An Urgent Need:
Coordinating Reconstruction and Stabilization
in Contingency Operations, Part II
Witnesses from the U.S. Departments of Defense and State, and from the U.S. Agency for International Development, appeared before the federal Commission on Wartime Contracting on March 1 for part two of a hearing on "An Urgent Need: Coordinating Reconstruction and Stabilization in Contingency Operations."
Witnesses were James A. Bever, Director, Task Force for Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. Agency for International Development; Ambassador John E. Herbst, Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, Department of State; and Dr. James Schear, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations, Department of Defense.
The hearing built on Feb. 22 testimony to the commission from the government’s Special Inspectors General for Afghanistan Reconstruction and Iraq Reconstruction and from witnesses from the U.S. Institute of Peace, the International Crisis Group, and the RAND Corp. Witnesses spoke of problems in planning and coordinating the myriad of projects, from digging wells and building roads, to training police and promoting small businesses, that aim to stabilize and develop Iraq and Afghanistan. These projects rely heavily on contracts.
The three government witnesses on Monday’s panel were also asked what their agencies have done and are planning to promote interagency coordination. They were asked to respond to suggestions from the Feb. 22 hearing that more funding and staffing for State and USAID, targeted reforms, or creation of a new government-wide planning and oversight agency might be needed to reduce waste and improve outcomes.
Ambassador John E. Herbst
As Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization in the Department of State Herbst reports directly to the Secretary of State, and is responsible for organizing the USG response to crises involving failed or failing states. In his testimony, Herbst argued that the complex challenge posed by ungoverned spaces requires a comprehensive USG plan and response mechanism that integrates military and civilian activities to form a single operation. This plan, he argued, should not be issued in an ad hoc manner, but instead needs to be prepared, in the manner of the U.S. military, with a trained, skilled, equipped, and ready civilian force able to immediately respond to US national security interests either with the military or without. Herbst feels the Civilian Response Corps (CRC) should fill this roll. Though S/CRS has only been operational for 18 months, Herbst pointed to the organizations accomplishments:
- S/CRS build the CRC to a current strength of 86 Active and 558 Standby members
- Managed over $350 million in 1207 funds transferred from DoD for conflict prevention projects , which has funded 25 projects in 23 countries;
- Developed and implemented the Interagency Conflict Assessment Framework, or ICAF, for 14 countries;
- Provided R&S training to 439 students, including 76 from DoD and 12 representing other countries with civilian response capabilities, and not including training on R&S and civ-mil integration provided to soldiers and civilians deploying to Afghanistan;
- Deployed 70 CRC and other staff to Afghanistan alone where we led development of the first
Herbst also mentioned that the pace of hiring has been slower than anticipated. As a solution to this problem, the President’s FY11 budget request asks that flexible hiring authority be provided for staffing the CRC. Congress has already granted this authority for civilian staffing in Iraq and Afghanistan, also.
James A. Schear
As Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, Schear believes that more needs to be done to coordinate stabilization and reconstruction activities, particularly in the areas of resourcing, building, and integrating civilian capacity. DoD supports the institutionalization of structures and processes to strengthen coordination. Accordingly, Schear believes the coordination of responsibilities needs to address three critical areas of activity to ensure an effective response: crisis management, contingency planning, and the mobilization and effective targeting of resources.
On the issue of Sustainability, Schear noted that consideration of sustainability is mandated in theater guidance at all levels from the conception stage at the tactical level through the nomination and execution process at the operational and strategic level. He added, however, that sustainability can be enhanced by the following considerations:
- Seeking the advice opinion and feedback of local authorities to ensure that they can adequately staff and maintain projects under consideration
- Analyzing the supporting infrastructure, systems, and human capital required to ensure that projects (like those employing CERP funding) can successfully function as intended.
- Purchasing equipment and services that are readily available locally and equipment that can be repaired in the country, province or region.
He further noted that it is critical to involve local and governmental decision-makers who can legitimately represent the needs and aspirations of local communities in their approach to project conception and implementation. This approach, he argues builds capacity for decision-making, financial viability, planning, and management; improves the legitimacy of the government by demonstrating the beneficial effects of it presence; spurs civic responsibility and strengthens social structures; and decreases the risk of creating dependency.
In his testimony, James Bever, the USAID Executive Director of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Task Force, focused on three main issues: planning of USAID reconstruction in Afghanistan; interagency and international coordination; and, lessons learned in Iraq and Afghanistan. According to Bever, one of USAID's primary initiatives under their Afghanistan model – Afghan First -- increases local procurement and significantly transfers the responsibility of development programs to Afghans. As a result, USAID has begun moving away from large awards toward smaller and more short-term grants and contract awards with local Afghan firms. Bever mentions that this shift places additional requirements on USAID to work closely with their counterparts to ensure proper oversight of funds.
On the issue of coordination, Bever asserted USAID’s position that stronger relationships with donors improves program results. Accordingly, USAID supports the leadership role of the United Nations Mission to Afghanistan in donor coordination, and participate actively in Inter-ministerial Committees and sectoral task forces. Bever also mentioned that USAID sponsors a variety of donor coordination initiatives, such as the bi-monthly informal donor briefings, which serve to strengthen their contacts with a variety of donors active in Afghanistan.
Bever also outlined the following lessons learned from USAID’s experience in Iraq:
- The need for speed and flexibility to deliver timely results that reinforce the benefits of stability
- The advantage of deploying a USAID Inspector General at the onset and for concurrent audits
- The need for creative approaches to monitor and evaluate projects and programs (i.e. through the use of PRT personnel and independent evaluation contractors).