Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Transitioning Rocks: Will DoD and State Deliver?

Two initiatives have been launched lately which -- in the US system -- go some way to redeem the botched Phase IV in Iraq in terms of prepation for the Next Time. Of course this is not just about Phase IV - transitioning form militarily dominated process to civilian dominated process in the wake of an intervention - but about managing complex emergencies involving civil, military, official and private, for profit and ngo actors in general. Both are good news - but there is one major deficiency: transitioning from military to civilian dominated ops risks getting undercut by the usual inertia because neither DoD nor State has a proper stake in them. And wasn't that what this was all about avoiding?

The two initiatives are: The Department of Defense Directive 3000 "Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations"; and the National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD 44) "Mananagement of Interagency Efforts Concerning Reconstruction and Stabilization".

Read Fred Kaplan's bona fide analysis regarding the 3000-document as I won't add much to what he has to say about that one: the judgment is still out as to whether the Directive will actually get implemented in doctrine - and in practice through a massive change of culture at the DoD. The latter will be necessary because it means a revision of the deep organizational self-understanding of the US military based on warfighting and warrior spirit. The crucial element is that transitioning ops are to have the same status as combat ops:
It is DoD policy that: 4.1. Stability operations are a core U.S. military mission that the Department of Defense shall be prepared to conduct and support. They shall be given priority comparable to combat operations and be explicitly addressed and integrated across all DoD activities including doctrine, organizations, training, education, exercises, materiel, leadership, personnel, facilities, and planning.
The problem of intergancy coordination has haunted all of the 1990s complex emergencies including those with a military element - peace operations. Thomas P. M. Barnett's debate defining analysis of these as the Lesser Includeds and thus not something to take serious within the Pentagon is crucial here. The Lesser Includeds where the ops the Pentagon might undertake while waiting for the next big one, but not someting that commanded any special strategic attention. And because they were less 'properly military' they were stepchildren, not a wise move for someone looking for a step up the career ladder. Thus the necessity for a very deep change of organizational self-understanding. As Barnett too observes, cultural changes only happen only after major screw ups, but whether Iraq is big enough for the Pentagon to change remains to be seen. Until the QDR emerges, or until practical consequences are drawn definitely from the 3000 we cannot know.

But what is common to both of the directives is the emphasis on the 'boring' management challenge that is the interagency coordination of complex emergencies. As recommend in the Defense Science Board studies, State is given the major responsibility of this coordination effort:

Need for Coordinated U.S. Efforts. To achieve maximum effect, a focal point is needed (i) to coordinate and strengthen efforts of the United States Government to prepare, plan for, and conduct reconstruction and stabilization assistance and related activities in a range of situations that require the response capabilities of multiple United States Government entities and (ii) to harmonize such efforts with U.S. military plans and operations. The relevant situations include complex emergencies and transitions, failing states, failed states, and environments across the spectrum of conflict, particularly those involving transitions from peacekeeping and other military interventions. The reponse to these crises will include among others, activities relating to internal security, governance and participation, social and economic well-being, and justice and reconciliation.

Coordination. The Secretary of State shall coordinate and lead integrated United States Government efforts, involving all U.S. Departments and Agencies with relevant capabilities, to prepare, plan for, and conduct stabilization and reconstruction activities. The Secretary of State shall coordinate such efforts with the Secretary of Defense to ensure harmonization with any planned or ongoing U.S. military operations across the spectrum of conflict. Support relationships among elements of the United States Government will depend on the particular situation being addressed. (from NSPD 44, ed.).

The challenge here is first of all to resolve the practical problems of interagency coordination as theyhave been seen all through the 1990s up to now. Fine.

But the second issue which much less dealt with is the question of transitioning. Transition here involves handing over the reins of the process from the military to civilians - in principle from DoD to State - following an intervention. These operations are subsets of
both the complex emergencies (most of which are carried out within the UN circuit) and the changing characteristics of war. This means that unless they are specifically targeted from both parties as an area of concern we run the risk of screwing up the next time around.

DoD: If what happens at the DoD really is (and remember: this may very well be a best case scenario) 'merely' to upgrade their capabilites to some extent within the old SASO/Phase IV; spend a bit on training for cooperation with State; and included a few phrases about being nice to the ngos in the coming field manuals - then the strategic attention to create and sustain the Phase IV in a proper shape until State can deliver will probably be lacking. Because: Phase IV is now State's responsibility (the NSPD 44).

State: Giving them responsibility for coordination in complex emergencies is logical. But the problem is - and even more so for the 'State equivalents' further out in the system, outside of the US - that their main attention will not be on the subset of these operations which include a major military role. Why? Because that is 'war' and they are in the 'peace' business. This looks like a highly problematic weakness in the new initiatives.

As Crane and Terrill stated in their Strategic Studies Institute report an optimistic transitioning scenario involves handing responsibility of ops shortly after the end of major combat operations (Phase III) to our civilian authorities. But in reality, as we have seen in Iraq, if this element is not deployed fast and with full weight, the realistic scenario means that the military is the only organization with boots on the ground to actually run things.And so the transition will be much longer, much more expensive - and be directed to the local civilian and military organizations once these have been built.

That was not the intention, was it?


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