A History Of Service: Six Similarities Between USAID and the Department of Defense That Bolster Our Partnership

In recognition of Veterans Day, USAID celebrates its partnership with the Department of Defense and our decades-long history of working together to build a safer and more prosperous world through a spirit of service and cooperation.

I have never served in the U.S. military but on every Veterans Day, I am thankful for the dedication of all who have served in the armed forces so that I and my future children can live freely. I am also in awe of the many development professionals around the world who work alongside them every day to build a safer world.

I did not know that USAID had such a deep relationship with the Department of Defense (DOD) until I joined the Agency’s Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation more than a year ago.

In fact, USAID has been working with the Department of Defense to build a safer and more prosperous world since 1961. Though we have distinct missions and cultures, there are more similarities than differences between our organizations. Below are six examples of these similarities.

1. We are both in the “business” of advancing U.S. national security.

U.S. national security and the deterrence of war is the number one priority for the Department of Defense. USAID’s mission also advances security, while at the same time paves a way to end extreme poverty and help build resilient, democratic societies. The 2015 National Security StrategyQuadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review and the Presidential Policy Directive 6 on Global Development set clear frameworks for interagency coordination, and have elevated international development as a core pillar of U.S. national security.

2. Development and security are intrinsically linked.

USAID has partnered with DOD since its birth in 1961. In fact, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said, “You can’t have development without security, and you can’t have security without development.”

3. We often operate in shared spaces.

While the “battlefield” looks different for a military servicemember and a USAID staff member, we often find ourselves in the same places. Diplomacy, development and defense mutually reinforce each other so that fragile states can transition toward, and sustain, peace.

“You can’t have development without security, and you can’t have security without development.”

4. Our staff show courage and sacrifice.

We often work together during times of devastating crises around the world, but that’s only a small part of our shared efforts. Working alongside our military counterparts, USAID helps countries build long-term development goals in the midst of supreme challenges. USAID and DOD staff protect and defend the U.S. Constitution, and work together to meet mutual objectives and uplift people around the world.

5. Our trust is built on five decades of partnership.

USAID’s and DOD’s strong partnership would not be possible without the trust that has been cultivated during five decades of collaboration. To foster this bond, USAID embeds military liaisons at our headquarters to allow access and transparency on policy, planning, outreach and education. And this is also why DOD embeds senior foreign service staff in its headquarters around the world.

6. Better together.

No single government or organization can tackle development or security challenges alone. That is why USAID collaborates with partners like DOD. USAID brings a deep understanding of local contexts and cultures; DOD offers capabilities like airlifts and logistical support for quick delivery of aid. Whether a natural disaster or a virus outbreak like Ebola in West Africa, we can respond more efficiently and effectively when we work together.

About the Author: Kristen Byrne is the Strategic Communications and Outreach Specialist in the Office of Civilian-Military Cooperation within the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance at USAID.

Editor's Note: This entry originally appeared in USAID's 2030: Ending Extreme Poverty in this Generation publication on Medium.com.

For more information:

General Joseph F. Dunford, Jr., 19th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, meets with Administrator Gayle E. Smith at USAID headquarters to discuss ways to institutionalize the USAID-DOD partnership to advance development outcomes. [USAID photo]
Posted by Kristen Byrne
November 11, 2016

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