“Whole of Government” and UN Peacekeeping

Spencer Ackerman flags an important-but-buried-on-A11 Washington Post article describing a new Pentagon report which stresses the need for a “whole of government” approach to national security.

“Whole of Government” is bureaucratic speak for including other government agencies in debates on security issues that go beyond the traditional purview of the Department of Defense. And as we’ve chronicled, Defense Secretary Gates is an unconventional cabinet head in the sense that he has been an outspoken advocate for strengthening the capacity of a “rival” department — namely, the Department of State — to take on national security challenges. This includes giving the State Department a seat at the table, but more importantly it means increasing the State Department’s budget so it can handle new responsibilities. (The DOD gets about $500 billion from Congress–excluding Iraq and Afghanistan supplementals. The State Department’s budget? A paltry $20 billion.) The Defense Department’s Quadrennial Roles and Missions Review Report spells out why we need more balance between civilian and military components of our national security strategy.

Lessons learned in recent operations stress the critical need to further develop deployable civilian expertise for conducting stabilization, reconstruction, and counterinsurgency operations. Today, civil agencies and departments have insufficient resources for carrying out missions associated with transition from violence to lasting stability.

Accordingly, the Department supports establishing a better balance between the civil and military instruments of national power by significantly increasing resources needed for governance, strategic communication, security assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development.

People who care about UN Peacekeeping should take note. Part of the mix here is a small State Department office called the Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) which trains and equips developing world soldiers for peacekeeping missions. GPOI was created in 2005 following a meeting of the G-8 in which the developed world recognized that a global lack of capacity for peacekeeping was creating severe stresses on the whole UN peacekeeping apparatus. The American contribution to the G-8 proposal was to create GPOI to train and equip about 75,000 peacekeepers by 2010.

This is a good start, but what makes me so excited about Gates’ evangelism is that smallish, somewhat backwater State Department offices like GPOI may finally get the respect, attention and resources they require.