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Clinton’s Testimony to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee

March 10, 2011

Last Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. After the 16% cut to the State Department budget included in the House’s Continuing Resolution last month, Clinton hoped to convince the Committee of the need for greater financial support Senate-side.

 During her testimony, Clinton stressed the necessity of a strong civilian response to national security concerns. Focusing largely on Iraq and Afghanistan (and understandably so), she discussed diplomacy’s role in providing a platform for stability and civil society. In discussing Libya, she emphasized the importance of support given to refugees in neighboring nations. And when it came to preventing the conflicts of tomorrow, Clinton described countless State Department efforts in the way of food security, global health, economic development, and peacebuilding. From initiatives in Haiti to initiatives in the Asia-Pacific region, she assured the Committee of the need to use “all the tools” available to our government in addressing international challenges.

 But while it was encouraging to hear Clinton’s enumeration of vital civilian contributions to US foreign policy, it was equally disappointing to hear references to a more military-centric approach. The dominant rhetoric of the testimony was undoubtedly one of security over peace, and I, being the new arrival to the Peaceful Prevention of Deadly Conflict Program that I am, would have loved to hear more acknowledgment of the latter’s necessity to the former.

 A primary example was that of Clinton’s statement on the importance of the Global Security Contingency Fund – a proposed opportunity to “pool resources and expertise with the Defense Department” – accompanied by no mention of the Complex Crises Fund. While the GSCF ties State Department funding for global crises to that of the Pentagon, the CCF establishes funding specifically for civilian response to conflict. As pragmatic as it seems to emphasize collaboration with the military given our nation’s current occupations (and, as stated by Clinton, current “bureaucratic jurisdictional obstacles”), I can’t help but sigh while wondering at what cost this collaboration comes. Considering how many dollars are already designated for the Pentagon, would pooled funding truly provide further space and capacity for the peaceful prevention of deadly conflict? If the Senate is willing to provide funding for the CCF in its Continuing Resolution (which it thankfully did last week), why wouldn’t the Secretary of State take the opportunity to plug and protect this civilian funding?

 It was thrilling to hear Clinton provide compelling testimony for the State Department’s programs, as well as to hear her emphasize the need for long-term investment beyond emergency relief. And in light of the season’s fiscal focus, it was thrilling to hear her state that “shifting responsibilities from soldiers to civilians actually saves taxpayers a great deal of money.” But as someone who feels that civilian approaches provide a true alternative to military ones, I hope that future testimonies will include an even greater emphasis on the efficacy of civilian peacebuilding and conflict prevention initiatives in their own right.

One Comment leave one →
  1. March 13, 2011 2:53 pm

    Cassidy, thank you for attending, and writing about Secretary Clinton’s testimony. I agree that the Secretary missed an opportunity to promote the CCF program.

    When I have asked people if they have heard about the Civilian Response Corps or the CCF, the answer has been “no.” Thus, all the more important for Secretary Clinton to have included these programs in her testimony.

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