This new assistant secretary position along with the initiatives is a very welcome element in implementing the whole ability of the US military to not only conceive of war within a context of everything else (in the words of Thomas P. M. Barnett). But also act that way: in a proper Clausewitzian fashion, that is seing its core job to be a functional element within a larger - political - process were the use of force is not an end in itself, and the mastering of this ability therefore cannot be the sole focus in training, management, doctrine ... in short, in pratice.
The Pentagon announced on Aug. 28 that it would create a new assistant secretary's position to help coordinate inter-agency operations. Mid-level U.S. military officers will also begin to receive intensive instruction on the planning and command of overseas operations in partnership with civilian agencies. The military is seeking to embed the lessons learned during flawed inter-agency operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and protect its own primary leadership role in future overseas interventions. The Pentagon-led effort in Iraq is faltering, but the Department of Defense (DoD) is determined to retain its leading role in planning and executing U.S. operations abroad. To this end, it is seeking to strengthen its role "coordinating" the activities of civilian agencies:
Inter-agency training: Courses at the joint-service National War College and the Army, Air Force and Navy/Marine Corps Staff Colleges are designed to prepare lieutenant colonel-level officers for progression to the most senior ranks. This year, they will also include higher numbers of mid-level officials seconded from civilian agencies.
Iraqi lessons: In Iraq and Afghanistan, the military was poorly prepared for the transitions from war fighting to stabilization and reconstruction operations. The Pentagon hopes that the joint training of senior officers and civilian officials will help establish routine inter-agency cooperation and consultation.
Maintaining control: Although conducted in a spirit of common purpose, the new courses are also an act of self-preservation on the part of the Pentagon. The relative standing of the military and civilian agencies in planning and commanding "multi-agency" operations is in a state of flux and could yet fall between three broad models:
Continued Pentagon dominance: In the wake of the Iraqi experience, future operations are likely to have a significantly enhanced civilian presence at every stage of the planning process. However, civilian agencies may continue to report to the commanding military officer.
Joint military-civilian control: Operations planning may evolve into a dual command structure, with military and civilian commanders sharing authority.
Civilian leadership: An unlikely, but conceivable outcome could be overall civilian command of future operations, with the military performing specific supporting tasks.
In 2004, the administration created a new State Department-based Office of the Coordinator for Stabilization and Reconstruction (S/CRS), a move that was widely interpreted as confirming a shift towards the joint military-civilian command model. However, in practice, the creation of the S/CRS has raised more questions than it has answered about the military-civilian operational relationship:
-- Although based in the State Department and headed by a senior ambassador, the new office has drawn many of its personnel from within the DoD. It has also relied heavily on DoD contingency funding and has worked alongside the operational commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan.
-- The emergence of the S/CRS as a partner to the military in the planning and command processes has coincided with the re-classification of stabilization and reconstruction operations, by the DoD, as a "core" military activity.
Too busy to describe further ramifications, but they include questions like: will this add to a clearer division of labor within US foreign policy (State vs. DoD)? Will they both try to cherry pick the juiciest pieces and leave the hard stuff unassigned? Will the division of labor and cooperation include and to which degree successfully the UN response organizations, NATO and NATO country equivalents of USAID? How much support and weight does the new under secretary get in the Pentagon internal game? Etc.
Anyway, this is truly good news. Danish readers may consult my DIIS-report Transition til statsbygning efter intervention (i.e. Transition to state-building after intervention) from October last year, which included recommendations in this direction. Related earlier posts include (earliest first):
* Blair's Long War Vision
* The Barnier Report: Slow Step Towards A European State-Building Agency
* USAID's Office of Military Affairs
* UN Peacebuilding Commission: Good, but Still Dependent on the Pentagon
* Cato's Critique of S/CRS is Wrong
* A Civilian Transportation Command?
* Transitioning Rocks: Will DoD and State Deliver?