Congressman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget resolution for fiscal year 2013 is catching a good deal of criticism for its cuts to International Affairs.  The Ryan budget calls for nearly an 11% reduction in international development and diplomacy programs, while increasing appropriations for the Department of Defense.  Throughout the budget proposal, Ryan stresses that national security should be our nation’s number one priority.  However, his dramatic cuts to the International Affairs budget suggest that Ryan does not understand the essential role development and diplomacy play in American and global security.

In an op-ed appearing in The Hill today, Truman National Security Project Vice President and former Army Captain Michael Breen critiqued the proposed cuts to these vital programs. Breen spoke candidly about his experience patrolling the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.  His team included only one other soldier who was highly trained for combat missions. The remaining members included a Pashtun-speaking diplomat and a development expert who were trained to work directly with the Afghan community and who understood the local issues at play.  Their entire team – and, indeed, the entire Army – understood that the relationship between the military and agencies like the State Department and USAID were vital to ensuring long-term success in the region.

Breen states:

Without that State Department diplomat, my fellow soldiers and I would have been flying blind in our frequent dealings with tribal elders and warlords. Without that USAID development expert, we would have had little to offer local leaders in exchange for their support against the Taliban. Even in the middle of a modern shooting war, it takes a whole of government approach to win.

These non-military experts are just as important to the U.S. mission in Afghanistan today as they were ten years ago.  But Rep. Ryan’s budget cuts the funding for these very same State and USAID employees who play an immense role in keeping America safe. Breen said it best:  “To meet these challenges, we need every tool at our disposal — and we need them sharp. You can’t fight bioterrorism or stop pandemic disease with a tank. You can’t ward off a cyber-attack with an aircraft carrier. And you can’t circle the wagons against a threat if you’ve only got one wagon.”