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The Pentagon and Global Development: Making Sense of the DoD’s Expanding Role


  • Stewart Patrick


  • Kaysie Brown


One of the most striking trends in U.S. foreign aid policy is the surging role of the Department of Defense (DoD). The Pentagon now accounts for over 20 percent of U.S. official development assistance (ODA). DoD has also expanded its provision of non-ODA assistance, including training and equipping of foreign military forces in fragile states. These trends raise concerns that U.S. foreign and development policies may become subordinated to a narrow, short-term security agenda at the expense of broader, longer-term diplomatic goals and institution-building efforts in the developing world. We find that the overwhelming bulk of ODA provided directly by DoD goes to Iraq and Afghanistan, which are violent environments that require the military to take a lead role through instruments like Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and the use of Commanders’ Emergency Response Program (CERP) funds. This funding surge is in principle temporary and likely to disappear when the U.S. involvement in both wars ends. But beyond these two conflicts, DoD has expanded (or proposes to expand) its operations in the developing world to include a number of activities that might be more appropriately undertaken by the State Department, USAID and other civilian actors. These initiatives include: the use of “Section 1206” authorities to train and equip foreign security forces; the establishment of the new Combatant Command for Africa (AFRICOM); and the administration’s proposed Building Global Partnerships (BGP) Act, which would expand DoD’s assistance authorities. We attribute the Pentagon’s growing aid role to three factors: the Bush administration’s strategic focus on the “global war on terror”; the vacuum left by civilian agencies, which struggle to deploy adequate numbers of personnel and to deliver assistance in insecure environments; and chronic under-investment by the United States in non-military instruments of state-building. We believe that DoD’s growing aid role beyond our two theaters of war carries potentially significant risks, by threatening to displace or overshadow broader U.S. foreign policy and development objectives in target countries and exacerbating the longstanding imbalance between the military and civilian components of the U.S. approach to state-building.

Suggested Citation

  • Stewart Patrick & Kaysie Brown, 2007. "The Pentagon and Global Development: Making Sense of the DoD’s Expanding Role," Working Papers 131, Center for Global Development.
  • Handle: RePEc:cgd:wpaper:131

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    Department of Defense; development; foriegn aid;

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