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USAID Announces New Office of Military Affairs

24 October 2005

Office created to better coordinate development assistance efforts

By Todd Bullock
Washington File Staff Writer

Washington - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is building a partnership with the U.S. military to improve coordination in humanitarian relief efforts.

Speaking October 19 at a public hearing of the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, Michael Hess, assistant administrator for USAID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, announced the formation of a new USAID office to coordinate humanitarian efforts, planning and doctrine with the U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department.

The advisory committee was established after World War II to serve as a link between the U.S. government and private volunteer organizations active in humanitarian assistance and development work overseas. It members are 24 private citizens with extensive international development experience.

"Since post-conflict reconstruction is a pillar of the U.S. national security strategy, it is imperative for USAID to have an operational link with the military on how to better coordinate strategic development goals," Hess said.

According to Hess, the Office of Military Affairs will place senior USAID development professionals in staff positions on the five geographic unified Combatant Commands -- Central Command, Southern Command, Northern Command, Pacific Command and European Command -- to assist military professionals in assessing development needs and priorities.

In addition to the staff positions with the Combatant Commands, Hess said USAID also plans to participate in joint exercises with the military to add development issues to military planning as well as to "maintain emergency response readiness" for future disasters and conflicts.

"The Office for Military Affairs will also serve as a contact point to increase working relationships between nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. military," he said.

"NGOs often have tremendous operational experience in working in various environments and their input into the development process will allow the United States to be more efficient in administering humanitarian assistance," Hess said.

Addressing the role of education in the development process, Hess said the military affairs office also would have a component to coordinate efforts between the Defense Department and USAID not only to enhance development, but to improve education for different populations.

"The educational component in development is critical to developing a sustainable capacity in regions," Hess said, "The Office of Military Affairs will be able to integrate best training and education practices among the military's civil affairs officers and USAID workers to increase capacity."

Finally, Hess cited recent successes in joint cooperation between USAID and the military through numerous humanitarian operations in Indonesia following the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami. However, he noted the experience demonstrated the need for "a strategic planning relationship between USAID and the military."

For additional information on the U.S. military’s emergency response and relief efforts, see Improving Lives: Military Humanitarian and Assistance Programs.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site:

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