Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates stressed the importance of adequate funding for federal partners that assist military efforts Thursday night at the Marines’ Memorial Association George P. Shultz lecture series in California.
Gates explained agencies such as the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development are “woefully underfunded” and understaffed and that the institutions need to be rebuilt, restaffed and reexamined to fully support United States operations.
When he left the government in 1990s, Gates said, USAID had 17,000 employees. Upon his return, that number had significantly dropped, weakening the agency’s ability to fully support defense operations.
“When I came back at the end of 2006, there were 3,000 employees, and [USAID] mainly was a contracting agency,” he said. “This is a capability we’ve denied ourselves, and it is a huge opportunity for us.”
During his address, Gates explained Congress needs to be fully aware of the critical role that outside agencies have on the “whole-of-government” fulfillment of national issues.
“Congress is part of the problem,” he said. “When I sent my budget to the Hill for roughly $550 billion, the Senate voted me $550 billion. [Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton] sent up a budget of about $50 billion, and they whacked $5 billion out of it.”