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August 02, 2006

Security Assistance and Reconstruction: Who Is Going to be in Charge?
Posted by Gordon Adams

The U.S. response to the attacks of 9-11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taxed the military and the U.S. foreign policy community in a variety of new ways. In many respects, the existing institutions of government were ill-prepared for these challenges, which has meant a constant process of ad hoc invention throughout the executive branch. If the U.S. is going to continue to do the post-conflict job, after Iraq and Afghanistan, it is going to be increasingly important to figure out who is responsible for it. The answer is not clear today, and the Congress, in its new defense legislation, is hedging its bets.

The U.S. military has been called on for many new, challenging missions, as a result and, in the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review cried out for help from the foreign policy community in dealing with such problems as political stability and economic reconstruction. One response on the foreign policy side has been to create, in 2004, the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS), empowered by a December 2005 National Security Policy Directive (NSPD 44) to coordinate all U.S. government responses to post-conflict needs for stabilization and reconstruction assistance.

At the same time, the military services have been inventing new ways to become their own “foreign assistance” providers. Every emergency supplemental budget request from DOD since 2001 has asked for a broad expansion of the authority the military has to provide assistance, train soldiers and police, and deliver economic assistance. In 2003, the military in Iraq began doling out quick response foreign assistance, reconstruction, and humanitarian relief through a new window, the Commanders’ Emergency Response Program or CERP. Initially, the CERP was funded by seized Iraqi assets; in the end it has been fueled by nearly $1 b. in appropriated funds from the Congress. In November, 2005, the Pentagon even issued a new defense directive, formally making stability and reconstruction operations an equal mission with combat for U.S. military forces.

This year’s Defense Authorization Act debate continues this evolution toward a greater military role. With the agreement of Secretary Rice (but some concern among the career staff at the State Department), the Defense Department is seeking authorities which would transform it more formally into a foreign assistance agency.

The statutory provisions the DOD seeks this year would, in their words, “increase flexibility to train and equip partner nations operating with or instead of U.S. forces for critical counter-terrorism and stabilization operations,” and provide “critical authorities for Combatant Commanders to address security priorities in different regions of the world and to respond better and more effectively to support allies, coalition partners, and others in the War on Terror.”

The details behind these general statements would authorize the Defense Department to use DOD funds (up to $750 m.) to train foreign military and civilian personnel for counter-terror and stability operations. They would expand the CERP to include all U.S. military operations on a global basis, allowing commanders to use DOD money for humanitarian relief and reconstruction assistance. They would allow DOD to transfer military equipment to allies in the “War on Terror,” notwithstanding any current prohibitions in export control rules or policy guidelines (sanctioned countries, for example).

These provisions all grew out of the difficulties the military faced, being asked to be an assistance agency around the world, and out of the weaknesses of U.S. foreign assistance agencies (notably USAID, where the focus has been longer term development) and the diplomatic corps (who did not have the resources or the trained people for this job).

The pressure for DOD to tackle this job by itself grows very much out the fear that, when push-comes-to-shove, U.S. diplomats and aid providers lack the talent, training, responsiveness, and funding to truly deliver effectively and rapidly, when a post-conflict crisis emerges. The men and women in uniform, the argument goes, will be the “default” provider of stability and reconstruction. So, there was a DOD call for help, but these requests for new authorities “hedge the bet.” To some, they go even further, by weakening the foreign policy institutions and expanding DOD into a “one-stop” security and foreign assistance agency.

Congress has been giving an uncertain response to this trend. On the one hand, members of Congress suspect that DOD’s analysis is correct – the diplomats and foreign aid folks are not up to the challenge, move too slowly, contract badly, won’t deploy adequate numbers of talented people, can’t do the job. This suspicion has been reinforced by the audits of reconstruction activity in Iraq by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR), which have revealed half-complete projects, running over budget, or unustainable for the Iraqi government (see the most recent SIGIR quarterly report at

So when the State Department comes forward and asks (last year for $100 m., this year for $75 m.) for funds to conduct S/CRS missions, the foreign and State operations appropriations subcommittees regularly deny the funds, further weakening the ability of diplomats and aid givers to play their assigned role. In the end, both because some internal State offices (regional bureaus and the counter-terror offices) are leery of giving S/CRS any authority, and because Congress doesn’t trust the foreign policy community to deliver, the DOD prophecy about an “unready” foreign policy team is coming true.

But Congress isn’t sure it trusts the military, either. They love the CERP program and have increased funding for it every year. It appears to provide quick assistance in key villages in Iraq when it is needed, while the foreign aid machinery labors to get there. On the other hand, the defense authorizers – Armed Services – committees are leery of making DOD into a foreign assistance agency. For some, uniformed services are “war fighters,” not reconstruction providers

This year, the committees are hedging their bets. The House authorization bill would allow DOD, with the Secretary State’s concurrence, to provide up to $100 m. in logistical support, supplies and services, and to provide some military equipment, but only to foreign military forces (not police), which are participating in an operation with U.S. forces at the time. The equipment provision is only allowed, however, for 2007 and 2008.

The Senate has approved similar authority, similarly constrained. It has gone beyond the House, however, to approve a program to “build the capacity” of foreign military forces (but not police) anywhere around the globe to conduct counter terrorist operations or support military and stability operations. This program would be limited to $200 m. a year, and would expire at the end of 2008. The Senate also goes beyond the House in providing authority for a $200 m. CERP-like fund for Combatant Commanders around the globe, but prohibits its use in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Slowly the U.S. government is moving along a slippery slope with these programs. The military capability and formal tasking for post-conflict operations is growing (which assumes we will do more such missions), we are expanding DOD training to provide them, and will be providing more funding for the military to carry them out. State and USAID, which are sometimes their own worst enemies in this area of policy, are still struggling to create a sufficiently authoritative office, adequate aid programs, and trained personnel to carry out these missions. By default, the services may be right; they can call for help, but the answer is too thin and too late, leaving the task in the military’s hands.

