lee has lived in the block for 3 years . The 23-year-old said: Everyone looks out for each other here. Peter Stoate, a spokesman for SCH, said: We are pleased to report that the fire on the roof of Cheshunt House was quickly extinguished by the fire services .

One contractor working on the roof was treated at the scene but no tenants were injured.

Some tenants had to leave their homes for a couple of hours while safety procedures were followed but all were able to return soon afterwards.


  1. ^ Chelmsley Wood (
  2. ^ Solihull (
  3. ^ firefighters (
  4. ^ West Midlands Ambulance Service (