Alastair Miller

Has the responsibility for counter-terrorism fallen mainly under the purview of the military? It has been argued that this perception has been created in part because key positions are held by current and former military officials fill many counterterrorism-related positions in the US Government, for example, Gen. Michael V. Hayden (CIA); retired Navy Vice Adm. J. Michael McConnell (director of national intelligence) and Dell L. Dailey, an Army lieutenant general (State Department CT Coordinator). The official use of the term “Global War on Terrorism” also tends to overemphasize the military’s role.

Although it is difficult to determine exactly what is being spent on counterterrorism, there is little question that the Pentagon receives the majority of the resources for CT. In FY 2008 the Pentagon’s counterterrorism budget was $142 billion for FY 2008. For the Department of Homeland Security the amount requested was just under $50Billion. For DOJ it was $3.8 billion for the FBI’s counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and intelligence programs, including $183 million for “critical national security enhancements”. Then there are a host of less costly counter-terrorism-related programs administered by the Department of State, including its Anti-Terrorism Assistance Program which is around $170 million and its Regional Strategic Initiative, which requested around $100 million dollars in FY2007 has subsequently failed to attract sufficient funding. Public diplomacy programs designed to contribute to the prevention of terrorism are another part of the State Department budget. Treasury and others also add to the total, but there is not a single counter-terrorism budget and comparisons across departments are not easy to evaluate, especially considering that money spent, for example, on border security or anti-money laundering programs serves more than just counterterrorism objectives.

No matter how much the it spends, the US cannot be everywhere at once, nor can it shoulder by itself the immense burden of addressing a global threat. America needs the support of partnerships around world to build and sustain the capacities necessary to address the threat effectively, some of those partnerships need to be military focused, but in many other cases too much emphasis on the military can hinder cooperation, and sometimes alienate potential partners (especially those with negative past experiences involving foreign militaries on their territory).

A robust military is an important element of counterterrorism but it is not sufficient to address a multifaceted and adapting global threat. In June of this year Gates noted, for example that “it has become clear that America’s civilian institutions of diplomacy and development have been chronically undermanned and underfunded for far too long — relative to what we traditionally spend on the military, and more importantly, relative to the responsibilities and challenges our nation has around the world.”

International cooperation on a broader range of approaches using a wide array of tools deserves greater attention and resources to improve collective efforts to address emerging threats such as radicalization and recruitment and to keep counterterrorism squarely on the international agenda. More seamless coordination and more effective capacity building are also vital to ensure the cross-border cooperation required to track funding, disrupt planning, and prevent future attacks, as well as to investigate, capture, and prosecute terrorists. More resources also need to be devoted to working other nations, especially in regions where the U.S. may lack access and leverage.