Small Wars Journal

DoD and US Foreign Policy

Admiral Michael Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, says the US military needs to become more balanced in its role as a partner in foreign policy.

Mullen Urges Emphasis on 'Soft Power' in Foreign Policy - John J. Kruzel, American Forces Press Service

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff advocated a "whole-of-government approach" to foreign policy in a speech here last night, urging more funding for nonmilitary departments' roles overseas.

"I believe we should be more —to break this cycle, and say when armed forces may not always be the best choice to take the lead," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told a Nixon Center audience.

Mullen said civilian agencies representing American "soft power" -- the Departments of State, Justice, Commerce and Agriculture -- deserve more money and support than they currently receive, and should play an enlarged role internationally.

The chairman's remarks align with those made by Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who has warned against a "creeping militarization" of US foreign policy. In a speech in June, the secretary said diplomacy and development should lead American efforts abroad.

"Broadly speaking, when it comes to America's engagement with the rest of the world, it is important that the military is -- and is clearly seen to be -- in a supporting role to civilian agencies," Gates said.

Mullen echoed Gates, saying that the US military should be "just as bold in providing options when they don't involve our participation or our leadership." He added that this notion should apply even when alternative options are unpopular, or when they demand resources be transferred from the military.

The Defense Department's fiscal 2009 budget was about $650 billion, compared to the State Department's reported budget of about $11.5 billion.

"As an equal partner in government, I want to be able to transfer resources to my other partners when they need them," Mullen said. "And we need to reallocate roles and resources in a way that places our military as an equal among many in government, as an enabler, a true partner."

More at American Forces Press Service.