Building Capacity for Stabilization & Reconstruction

Carlos Pascual
Carlos Pascual Former U.S. ambassador to Mexico, Senior Vice President for Global Energy - IHS Markit, Former Brookings expert

January 29, 2008

The following is a transcript of testimony as given.  Prepared remarks are also available. 

Watch the Video Webcast >>

Ambassador Pascual, we will begin with you. We will put on this five-minute clock with its very attractive green light that seems to rapidly turn to red. (Laughter.) It is — it is a signal to you that five minutes is up, but you feel free to ignore it if you have things you want us to hear about. We just put that up here so you have a sense of the passage of time. And then we’ll just go right down the line.

MR. PASCUAL: Very good. Mr. Chairman, Mr. Akin, other members, thank you very much for this opportunity to testify before you. Thank you for accepting our written testimony for the record.

REP. SNYDER: Pull that microphone a little closer, if you would, please.

MR. PASCUAL: I very much want to commend the committee for the focus that it’s giving on the integration of civilian and military capacity to support our national security. One of the things that I have learned in working with our military is that in today’s world the military will tell you that kinetic force is not enough to achieve our national security objectives. And Chairman Snyder, you stated that very well at the beginning.

These comments are based on the work that we did in setting up the Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization, meetings with virtually every combatant command, meetings with the joint staff, joint planning exercises that we undertook with them, as well experience that I had different times in my career working on the National Security Council staff, USAID and the State Department. So I’ve at least had the benefit of some experiences that allow us — allow me to bring together some of these different perspectives from different agencies in some, I hope, useful ways for you.

Let me just underscore a couple of key findings from the work that we’ve learned — done and things that we’ve learned from stabilization and reconstruction.

First is that it takes at least five to 10 years until it’s possible to get local partners to really take the lead in stabilization and reconstruction effort. To imagine that you can build capacity and help them build capacity any faster is a fantasy and it just simply hasn’t been done. Look at small states like Bosnia and Kosovo.

The easiest part is up front, in the most destabilized period, because the international community is actually coming in and doing something to a country. The hardest part becomes as you start to build that capacity over time and it slows down that process of transition. And we haven’t understood that. In fact, in a place like Iraq, 2003, 2004, those were the easy years.

The other thing that we have to understand is that we need multilateral engagement to succeed in order to have the depth and the range and the time commitment that is necessary to undertake these missions. Afghanistan is a good example, where we have the U.N. and NATO and the United States and 30 nations. And here, we are still struggling to succeed. To imagine that we can do this alone is just simply a fantasy. If we even look at tiny Kosovo and the effort that it’s taken multilaterally, we have to remember that the capacity that we build as the United States to be successful has to be leveraged with multilateral engagement.

And finally, I would underscore that security is a prerequisite. There’s a certain irony here that on one hand you need security as an enabling environment. If you don’t get progress on stabilization and reconstruction and begin to normalize life, you can’t actually sustain that security. But we shouldn’t fool ourselves, that unless — until there is some basic environment of security, it is very hard to have a sustainable stabilization and reconstruction effort.

In order to address some of these issues, I’ve tried to underscore in the testimony that there are three levels of capacity that we have to look at building. And let me try to draw — since this is the House Armed Services Committee — an analogy with the military.

The first is the functional equivalent of a joint staff. And this is what the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, S/CRS, was intended to do. The joint staff in the military tries to create a common strategy in a given theater where there in interoperability across the forces. It does not mean that you don’t need the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, Marines and the Coast Guards. It means that they actually understand how to work together toward a common goal.

And similarly, the office of S/CRS was to play that function of creating a joint staff capacity across civilian agencies and between civilian agencies in the military. That process has started. It has been given some foundation in NSPD-44, but it is a very, very fragile foundation that has been created thus far.

The second capacity that you need is the ability to establish an operational headquarters on the ground in a theater of action. In the military, you have this with the combatant commands actually establishing a field headquarters. You have tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of individuals who constantly work together, train together, plan together and are able to deploy together.

In civilian parts of our government, we essentially send a cable around the world and ask for volunteers of who might be able to come to establish that headquarters. Not surprisingly, it takes months to find the individuals. They’ve never worked together on these kinds of issues; they usually don’t know anything about the country that they are going to. And so not surprisingly, we are not most terribly effective in the deployment of those individuals in establishing the headquarters.

The PRTs are one form of establishing that nature of a headquarters. And one of the things that we have learned is that if you don’t have the staff capabilities to put on the ground quickly, the PRT is a theoretical exercise.

And finally, the third level of capacity that we need are the foot soldiers. If in the second level we have a headquarters where we have the individuals who are developing, designing and managing our programs on the ground, you need those who can actually deliver them — the police, the police trainers, the rule of law experts and so forth.

And here, we have essentially depended on contractors in the past.
I would think that if the U.S. military were be asked to be — were asked to be deployed with comparable resources and training, they would tell us that it would be irresponsible. And yet, at the same time, we continue to deploy civilian missions which fundamentally affect the success of military missions without the necessary type of planning capabilities and implementation capabilities.

Let me come back, then, to bring forward a few recommendations — and, Congressman Akin, on your question of what that one specific intervention would be.

