“As we’ve learned in Iraq and Afghanistan, reconstruction, development, and governance are crucial to any long-term success – it is a lesson we forget at our peril,” said Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in a video address commemorating the U.S. Agency for International Development’s 50th anniversary this fall. Gates was joined by Admiral James Winnefeld, Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, in a post on USAID’s Impact blog to reinforce the importance of development and USAID in particular to U.S. national security.
USAID was created on November 3, 1961 as part of a total overhaul of U.S. foreign assistance by President Kennedy. From the start, President Kennedy understood that the agency would play a role not just in development abroad but in improving U.S. security as well.
The agency is marking its 50th anniversary in an environment where development and security are seen as perhaps more linked than ever.
Winnefeld described the work that USAID and the military do as going hand-in-hand, saying that “together, we play a critical role in America’s effort to stabilize countries and build responsive local governance.”
In country after country, Winnefeld said, “USAID’s development efforts are critical to our objective of creating peace and security around the world.” He added that “instability in any corner of today’s highly interconnected world can impact everyone. Development efforts prevent conflicts from occurring by helping countries become more stable and less prone to extremism.”
“For 50 years,” Gates said, “USAID has embodied our nation’s compassion, generosity, and commitment to advance our ideals and interests around the globe. It’s a commitment demonstrated every time this agency works hand-in-hand with communities worldwide to cure a child, build a road, or train a judge.”
“By improving global stability,” Winnefeld concluded, “USAID helps keep America safe.”