DROP ZONE: Effective Use of National Instruments of Power

What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security—diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development. 

— Robert M. Gates, U.S. Secretary of Defense, Landon Lectures, 2007

The US cannot afford to use the military as the primary means to resolve global conflicts. Further, military force is far less influential without strong and close integration of our diplomatic, geo-economic, and informational efforts, all underpinned by an unyielding economic base. As the implications of our fiscal reality set in, the US role as a global leader will become increasingly challenging. The need to effectively coordinate instruments of power will be learned the hard way if the US does not take action to better synchronize the efforts of government bureaus, particularly at the operational level. China’s growing influence over traditional US partners in the South China Sea through investment promises, while simultaneously turning the Scarborough Shoal and Spratly Islands into power projection platforms, presents challenges that the current configuration of national power and partnerships is not able to adequately address.

Although it may be taboo in current times, the use of economic influence used to be a common tool of statecraft. The US set the bedrock for which modern day Europe has thrived upon through the adept economic cooperation of the Marshall Plan. With a relatively small geo-economic investment of $13 billion, the US saved itself significant blood and treasure through the duration of the Cold War. The United States’ lack of involvement in geo-economics puts it at a significant disadvantage while other world powers, to include China and Russia, consistently integrate their instruments power on a global scale. The US must take a deeper look at Clausewitz‘ famous dictum: “War is politics by other means.” The original German states “War is politics with other means,” clearly suggesting the essential and additive nature of military force to the full menu of tools of statecraft. A regional agency must be formed in order to direct and lead, not just oversee, the coordinated efforts of the United States and its partners for effective optimization of its resources across the continuum of competition.

Slated for publication on Monday (13 Feb 17), OTH’s Regional Command: A New “Whole-of Community” Approach article will propose a starting point for the integration of a new “whole-of-community” authority. It offers up for debate an organizational solution to effectively use all instruments of power and execute the multitude of coalition exertions in and between regions. Regardless of how agencies are coordinated, the US can no longer afford to independently execute different courses of actions while hoping to swiftly achieve its national ends.

Prichard “Mule” Keely is a graduate from the USAF Academy, USAF Weapons School, and Embry Riddle Aeronautical University. He is an F-15E Evaluator Weapons Systems Officers with over 2000 hours and 450 combat hours in the F-15E. He is attending Air Command and Staff College with a Multi-Domain Operational Strategist Concentration at Maxwell AFB, Montgomery.

Disclaimer: The views expressed are those of the author and do not reflect the official policy or position of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.

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