The Essential Role of U.S. Security Assistance In Addressing Today's Challenges and Building New Partnerships

Andrew J. Shapiro
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Remarks at the Center for New American Security
Washington, DC
September 27, 2011

Jon, thank you for having me here today. I also want to commend you for the great work you and your colleagues do here at the Center for New American Security. We certainly read the many reports your organization puts out with great interest.

Let me begin by first explaining why security assistance is an essential part of the State Department’s mandate. There is sometimes confusion about where security assistance roles begin and end between the Departments of Defense and State. And many often wonder why the State Department is involved at all in “harder” security related areas. The reason is fairly straightforward: security assistance has broad foreign policy implications. It is not just that weapons can be used in a conflict and therefore must be dealt with very carefully. It is that the distribution of security assistance is fundamentally a foreign policy act.

When we provide security assistance through our Foreign Military Financing program to buy U.S. defense systems, we are not just providing a country with weapons systems. We are committing ourselves to a long term relationship. The complex and technical nature of advanced defense systems often require continuous collaboration between countries. This includes training and support in the use of the equipment, assistance in maintenance, and help to update and modernize the equipment throughout its life-cycle. Additionally, programs like the International Military Education and Training program, or IMET, help build military-to-military connections between countries. This program brings foreign military officers to the U.S. to see the practices of our military first-hand. This assistance helps build ties between militaries and creates strong incentives for recipient countries to maintain good ties with the United States.

Therefore, when countries accept security assistance they are ultimately making a long-term strategic commitment to develop a relationship with the U.S. Security assistance is therefore a critical tool that helps undergird our diplomatic relationships and strengthen alliances with countries around the world. And this is why the Secretary of State has the authority to oversee security assistance and arms transfers.

As the principal link between the Departments of State and Defense, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, which I oversee, exercises the Secretary’s authority in this area. We work to ensure that any assistance the U.S. government provides is fully in line with U.S. foreign policy. This demands working closely with DoD and making sure both agencies are working in sync. For example, we collaborate and provide foreign policy oversight for 1206 funding that DoD uses to improve our partners counter-terrorism capabilities. While in the past State-DoD cooperation has not always been smooth, under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, the State-DoD relationship has never been better. And as a result we are seeing an unprecedented level of cooperation.

This cooperation will prove critical, because I believe over the coming decade U.S. security assistance will be an increasingly important tool for U.S. foreign policy. There are four broad reasons for its growing importance.

The first is that security assistance is a critical tool to strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones. For decades, U.S. security assistance to the Middle East, to countries like Israel and Egypt, has helped create lasting partnerships and further regional stability. Our assistance to Israel accounts for more than half of our security assistance and is critical to maintaining its qualitative military edge in the region. We work very closely with Israel to meet its evolving defense needs and we are committed to ensuring they are equipped with highly advanced defense systems. For more than 30 years, we have also had a very close partnership with Egypt. We provide Egypt with $1.3 billion of security assistance per year, which is critical to ensuring Egypt’s continued role as a regional leader.

At the same time, we’re working to further strengthen these existing ties, we are also seeking to re-invigorate our relationships with our long-time allies in Asia – Japan, South Korea, Australia, Thailand, and the Philippines – and building and deepening relations with other countries in this vital region. As a Pacific power, I believe our security assistance programs can help further develop our relationships with many countries in Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, just as they have in the Middle East.

An emerging focus for security assistance is maritime security. We are supporting the Philippines’ efforts to develop its maritime security capabilities by providing extended-range cutters, patrol boats, and light aircraft. This assistance will enable our treaty ally to better protect its strategically significant waters and extensive coastline. We are also cooperating with Vietnam in a manner that would have been unimaginable just a few years ago. We hold annual Pol-Mil talks and have been increasing cooperation in maritime security and disaster relief.

We have also sought to develop our security assistance relationship with Pakistan. A key part of our assistance to Pakistan is the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capabilities Fund, or PCCF. This fund is used to train and equip the Pakistani forces that are directly engaged in counterterrorism operations in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. In 2009, Secretary Clinton and then-Secretary Gates agreed to transfer Pakistan Counterterrorism funding from the Department of Defense to the State Department over a three year period in recognition of the Secretary of State’s role in overseeing security assistance. At the PM Bureau, we stood up an unprecedented interagency team with regional and program management expertise. Unfortunately, owing to budget uncertainty, the complete transfer of PCCF to the State Department was delayed. But we are encouraged that the Senate Appropriations committee bill would restore PCCF to the State Department, and we hope this is adopted by the House as well.

While our bilateral relationship with Pakistan is difficult at times, it is also vital to ensuring stability in Afghanistan and in the region. Our complex relations with Pakistan also provide a clear example of why the Secretary of State is given authority to oversee security assistance.

This takes me to my second point, that U.S. security assistance also helps advance our values. In the decades since the end of the Cold War, our foreign policy objectives have evolved and become more varied. Today, promoting democracy and human rights has never been more central to U.S. foreign policy. As a result, these values play a crucial role in determining where we allocate funding. But since security assistance is also a tool of U.S. foreign policy, it is often a critical tool to advance democratic reform and human rights as well.