Two broader issues remain unresolved as this debate moves forward. The first is the responsibility of the White House. NSPD 44 provides only a minimal role for the National Security Council with respect to stabilization and reconstruction, tasking S/CRS to do the detailed coordinating work. In the end, this structure may be doomed to failure; a serious NSC lead for these operations may be necessary.

More broadly, it is not clear how much of a call there will be in the future for such missions. The U.S. seems to create this ad hoc response every time there is a crisis, and has equally regularly burned its fingers, whether in Vietnam or Iraq. It may be a long time before the U.S. military is called on for such a major occupation and post-conflict responsibility and there is a need today for a major debate about the extent to which the U.S. expects or should expect to play this kind of role on a global basis. The revision of government capabilities should follow from such a debate, not precede it.


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Very erudite, but I have a couple of problems with your analysis.
You say "in the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review cried out for help from the foreign policy community in dealing with such problems as political stability and economic reconstruction. One response on the foreign policy side has been to create, in 2004, the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS)." Is DoS so prescient that long before the QDR was published they had already answered the question? Or are you wrong in saying this was a "response"?
You say that this year "Defense Department is seeking authorities which would transform it more formally into a foreign assistance agency." We have been that for more than four decades, since the FAA and AECA were written into law. Who do you think manages the FMF and IMET programs funded in the FOAA? It ain't DoS. Who do you think initiates and writes the justifications for the proposed FMF and IMET levels DoS submits to OMB for the President's budget? It ain't DoS.
Who do you think builds capacity in the foreign militaries? It might be guys in uniform, it might be contractors, but, again, it ain't DoS guys (and girls) out on the ground doing it.
I think Congress does in fact recognize these might be one-off requirements, which is why they put a limit on the duration of the programs.
And as far as not being reconstructors, DOD has always been responsible for being the first/quick providers, which is why there is OHDACA.
I view this as an extension and facilitation of an authority already existing--drawdown authority--to make it more flexible and not dependent on Presidential Determinations to be put into action.

Libertarian soldier, as always, makes good point, with an edge. In this case, the edge goes to far. Yes, DOD has for decades, managed the IMTE and FMF programs. But they are managed under the authority of the Secretary of State and the State Department, from embassy to the 7th floor in foggy bottom, has authority over the policy decisions in this area. The Political/Military Affairs office at State assumes that responsibility.

OHDACA, of course, is a tiny responsibility at DOD, very thinly funded and closely circumscribed.

Congress has always treated these programs with care and attention, concerned, both for policy and turf reasons, to protect the foreign policy authorities of the Department of State.

What is clearly of concern to the Congress is not that these new requirements are "one-offs." For the Armed Services committees, the concern is spreading the forces too thin and into areas for which they manifestly lack training, such as actual reconstruction and governance. What concerns the foreign relations committees is that we will risk "militarizing" America's foreign relations further than we already have. The programs under consideration go well beyond military-to-military relations, which is the nature of the FMF and IMET programs.

As for S/CRS, I should have said, "anticipating this need," because the office was created in 2004, and received the presidential tasking for coordination, as I stated, in 2005.

One note on sexism in language - it is interesting that libertarian soldier describes the military as "guys in uniform," but the DoS players as "guys (and girls)"
Last I looked, women were deployed in the U.S. military in Iraq, a good number (in the hundreds, I believe), wounded or killed in that operation. Neither the soldiers nor the diplomats have a unique claim on patriotism and service.

Certainly DoS decides what to request; it does this based on the MPP submissions from Post, which are prepared by the DOD organizations there. I would say policy-wise it is very much less DoS and more Congress through earmarks and/or limiting amendments; which often results in disconnects. As far as management goes, which was my point on this, once DoS notifies Congress of the intent to transfer the money to DSCA, and Congress does not object, the management of the program is in the purview of DOD. P/M's involvement is generally working changes, not management per se.
You are absolutely right on the size and limitations of OHDACA. However, it varies greatly from year depending on disasters, and the structure for management and execution of it is largely independent of the size in any one year.
Respectfully, you are contradicting yourself when you reply that "The programs under consideration go well beyond military-to-military relations, which is the nature of the FMF and IMET programs" yet in your initial oeuvre you state the programs "would allow DOD, with the Secretary State’s concurrence, to provide up to $100 m. in logistical support, supplies and services, and to provide some military equipment, but only to foreign military forces (not police), which are participating in an operation with U.S. forces at the time" and "program to “build the capacity” of foreign military forces (but not police) anywhere around the globe to conduct counter terrorist operations or support military and stability operations". These are mil to mil programs and are managed in the same fashion as FMF; look at GPOI.
On CERP; this program is an expansion of authorites given to DOD in the 90's (called CINC Initiative Funds (CIF) at a time when we still had more than one CINC). So, I don't see this as being new.
Lastly as far as sexism goes, I am undoubtedly at least as guilty of it as the next guy (or girl :) ). However, it was addressed in the specific issue of people on the ground building capacity. And having been involved in this in 12 countries in Africa and Asia, I have yet to have seen a female trainer or program manager, in uniform or out.

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