America's Investment in Global Leadership Advances U.S. National Security and Economic Prosperity

Posted by Thomas R. Nides
October 14, 2011

Last week, I had the opportunity to sit down and talk with some bloggers in an on-line event co-hosted by our friends at the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC). We discussed the challenges we at the State Department face in the current budget environment, as well as the work we're doing to keep our nation secure and our economy strong. It was a great opportunity for me to share my thoughts on these important issues and, more importantly, to hear from the foreign policy community.

One of the most critical questions -- and one I hear often -- focused on how the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will deal with the challenging budget environment. The short answer is that serious cuts to development and diplomacy -- to America's investment in global leadership -- would seriously undermine our long-term national security and economic prosperity. Of course, we know some cuts are coming and we're preparing to do more with less. But in these troubling times, America simply cannot afford to retreat from the world. To learn more about what we're doing, click here.

I also was asked again about the Arab Awakening, and how our diplomatic and development tools are being used to help countries like Egypt and Libya take steps toward democracy. I wrote about that in detail just this week, and you can find it here.

During the online event, I had the chance to answer many other thoughtful questions on important issues from the President's Feed the Future Initiative to PEPFAR to our work in Iraq. But unfortunately, I didn't have a chance to get to all of the questions that were asked, so I wanted to address two of them in this blog entry.

First, Barbora Nemcova from MCHIP, USA asked: "Can we afford to cut back funding for foreign aid programs that are working? Can we risk losing all the results we've achieved so far?"

It's an excellent question, and I appreciate Barbara's pointing out that there are significant costs to inaction. Some of the advances we've made in the past decades have had significant impact on our efforts around the world, and have paid off for those we assist and for the American taxpayer. For instance, our work in establishing FEWS NET, the famine early warning system, allowed us to see early on the deteriorating conditions in the Horn of Africa and take steps to mitigate the humanitarian crisis. We prepositioned food -- saving expensive shipping costs -- and invested in teaching farming techniques. All of this costs less and helps more people. The same is true of any number of the innovative assistance programs and techniques that our development experts and diplomats are pursuing in the field. Cutting these programs now will force us to reinvent the (more expensive) wheel in the future. That's bad for America and the rest of the world.

Also, let's look at South Korea. Decades ago, the State Department and USAID invested heavily in Korea to help rebuild its devastated economy after the Korean War. This week, Congress approved a free trade agreement with the Republic of Korea -- our biggest trade deal in nearly two decades -- to boost American exports to the Korean market and to create American jobs. Not every country we're assisting now will be the next Korea, but a few of them will. And if we're not there, if we're not building these long-term, people-to-people relationships, then we'll miss out on the huge gains in the future. There's no doubt about that.

Second, Rolf Rosenkranz of DevEx asked: "There's a lot of talk about the 'three Ds' - development, diplomacy and defense. Is USAID turning into just another national security arm of the federal government?"

Rolf, USAID has always been critical to our national security and our economic future. Fifty years ago, President Kennedy recognized the value of sharing the best of America with the rest of the world. Innovative farming and market techniques and life-saving vaccinations have saved millions of lives, stabilizing the world and helping America's national security.

But USAID is far from "just another" national security arm. Serving side-by-side with non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the development agencies of other nations, USAID has a unique role that has paid tremendous dividends. USAID fights hunger, responds to humanitarian disasters, treats diseases, and strengthens indigenous food production because it's the right thing to do and because it's the most cost-effective way to advance American interests. As I often say, our moral compass and self-interest are perfectly aligned.

I'm always interested in talking with more of you about these issues. If you have any questions, respond here, and we'll make sure you get the answers you need. Thank you for your time and caring so much about the future of U.S. leadership around the globe!



Victor B.
October 15, 2011

Victor B. in Russia writes:

Good day! "Man is born for happiness, freedom and private property"-T.Jefferson.

At the state exam at the university, I remember these words to life!

America is the only country where for many centuries appreciated the dignity of man on the planet! Without America the world will collapse in one hour.

And to you all hope of saving humanity on earth!

Please tell me? How will the economy affect on the American people to keep the peace and balance on Earth?

I'll be glad to cooperate with the U.S. government for humanism and the idea of perfection of the World!

With respect to you
Victor B.
Professional historian and socio-political subjects, the composer.

October 16, 2011

W.W. writes:

extend free trade agreement with Spain Italy and Greece with free movment of people // shenghen for the globe

Massachusetts, USA
October 16, 2011

Maureen in Massachusetts writes:

Under Secretary Thomas Nides/Global Leadership National Security:

Thank you for another informative event and the opportunity to participate. The messaging is clear and understood. Bipartisan support of State Department /USAID initiatives is essential for US positioning on the global scale. Our national security and viability is as much about planning as it is about reacting to crisis. Diplomacy on the ground makes for future alliances which could prove to be priceless in the future. Food security, health program investments will effect the US without doubt. The intricate balance of leadership opportunities and security assistance abroad will lead to stabilization and a better future for our children. The big picture is clear and for those who are interested.

My concern and question(s) is that for those who do not follow diplomacy media, the messaging may get lost despite the extremely effective efforts by the department.Average citizens may not see the importance or necessity of proactive and simultaneous engagements abroad on the fronts of diplomacy, counterterrorism/ terrorism and piracy as the result of famine not to mention the educational, health programs or biotechnology tools geared towards women taking the lead in feeding their nations, creating small business, infrastructure... The department represents the vital interests of our country yet remains somewhat of an enigma.

US taxpayers may ask how will that help bring jobs to our country even though all the initiatives are the right thing to do? How will it protect my family?

Remember that most people think of the State Department as the passport people...

October 19, 2011

Abubakar in Nigeria writes:

On this isue of helping of those who need to help their self by fowarding their education to advance level,like some of our youth with us will reduce the lenth of pouerty in the world.


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