This is because security assistance gives the United States leverage and influence. Our funding helps tie a country’s security sector to the United States, creating strong strategic and financial incentives for the recipient countries to maintain close relations. The linkages through IMET also help build personal relationships between officer corps, which gives us increased access and potential points of influence. Furthermore, U.S. security assistance also often provides critical training that helps professionalize partner militaries and teaches them about core U.S. values like respect for human rights and civilian control of the military. In fact, the Expanded-IMET or E-IMET program is specifically designed to focus on these topics.

The influence of our security assistance was evident early this year. During the uprising in Egypt, the Egyptian military responded admirably. It allowed peaceful protests to take place and resisted calls to crack down on the protesters. There are a number of complex factors that explain why the Egyptian military responded the way it did. But it is clear that our long standing ties – our ability to pick up the phone and urge restraint – allowed us to effectively engage the Egyptian military. Additionally, the Egyptians greatly value our security assistance relationship and wanted to ensure it continued.

Now of course the influence and leverage gained through our security assistance does not guarantee a country will listen. In crisis situations, leaders and regimes often act out of desperation, making them more willing to resist our calls and ignore our warnings. This is why we constantly review our security assistance and why we make every effort to be sure it is being used as it was intended. However, in countries where we have limited relations, where we provide no security assistance, our influence is much more limited.

The third area I want to talk about is the important role security assistance plays in building the capacity of countries to deal with new and emerging challenges. Today we’re often more concerned about a state that is weak than one that is strong. In an interconnected world, terrorists, pirates, traffickers, and other transnational actors can exploit the weakness of states to cause mayhem and instability. As former Secretary Gates noted last year, “strategic reality demands that the U.S. government get better at building partner capacity.” Security assistance can be a critical tool to support states trying to build their security capacity. Our assistance can help states better control their borders and their coastlines. It can help train a state’s forces to ensure they operate in a more professional manner that protects their publics, while respecting human rights. And our assistance can help states better deal with transnational threats.

For instance, we have sought to support Mexico in its fight against drug cartels. This month, using Foreign Military Financing under the Merida initiative, we transferred three Blackhawk helicopters to Mexico to combat drug traffickers. This delivery is part of a $500 million in assistance the State Department has pledged to provide Mexico this year. In Indonesia, our security assistance is supporting the construction of an Improved Maritime Domain Awareness radar array that will allow the government to track transiting ships in the same way that aircraft controllers track planes – which will help them counter the threat of piracy.

We are also working to expand global and regional peacekeeping capabilities, which has been a major priority of this administration. Through our Peacekeeping Operations account and our Global Peacekeeping Operations Initiative, or GPOI, we have provided training, equipment, and facilities to 60 partner countries and regional organizations around the world. To date, GPOI has directly trained and facilitated the deployment of nearly 140,000 peacekeepers. These deployments have saved lives and helped to restore peace and stability in areas affected by conflict. Our peacekeeping assistance also helps make countries less reliant on the U.S. military and builds regional and global self-sufficiency to deal with crises. And all this is achieved for only about $300 million a year. There is simply no better value for the money, because when international peacekeepers deploy, U.S. forces likely won’t have to.

And this is my final point: security assistance is cost effective. As we enter an era of tighter budgets, and as U.S. forces begin to come home after years at war, security assistance programs should serve an even more important role in our efforts over the next decade. This is because these programs give us incredible bang for the buck. Our total FMF funding amounts to just $5.5 billion per year, of which more than 80 percent goes to supporting our partners and allies in the Middle East. Our peacekeeping funding amounts to just $300 million and our IMET programs – which are crucial to building ties between countries – are just $100 million annually. There is certainly more that can be done, and we are eager to do more.

Yet the House and Senate appropriations bills for FY2012 reduce the State and USAID budgets 18 and 8 percent, respectively, from the President’s request. Cuts of the magnitude in the House bill could compromise our national security. With just one percent of the federal budget, State and USAID enhance U.S. national security and help save lives and money by preventing wars and containing conflict.

I have talked about many of our existing tools to provide security assistance, but we are also looking to develop new, pioneering programs. For instance, we are seeking to make security assistance more responsive to potential crises. Currently, many existing programs are planned and budgeted for years in advance and are not always able to respond quickly to emerging events. In response to this challenge, we at the State Department have been working with DoD and other agencies to help design a new security assistance program called the Global Security Contingency Fund or GSCF. This innovative fund would pool resources for the first time with DoD and would bring together the expertise necessary for rapid crisis response. It would also help ensure the right amount of funding is available to provide the most effective, targeted assistance, at the right time. Importantly, this new fund would also help preserve the State Department’s authority in budget constrained times. This proposal is currently in front of Congress and we hope they will provide funds to set up a three year pilot program.

Under the leadership of Secretary Clinton, the State Department is developing a wide array of versatile and creative tools to meet the challenges of the 21st century. And I think it’s clear that security assistance is a critical part of that effort and should play an even more important role in the decade ahead.

So with that I look forward to the discussion.