Keeping America safe in the 21st century

Frank Carlucci Advisory Council, U.S. Global Leadership Coalition
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The recent celebrations of President Reagan’s legacy of service on what would have been his 100th birthday have brought back memories. It was one of the greatest honors of my life to serve under this remarkable man as both secretary of defense and national security advisor, working to keep America safe and secure and to liberate millions from the tyranny of communism.

Since the fall of the Iron Curtain and particularly since 9/11, the world has changed dramatically. The global challenges we face today require a balanced foreign policy approach where we utilize our development and diplomatic efforts along with our military in keeping our nation safe. Just as President Reagan invested in defense to end the Cold War, today we must make an investment in a strong and effective international affairs budget.

As a former foreign service officer, I have seen the pivotal role civilian operations play in protecting our national security. Today, our development and diplomatic operations are more critical than ever, especially as we seek to ensure peace and stability in places like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. New threats from global pandemics to terrorism have no respect for borders and could be upon our shores at any moment. We need a smart power approach to our foreign policy that uses all of the tools in our arsenal — development, diplomacy, and defense — to keep America safe.

Better coordination, cooperation, and resources among our civilian and military operations are a must in 2011. Trying to reorganize government and make it more efficient is never easy. In 1986, I was not in favor of the Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act, which brought the various branches of the military under a unified joint command structure. Today, however, I not only see its benefits, but believe we should extend this coordinated approach to the other critical pillars of our foreign policy — diplomacy and development. A strategic approach is what we need to improve efficiency and help keep us safe.

Right now, the administration is taking a lead in such an approach by bringing together all of our international programs in a cohesive manner to better coordinate our foreign policy. In a similar vein, as the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, Secretary Clinton’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review is a tool that can lead to better efficiencies and effectiveness in our work around the globe. To accomplish this goal, however, we must allocate the resources to do so. It’s a wise investment, and one we must make for the sake of our national security.

As President Reagan said, “Security assistance programs, an essential complement to our defense effort, directly enhance the security of the United States. Development assistance also contributes to this effort by supplementing the indigenous efforts of recipients to achieve economic growth and meet the basic needs of their peoples. Progress in both of these areas will contribute to regional stability and to a more peaceful world, both of which are central U.S. policy objectives.” Let’s also remember that with strong bipartisan support, the National Endowment for Democracy was created under President Reagan’s watch to help spread U.S. values around the world.

Today, military leaders from General David Petreaus to Admiral Mike Mullen, and civilians such as my colleague, current Secretary of Defense Bob Gates, have made it abundantly clear that development and diplomacy are essential elements of our national security. Even with a large national deficit and a challenging budget environment, we must keep Americans safe by promoting stability in the most dangerous corners of the world. To do that, we need a strong and effective international affairs budget.

Frank Carlucci served as the Secretary of Defense to President Ronald Reagan from 1987 to 1989 and National Security Advisor from 1986 to 1987. He is a member of the Advisory Council for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.