About Expeditionary Economics

Expeditionary Economics is a new theoretical framework for the United States' approach to development in fragile and failing states, emphasizing entrepreneurship and private sector growth as the critical ingredients for sustainable development and, in turn, stable and secure countries.

These environments and the security challenges they present will continue to rank as high priorities on the American foreign policy agenda for the foreseeable future. The central thesis of expeditionary economics is that, in developing a strategy for how the U.S. engages with fragile states, economic growth is the lens through which military and foreign policy must be approached, and that entrepreneurship is the core phenomenon of economic growth. Planning for conflict and post-conflict must have an economic component and, to that end, the economic education and training for military and civilian personnel must be significantly enhanced.

The current conception of economic development is a fundamental problem: the emphasis on infrastructure and government capacity-building illustrates a top-down approach that is at odds with the bottom-up reality of growth. At the Kauffman Foundation, we know that an economy grows because firms grow – firms are its most essential component, the only mechanism for new jobs and wealth creation – so to pursue economic growth and stability in fragile states, the United States must look for ways to encourage the formation and growth of new firms.

What this requires first is a better understanding of entrepreneurship in the developing world — how it happens, how to measure it, how to support and promote it. Business development has always been a feature of American foreign assistance programs under various headings such as private sector development, enterprise development, or small- and medium-sized enterprise (SME) programs. While inputs and outputs are generally well-tracked in these efforts, outcomes are definitively not.

A related strand of research under the rubric of expeditionary economics is further study of the nexus of economic growth and security, at the global, regional, national and local levels, and the appropriate role for military actors to play in fostering – or at least not retarding – growth.

Kauffman works with researchers and civilian and military development, reconstruction and stability operations professionals to:

  • Pursue an innovative research agenda
  • Develop a comprehensive expeditionary economics curriculum and education resources
  • Support ongoing development, reconstruction and stability operations
  • Inform development, assistance and foreign policy decisions