Thursday, February 02, 2006

USAID's Office of Military Affairs

The implementation of US policy reform in the area of post-conflict capabilities in the form of inter-agency cooperation and coordination has moved even faster than the publication of the policy documents: as mentioned earlier, the DoD Directive 3000 and the National Security Presidential Directive 44 (NSPD) each institutionalize the new policies regarding the essential necessity of post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction at the Pentagon and the State Department respectively. The Dod D3000 called for further coordination between the Pentagon and other post-conflict/S&R organization stakeholders, including civil society NGO's; while the NSPD 44 gave State the formal lead role for the entire post-conflict process.

Apparently, the goodbye from USAID director Andrew Natsios last month was preceeded, not followed, by changes in the US State Department and Development aid institutional setup: back in late October USAID announced the creation of a new Office of Military Affairs in order to "better coordinate development assistance efforts":

Washington - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is building a partnership with the U.S. military to improve coordination in humanitarian relief efforts. Speaking October 19 at a public hearing of the Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, Michael Hess, assistant administrator for USAID's Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, announced the formation of a new USAID office to coordinate humanitarian efforts, planning and doctrine with the U.S. Department of Defense and the State Department. (...) "Since post-conflict reconstruction is a pillar of the U.S. national security strategy, it is imperative for USAID to have an operational link with the military on how to better coordinate strategic development goals," Hess said.

According to Hess, the Office of Military Affairs will place senior USAID development professionals in staff positions on the five geographic unified Combatant Commands -- Central Command, Southern Command, Northern Command, Pacific Command and European Command -- to assist military professionals in assessing development needs and priorities. In addition to the staff positions with the Combatant Commands, Hess said USAID also plans to participate in joint exercises with the military to add development issues to military planning as well as to "maintain emergency response readiness" for future disasters and conflicts.

"The Office for Military Affairs will also serve as a contact point to increase working relationships between nongovernmental organizations and the U.S. military," he said. "NGOs often have tremendous operational experience in working in various environments and their input into the development process will allow the United States to be more efficient in administering humanitarian assistance," Hess said. (...)Finally, Hess cited recent successes in joint cooperation between USAID and the military through numerous humanitarian operations in Indonesia following the December 2004 earthquake and tsunami. However, he noted the experience demonstrated the need for "a strategic planning relationship between USAID and the military." (emphasis added).

The new OMA looks like a classic unit for operations, policy and best practice coordination, i.e. what is usually done in order to overcome inter-agency coordination challenges (like, e.g. the CIA's OMA). The official press release refers to this issue of a State e-journal for more info on US military relief and humanitarian assitance efforts. Traditionally, USAID operations have been decoupled somewhat from regular State operations in order to ensure continuity of development initiatives regardless of the political whims of the day. The interesting thing in the announcement is the untroubled mix of "both kinds" of the development world, i.e. both humanitarian assistance/relief and "strategic development goals": one thing is to coordinate and share best practice knowledge for better planning and execution of humanitarian relief efforts -- another is to more deeply coordinate general development aid with military objectives.

As the GWOT from a Pentagon perspective looks set to change into a "Long War" (and here) with a perspective of general democratic transformation and thus far broader political goals the latter would be a logical continuation of the policy directives. Connecting and coordinating between two perceived extremes of US foreign policy is both administratively logical and in practice a revolutionary change.

The question is of course who will get to have what say as the Pentagon moves into more political territory. The humanitarian "left" will be wont to fear a militarily dictated development policy, which will then be not only less efficient because more short-sighted, but also subject to suspiciousness in the donor countries as the ostensible non-political character of development aid is more clearly mixed with security interests. Those within military circles on the other hand, who prize warrior spirit and the perceived Clausewitzian legacy of a functional separation between military and civilian realms of action will be supsicious as to the potential of getting stuck within a largely "soft" political and humanitarian universe, leaving them unprepared for the "real challenges".


MountainRunner said...

A few comments:
The key issue: "The question is of course who will get to have what say as the Pentagon moves into more political territory." I had the opportunity to discuss this topic with John Rendon. The military conducts "public affairs" -- JPASE is a case in point -- and State conducts diplomacy, public or otherwise. When I raised this point with Mr Rendon, he agreed. However, the bureacracy of State has "no" institutionalized, as any bureaucracy does, so his client is the Pentagon.

Another comment: USAID is project-based. They do not work on long-term / ever-lasting projects of relationship/trust building or maintenance. We can see the shortcomings of this with post-crisis aid to Asia after the Tsunami and elsewhere. We will see it in the Horn of Africa if we do not move in with longer-term non-military assets that are not sunset-based.

Draconian Observations said...

Hi Mountain Runner,

Thanks for the interesting response. I didn't know that the OMA is project based. That is of course problematic in terms of internal learning and the issues you point out. And it takes a bit out of my analysis, unfortunately. Thanks again.