On Tuesday, August 16, the National Defense University hosted a conversation with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta moderated by Frank Sesno, Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. During the conversation, Secretary Clinton said:
"...I think there is a lot of both misunderstanding and rejection of the work that is done by the State Department and USAID. We comprise, if you round it off, one percent of the discretionary budget. And what we have done over the last two and a half years, I think was long overdue, because basically we said we are a national security team, we're all on the American team. And by that I mean that we have civilians who are in the field with our military forces in areas of conflict, we have civilians who are in the field on their own in other very dangerous settings without our military with boots on the ground, but we are trying to enhance the coordination to achieve our national security objectives.
"So one of the goals that Secretary Gates and now Secretary Panetta and I have is to make the case as to what national security in the 21st century actually is. It is, of course, the strongest military in the world that has to be given the tools to do the jobs we send it out to do. It is our diplomatic corps, which is out there on the front lines all the time, trying to deal with very difficult situations to the betterment of America's national interest and security. And it is our development experts who put another face on American power, who are trying to deliver, as we speak, aid to 12 million people in the Horn of Africa who are facing famine and starvation, in some measure because of al-Shabaab, which makes our challenge even more difficult."
Secretary Clinton continued, "...I happened to be in Hong Kong a few weeks ago, and I said confidently that we were...not going to default; we would make some kind of political compromise.
"But I have to tell you, it does cast a pall over our ability to project the kind of security interests that are in America's interest. This is not about the Defense Department or the State Department or USAID. This is about the United States of America. And we need to have a responsible conversation about how we are going to prepare ourselves for the future. And there are a lot of issues that are not in the headlines but are in the trendlines. We are reasserting our presence in the Pacific. We are a Pacific power. That means all elements of our national security team have to be present, and we can't be abruptly pulling back or pulling out when we know we face some long-term challenges about how we're going cope with what the rise of China means.
"We have so many issues that Leon and I deal with every day that are not going to be getting the screaming headline coverage but which we know, looking over the horizon, are going to affect the economic well-being of our country and the security of American citizens."
You can read a full transcript of the conversation here.