The U.S. must strike a fiscal balance so it can continue providing aid to nations on the verge of becoming failed states, Adm. Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said June 29.
Despite an expected decline in federal spending over the next decade, Mullen said he has argued against cutting off funding that assists these nations.
"Will we be able to invest at the same levels? I don't think so," Mullen said. "But will we be able to invest? Yes."
The chairman's comments came during a speech in Washington at the release of the 2011 Failed States Index by the Fund for Peace. Somalia and Chad topped the failed states list. Afghanistan ranked seventh and Iraq ninth.
While he believes the United States can address its own fiscal issues while continuing these foreign assistance initiatives, Mullen - who plans to retire later this year - also called for other world powers to provide financial help to countries that need it.
"We're not the only wealthy country in the world," he said. "No single country can do this by [itself] and there are, I feel, responsibilities that need to be carried out ... along these lines on the part of other countries as well."
At the same time, the United States cannot single-handedly control the outcomes of conflict in other nations.
"We're not living in a world where that can be the case," Mullen said. "We still are in a position of expected global leadership and that countries around the world, people around the world ... there's an expectation we will lead. I think our future is tied to influence. It is not tied to control."
In the past few months, the leaders of several countries in North Africa and the Middle East have been ousted in what has been dubbed the "Arab spring."
Mullen also called for more partnership between the U.S. Defense Department and nongovernmental organizations, which, in many cases, have better knowledge of a region or country where the military is operating.
"We ... have various organizations, private and public, who have not worked with each other [and] oftentimes meet each other in the middle of a fight," he said. "That's not a great time to say hello, because we have biases that we've created over time because we don't know each other, and you have a very difficult time overcoming those biases when they need to be overcome the most.
"I have argued for years [that] we need to understand each other in advance," Mullen continued. "We need to have exercises. We need to assign people from one organization to another, so that there is that understanding, so when you get into a crisis, you know what to do."