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Speech to the National Defense University

I am honored to join you today to address the issue of stabilization and reconstruction operations. I am pleased that the Industrial College of the Armed Forces is taking on this important issue as part of the Army’s Eisenhower National Security Series. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has given much thought to this topic during the last few years, and we have benefited from the insights of many of today’s participants.

International crises are inevitable, and in most cases, U.S. national security interests will be threatened by sustained instability. The war on terrorism necessitates that we not leave nations crumbling and ungoverned. We have already seen how terrorists can exploit nations afflicted by lawlessness and desperate circumstances. They seek out such places to establish training camps, recruit new members, and tap into a global black market in weapons.

In this international atmosphere, the United States must have the right structures, personnel, and resources in place when an emergency occurs. A delay in our response of a few weeks, or even days, can mean the difference between success and failure. Clearly we need a full range of tools to prevail. My own focus has been on boosting the civilian side of our stabilization and reconstruction capabilities, while encouraging improved mechanisms for civilian and military agencies to work together on these missions.

Over the years, our government has cobbled together plans, people, and projects to respond to post-conflict situations in the Balkans, in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and elsewhere. The efforts of those engaged have been valiant, but these emergencies have been complex and time sensitive. In my judgment, our ad hoc approach has been inadequate to deal quickly and efficiently with complex emergencies. In turn, our lack of preparation for immediate stabilization contingencies has made our subsequent reconstruction efforts more difficult and expensive.

In the Fall of 2003, I began to explore the possibility of legislation that would bolster U.S. post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction capabilities. My own perceptions of shortcomings in this area were reinforced when I discovered a State Department report on its goals and activities that barely mentioned the mission of stabilization and reconstruction efforts.

My thinking was also stimulated by the work being done on the issue at a number of important organizations and think tanks, including the RAND Corporation, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, the U.S. Institute of Peace, and the National Defense University. Thoughtful scholarship and analysis were being devoted to the problem, and much of it supported the objective of improving the capacity of U.S. civilian agencies to deal with overseas emergencies.

In late 2003, I organized a Policy Advisory Group made up of government officials and outside experts to give members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee advice on how to strengthen U.S. capabilities for implementing these post-conflict missions. Several of the experts that participated in that Policy Advisory Group are in the audience today.

After several meetings and much study, members of the Committee came to the conclusion that we needed a well-organized and strongly led civilian counterpart to the military in post-conflict zones. The civilian side needed both operational capability and a significant surge capacity. It was our judgment that only a cabinet-level secretary could provide the necessary inter-agency clout and leadership to create and sustain the organization. In our judgment, the Secretary of State, working with USAID, was best positioned to lead this effort.

Building on our deliberations, I introduced S. 2127, the Stabilization and Reconstruction Civilian Management Act of 2004 with Senators Biden and Hagel. The Committee passed the bill unanimously in March 2004. The legislation envisioned a new office at the State Department with a joint State Department-USAID readiness response corps comprised of both reserve and active duty components. To maximize flexibility in a crisis, our legislation also authorized funding and provided important personnel authorities to the new office.

The State Department responded to this action by establishing the Office of the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization in July of 2004. This was an important breakthrough that demonstrated the State Department’s recognition of the role it could and should be playing. Together with other members of the Foreign Relations Committee, I have endeavored to provide support and encouragement to this new office.

Under the leadership of Carlos Pascual, the office has conducted a government-wide inventory of the civilian assets that might be available for stabilization and reconstruction tasks in post-conflict zones. It has undertaken the planning necessary to recruit, train, and organize a reserve corps of civilians for rapid deployment. It also is formulating inter-agency contingency plans — informed by our past experiences — for countries and regions of the world where the next crisis could suddenly arise.

In December 2005, the President signed a directive putting the Secretary of State in charge of inter-agency stabilization and reconstruction efforts. Last month, Secretary Rice promised to dedicate 15 of the 100 new positions she is requesting for Fiscal Year 2007 to the Reconstruction and Stabilization Office. This will increase staff to about 95 individuals.

Despite this good progress, significant gaps in our capabilities remain. While many of the measures called for in our legislation have been implemented, some are not yet on the State Department’s drawing board. For example, we envisioned a 250-person active duty corps, made up of both State Department and USAID employees. Such a corps could be rapidly deployed with the military for both initial assessments and operational purposes. They would be the first civilian team on the ground in post-conflict situations, well in advance of the establishment of an embassy. This active duty corps would be able to do a wide range of civilian jobs that are needed in a post-conflict or otherwise hostile environment.

Such a 250-person corps would be no larger than the typical army company. But it would be a force multiplier. It would be equipped with the authority and training to take broad operational responsibility for stabilization missions.

