(Photo: AP)

“Development is a lot cheaper than sending soldiers.”

– Robert Gates, Former Secretary of Defense



The U.S. Military Wants Global Poverty Addressed

The Secretary of Defense’s: Nearly every post-9/11 Secretary of Defense has advocated that Congress better fund the International Affairs Budget and development projects. Former Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates repeatedly said that the U.S. can’t win today’s national security challenges with force and military might alone. Gates warned of the “creeping militarization” of U.S. Foreign Policy and has stated: “For all of those brave men and women struggling for a better life, there is and must be no stronger ally or advocate than the United States of America. Let us never forget that our nation remains a beacon of light for those in dark places. And that our responsibilities to the world to freedom, to liberty, to the oppressed everywhere are not a burden on the people or the soul of this nation. They are, rather, a blessing.”
(Washington Post)

The Joint Chiefs of Staff: Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen said he would hand part of his budget to the State Department, “in a heartbeat.” Admiral Mullen also said, “U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military, too dependent on the generals and admirals who lead our major overseas commands, and not enough on the State Department.”

The Generals: In March of 2010, fifty retired three and four star generals called on Congress to increase funding for the International Affairs Budget. The Generals noted that investments, non-military tools of development, and diplomacy foster economic and political stability on a global scale. It also strengthens our allies and fights the spread of poverty, disease, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction.

The Soldiers: Countless former and current U.S. soldiers have expressed concern that the United States is not doing enough to address global poverty. Others have been fortunate enough to be part of the increasing number of humanitarian missions aimed at weakening the influence of terrorist groups in poor regions. Army Sgt. C.J. Rueda described his role in the Philippines, “The goal is to increase support for the government in areas known to be heavy in terrorist recruitment and in drug trafficking. Poor countries are a breeding ground for terrorists, and that’s why we’re here — to enlighten the population, support security forces and educate the children to make their country better.

Key Poverty and National Security Facts

  • Improving conditions for the world’s poor is a cornerstone of the United States National Security Strategy. The Pentagon’s “3Ds” for protecting the United States are: Defense, Development and Diplomacy.
  • Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen, Gen. Colin Powell, and over 50 retired three and four star Generals have all asked Congress to increase the International Affairs budget and improve funding for development programs as a critical method of protecting the United States.

84% of military officers said that strengthening non-military tools, such as diplomacy and development efforts, should be at least equal to strengthening military efforts.



After the Soviet Union left Afghanistan in the late 1980s, Congressman Charlie Wilson unsuccessfully pleaded with Congress to build schools and improve conditions for people in Afghanistan. In a scene depicted in the Tom Hanks movie Charlie Wilson’s War, the Congressman foreshadows that no good can come from allowing a population of millions of young, hopeless people to live in squalor. In the following years, extremism engulfed Afghanistan and the Taliban took control of the country providing Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda with a safe haven to operate and plan the 9/11 attacks.

The World’s Most Dangerous Countries… Also Among the Poorest.
1. Syria
2. Iraq
3. Afghanistan
4. South Sudan
5. Central African Republic
6. Somalia
7. Sudan
8. Democratic Republic of the Congo
9. Pakistan
10. North Korea

Where Books Weigh more than Bombs

“Millions of families, especially those with little money, send their children to religious schools, or madrassas. Many of these schools are the only opportunity available for an education, but some have been used as incubators for violent extremism. According to Karachi’s police commander, there are 859 madrassas teaching more than 200,000 youngsters in his city alone.” — 9/11 Commission Report.

“With a curriculum that glorifies violence in the name of Islam and ignores basic history, science and math, the public education system [in Pakistan] has become a major barrier to U.S. efforts to defeat extremist groups.” —Washington Post, January 17, 2010

Helpful Downloads

“If you don’t fund the State Department fully, then I need to buy more ammunition.”

– Secretary of Defense, James Mattis

The worst nightmare for al Qaeda is to come into a community that feels supported and has hope.

– Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-SC)

The events of September 11, 2001, taught us that weak states, like Afghanistan, can pose as great a danger to our national interests as strong states. Poverty does not make poor people into terrorists and murderers. Yet poverty, weak institutions, and corruption can make weak states vulnerable to terrorist networks and drug cartels within their borders.

– National Security Strategy of the Bush Administration

“In many respects, USAID’s efforts can do as much- over the long term- to prevent conflict as the deterrent effect of a carrier strike group or a marine expeditionary force.”

– Lieutenant General John Allen, Commander of US Forces in Afghanistan

“It’s a moral imperative, it’s an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative.  For we’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost lives, and can lead to instability.  And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production.  So reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security — and that includes the national security of the United States.”

– Former President, Barack Obama

“I believe that the world will be a safer place if there is enough food to go around, that it will be a more stable place if children grow up with opportunities instead of frustrations. Furthermore, I can only assume that if the United States plays a role in helping to create prosperous societies, we will have friends to call on in times of need.”

– Bill Gates

“We are not saying that poverty causes terrorism, or disenfranchisement causes terrorism, but we can’t mistake there are certain phenomena that contribute to it. Terrorism needs to be fought against and certainly attacked, but some of the underlying grievances that might in fact lead individuals astray to terrorism cannot be ignored.”

– John O. Brennan, Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism