January 12, 2012

CNAS Releases New Report on America's Civilian Operations Abroad

The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) released today a report on America's civilian operations abroad in which the authors argue that civilian agencies are likely to face a growing mismatch between the demand for future operations and the resources available to conduct those operations.

America's Civilian Operations Abroad: Understanding Past and Future Requirements, authored by Dr. Nora Bensahel, CNAS Deputy Director of Studies and Senior Fellow and Dr. Patrick Cronin, CNAS Senior Advisor and Senior Director of the Asia-Pacific Security Program, examines the history of U.S. civilian operations abroad during the past 20 years and identifies several trends that are likely to affect future requirements.

Download America's Civilian Operations Abroad: Understanding Past and Future Requirements.

Using data analysis provided by Caerus Associates, Bensahel and Cronin demonstrate that U.S. civilian agencies have conducted dozens of operations every year, that the total number has increased over time and that there are good reasons to expect that pace will continue. Yet the costs of these operations have also grown substantially, and pressures to cut U.S. government spending will almost certainly reduce the resources available for these missions.

The authors conclude that civilian agencies will need to address this growing mismatch, arguing that finding "new and innovative ways to distribute foreign assistance and conduct contingency operations may be necessary in the current fiscally constrained environment, but there is no guarantee that this will be sufficient to ensure that civilian agencies will be able to meet future requirements. Indeed, the greater the future budget cuts, the greater the chance that no amount of innovation will enable the State Department and USAID to effectively conduct routine foreign assistance and the contingency operations requested by U.S. policymakers. If and when that occurs, the ability of the United States to achieve its foreign policy objectives will be severely limited."

Stay up to date with all CNAS news on Twitter @CNASdc and on Facebook; listen to iTunes podcasts; and watch exclusive CNAS interviews and event highlights on our YouTube channel.


The Center for a New American Security (CNAS) is an independent and nonpartisan research institution that develops strong, pragmatic and principled national security and defense policies. CNAS leads efforts to help inform and prepare the national security leaders of today and tomorrow.