I would ask you a question first and that question would be, what do you want? Do you want a better planning agency in Washington or do you want the capacity to deploy on the ground? If you want the capacity to deploy on the ground and you do it without planning, then you’re going to have a haphazard process.

So I’m going to take a mild deviation on your question and say that you actually need two things: a capacity to plan effectively and the capacity to deploy effectively.

And in that, in order to be able to do that there are a few things that I think are critical. The first is establishment of a budget authority that creates an account for stabilization and reconstruction. This may seem an arcane recommendation. But if you look at the foreign affairs budget, there are at least 20 different accounts.

The experience that I went through when we were developing a strategic plan on Sudan, for example, was to get individual agencies, offices and bureaus that manage those accounts as fiefdoms to direct them to a particular goal. In one case, when I asked an individual, “What is the U.S. government goal that you’re trying to achieve and how do you contribute to it?” the response I got was, “I’ve done this job for 10 years and nobody has ever asked me that; why should I begin to do that now?”

Unless there is a way to break across those account structures and be able to identify, for example, $100 million, $200 million that are necessary for a particular initiative and then ask the question, “How do we use those resources to most effectively achieve the U.S. government’s objectives on the ground?” you can’t come to an effective strategic plan.

The environment that we have right now — and I’ve been in it in the field — is that you look across these 20 accounts and you ask the question, how can I get money from any of these accounts to bring those resources here to the problem that I have in the field? And so you end up making choices that are not always the most strategic, you don’t get resources for the things that are necessary — necessarily the most important on the ground.

And a way to deal with this would be to allow the president to make a determination on the creation of the stabilization and reconstruction account for a particular country when the circumstances warrant it, to reach agreement on that with the Congress, and within that account to allow transfers from anywhere else in the foreign affairs budget so that it goes into a common account where you can basically say that the resources there can be used for any purpose in the foreign affairs budget.

This is not terribly complicated to do. It doesn’t cost additional money. It’s been written up in the Lugar-Biden bill since 2004 and it has gone absolutely nowhere. And it’s the kind of action that can be done immediately at very little cost.

The second recommendation is on the creation of what the State Department has called an active response corps. It’s 250 people in the State Department and other civilian agencies. The purpose of this is to have individuals who take as their assignment the capacity to train for fast deployments on the ground, individuals who work together so that when you have a situation where you need to establish that headquarters on the ground, you are not going worldwide trying to find who are the individuals that are available? But you have 250 people who are immediately identified.

And if those people go into a standby corps, you can imagine that over years you can build a cadre of 750 people or so who have gone through this training and are your immediate pool for that kind of response capacity.

This is a relatively low-cost way in order to be able to move quickly in establishing our capabilities on the ground and to be able to draw the personnel that are necessary for deployments to provincial reconstruction team.

The third recommendation would be the creation of a civilian reserve corps. I would propose a civilian reserve of about 3,000 people. I would recommend that it focus initially on police, police trainers and rule of law experts, because this generally has been the long pole in the tent in being able to establish stability on the ground and to transfer functions from the military to indigenous police.

Right now we have contractors that we draw from all over the United States with no common doctrine, deploy them on the ground — in a place like Afghanistan it was actually two years before we actually even began to put together a strategy that effectively started to address issues related to the rule of law, and we still don’t have the capacity to implement it on the ground.

In the 2007 supplemental, a $50 million appropriation was provided in order to begin to establish a civilian reserve. It is absolutely frozen because there is no authorization. H.R. 1084, sponsored by Congressman Farr, is available. Moving that forward and getting that passed is the first way to create that civilian reserve capability.

Fourth recommendation is the creation of a conflict response fund with about $200 million. We know that this will not fully fund any major mission, but what it can do is begin to create the capability of getting your teams on the ground for the first two to three months of implementation, because what we do know is if you have to wait for a reprogramming of funds or a supplemental appropriation, it will be months before that money is available. If you can get your teams on the ground in that dynamic moment where you can influence the course of change, it can have an impact that can influence the overall success of a mission.

And finally, I would just underscore the importance of this subcommittee’s support for Section 1207 of the defense authorization bill that allows for a transfer authority from the Defense Department to State, because even with a conflict response fund, that is a tiny down payment on the requirements necessary for quick deployments in the field.

I would just conclude by underscoring that creating these capabilities, I think, is truly a bargain. In effect, the total cost of the active response corps, the staff in S/CRS, a conflict response fund is about $350 million. The defense authorization capability in Section 1207 creates an authorization against existing appropriated funds. It’s a relatively small cost when we look at how much we are spending on the defense side.

But look at it from this perspective: If by creating this capacity we would create — or would’ve created the capacity to withdraw one division from Iraq one month early, we would’ve saved $1.2 billion, not to mention the lives that would’ve been involved.

And so just to underscore again the importance of the work that this committee is doing and the way that you are reaching across defense and civilian lines, because the only way that we can really address these issues is if we think about a national security budget, and not a defense budget and a foreign affairs budget. And until we integrate these to understand what is necessary for the national security needs for the United States, we will not succeed in our objectives.

REP. SNYDER: Thank you, Ambassador Pascual. By the way, Mr. Farr that you mentioned has the — the bill you referred to — has participated in the subcommittee hearings and has a conflict today.