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The Civilian Role in Stabilization and Reconstruction June 11, 2009

Posted by Stephen Abott in Analysis, News.
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Acting USAID Administrator Alonzo Fulgham and NSC Senior Director for Reconstruction, Stabilization, and Development, Gayle Smith, spoke earlier this week at George Washington University about the civilian role in US stabilization and reconstruction (S&R) activities. Since 2002, the US has relied largely on the military for S&R in Iraq and Afghanistan, but there is growing consensus that the civilian capacity has to be developed. Both Fulgham and Smith emphasized the importance of correcting the imbalance of S&R capabilities between the military and civilian agencies.

Building the civilian capacity requires interagency coordination.  As Fulgham and Smith pointed out, civilian agencies have historically lacked this capacity due to staff and resource constraints.  In addition, tension and bureaucratic conflicts between State and USAID have hindered coordination.

For instance, the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) was established in 2004 by presidential order to coordinate and integrate civilian S&R activities. Currently, S/CRS leads an NSC interagency group of 16 different agencies, has created a framework for planning and coordinating US S&R operations (called the Interagency Management System), and is starting to assemble a civilian contingency response capability.

The role of USAID, which has important rapid response capabilities in the Office of Transition Initiatives OTI, and the Office of Conflict Mitigation, in this architecture remains unclear.   Acting USAID Administrator Fulgham described the interaction between USAID and S/CRS as an “evolving relationship.”  While USAID was not in a position in 2004 to conduct reconstruction activities during the Iraqi insurgency, USAID saw S/CRS as encroaching on the agency’s core competencies.

Fulgham described this as a “creative tension,” which he said has allowed USAID to move forward and become more creative in delivering S&R assistance. If the civilian institutions are to be able to balance the role of DOD in S&R operations, it will be important to strengthen the relationship between the two civilian institutions, turning creative tension into full cooperation.

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Comments»

1. Hallah - June 12, 2009

USAID has not stepped us to be a member of the U.S. whole of governemtn team. It is delivering the same aid programs without much adaptatin to a completely new environment, not just Afghanistan or Iraq. Time on the ground and Washington only reinofrces my experience.

2. Blurring the Line Between Military and Civilian Operations « Budget Insight - June 23, 2009

[...] Budget Insight has examined in the past, the continued reliance on the Pentagon to organize and carry out activities [...]


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