Establishment of such a corps is a modest investment when seen as part of the overall national security budget. Even in peace time, we maintain active duty military forces of almost 1.4 million men and women who train and plan for the possibility of war. Given how critical post conflict situations have been to American national security in the last decade, I believe it is reasonable to have a mere 250 civilians who are training for these situations and are capable of being deployed anywhere in the world, at any time they may be needed.

Our legislation also calls on the heads of other executive branch agencies to establish personnel exchange programs designed to enhance stabilization and reconstruction capacity. The Departments of Agriculture, Treasury, Commerce, Health and Human Services – indeed virtually all the civilian agencies – can make unique contributions to the overall effort.

The main roadblock to enhancing the State Department’s stabilization and reconstruction capacity has been resources. Our legislation envisioned $85 million annually for the new State Department office. This would fund both the reserve and active duty corps, as well as training, equipment, and travel. We also agreed that a $100 million crisis response fund should be available as a contingency for stabilization and reconstruction crises declared by the President. So far, however, only about $21 million has been provided for the operations of the State Department’s Reconstruction and Stabilization Office since it was established in 2004.

With Carlos Pascual at the helm, the office heroically stretched dollars by recruiting personnel on detail from other agencies, taking advantage of DOD-funded training, and getting the State Department to pay for the overhead of new office space from other sources. But such a hand-to-mouth existence has obvious disadvantages. Detailed personnel rarely stay long, and institutional memory becomes short. Relying on DOD funds puts the office in the passenger seat when it should have the resources to pursue uniquely civilian-oriented goals.

In addition, the stabilization contingency fund outlined in our legislation has not been appropriated. On the Senate side, we were able to secure $20 million for the fund in the FY 2006 Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill. The entire amount, however, was eliminated in the Conference Committee with the House. This means that the State Department will have to respond to a crisis as it always has, by scraping together funds from various bureaus.

One stopgap measure that the Congress did pass in FY 2006 was the authority to transfer up to $100 million from the Pentagon to the State Department for boosting the civilian response to particular trouble spots. However, this was a one-year authority, and this money will not provide the resources necessary over the long term to improve the State Department’s capacity to be a capable partner in responding to complex emergencies.

The foreign affairs budget is always a tougher sell to Congress than the military budget. To President Bush’s credit, he has attempted to reverse the downward spiral in overall foreign affairs spending that took place in the 1990s. In that decade, both the executive and legislative branches rushed to cash in on the peace dividend. But President Bush has consistently requested increases for the 150 Account in his budgets. For the fiscal year 2007 budget, he requested a 10.3 percent increase over the CBO-determined baseline of fiscal year 2006.

But, if previous years are any example, the amount appropriated will fall far short of the amount requested. Last year, the President’s annual request for foreign affairs was cut by $2.1 billion. The Congress cut the fiscal 2005 annual request by a similar amount. According to a Congressional Research Service report that I requested, Congress has provided $5.8 billion less than the President has requested for foreign affairs in regular and supplemental spending bills since September 11, 2001.

Today, when we are in the midst of a global struggle of information and ideas, when anti-Western riots can be set off by the publication of a cartoon; when we are in the midst of a crisis with Iran that will decide whether the non-proliferation regime of the last half century will be abandoned; when we have entered our fourth year of attempting to stabilize Iraq; and when years of effort to move the Arab-Israeli peace process are at risk – even then, the reservoir of support for foreign affairs spending in Congress is shallow. Members of Congress may recognize the value of the work done by the State Department and some selected programs may be popular, but at the end of the day, the 150 Account is seldom defended against competing priorities.

As all this suggests, we have a long way to go on the civilian side of stability and reconstruction efforts. The Defense Department is keenly aware of the importance of having a capable civilian partner in such operations. We should consider setting up a multi-agency fund specifically for addressing stabilization and reconstruction planning and operations. Dispensing with the competitive inter-agency scramble for resources would not be easy, but the need for more coordination is clear.

If the problems on the civilian side of crisis management cannot be solved, I think we will begin to see a realignment of authorities between the Departments of Defense and State. Some would argue that this realignment has already begun. For example, the Department of Defense requested a DOD-operated worldwide train and equip program, and it was granted money and authority despite the fact that foreign assistance has long been under the purview of the Secretary of State. If we cannot think this through as a government, the United States may come to depend even more on our military for tasks and functions far beyond its current role. But I remain optimistic that we can build on the progress already made to create a robust civilian component to our stabilization and reconstruction capabilities.

I appreciate your invitation to speak on this important topic, and I look forward to the results of your deliberations.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it is a work of the United States federal government (see 17 U.S.C. 105).