Pentagon Sidelining State Dept. on Matters of Foreign Aid

Officials Complain of Defense Dept 'Militarizing Foreign Policy'

While it is nominally the job of the US State Department to handle foreign affairs, and the Secretary of State is intended to be America’s top diplomat abroad, nations seeking US aid are increasingly bypassing the State Department and going straight to the Pentagon, which is controlling an ever-growing portion of the foreign aid budget.

Officials are seen complaining about the “militarizing foreign policy” that the Pentagon’s control is having, noting that the Defense Department has repeatedly decided to send aid to countries the State Department had singled out for torture and other humanitarian concerns. Often the Pentagon just sends the money, and the State Department doesn’t find out until after the fact.

Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Bob Corker (R – TN) said he believes that the while the Pentagon has a “role” to play in the sending of military aid abroad, he believes that the aid should go through the State Department before being sent out.

Former Assistant Secretary of State Andrew Shapiro says the Pentagon was given the authority to act unilaterally early in Obama’s first turn, as military commanders complained the State Department’s authorization process was too slow.

When they hear about something, the State Department can still stop it, as with Pentagon plans to train snipers for authoritarian Belarus, or its wasteful plan to send a whole bunch of lip balm to the Jordanian military.

The Pentagon is bristling at such restrictions, however, since the money is ultimately in their budget, and State Department efforts to slow the unilateral aid distribution is likely to just encourage the Pentagon to be even more secretive about where the money is going, to avoid getting stopped before the aid is already gone.

Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is Senior Editor for He has 20 years of experience in foreign policy research and his work has appeared in The American Conservative, Responsible Statecraft, Forbes, Toronto Star, Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Providence Journal, Washington Times, and the Detroit Free Press.