Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Civilian SSTR Planning: NSC or Private Sector Lead

There's a huge need for a civilian planning capacity related to SSTR and post-conflict situations (I have written about this before). This need may be the single most important element in the organizational transformation need to prepare ourselves for the next time around.

This blog often takes an American perspective - or looks primarily at American developments. This is because US leadership is paramount. Whatever happens elsewhere is likely to be to small to be consequential or effective. But this doesn't mean that other countries - notably the UK or e.g. Denmark - could not in theory either develop interesting concepts or organizational innovations which might either be of use or inspiration to the US institutions (as in e.g. the PCRU).

Establishing better integrated military-civilian planning is the only way to construct a strategically realistic "total cost of life" approach to future interventions. Such an approach should make clear e.g. the need for civilian (local or external) police forces. Of course, the Dobbins Handbook gives hints but we need more concrete planning.

Evidently, the Pentagon is not going to open their warplanning to civilians - not even the NSC. But it would be helpful if the civilian side could at least know that the Pentagon planning process had or will be reformed in accordance with the DoD Directive 3000.05 (the problem is here that the NSPD 44 formally gives State the lead, and the S/CRS does not have resources even remotely comparable to OSD, Pentagon itself or even JFCOM.

Of course, some of this planning stuff could be produced or at least introduced in generic form by the private and international public sector - here preferably the non-profit side - like e.g. a combination of UN people (from the UNDP plus the Peace-building Commission) and relevant think-tankers like the Dobbins people, and maybe concerted or hosted by the ICG.
But in purely US terms, the NSC could play such a role.

The NSC seems to be the only place where funds can be found for this kind of exercise (given substantive executive interest, i.e. will not happen until the next administration). But this means that now would be a good time to spread such and idea in order for it to be somewhere on the upcoming administrations' agendas. Richard Clarke's great "Against All Enemies" explains and exemplifies how an adept operator can help create leeway for interagency policy development inside the NSC. In fact, as he mentions explicitly, he was part of the process for creating POL-MIL plans starting with Haiti. So the nuts and bolts and precedence are there. As always it is more a matter of political will and focus than anything else.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Scandinavia: Weber Incarnate (Plus Bacon)

Oh, and this week's bonus - the most precise and succinct analysis of that region of applied Max Weber: Scandinavia.
Cartoon courtesy of wulffmorgenthaler.com.

Suskind's One Percent Doctrine

Just to stick to the bad conscience theme: Reading is always sweeter when the book you're flipping through as night falls is not the one you ought to read. Actually, in this case we're talking double bad conscience as The One Percent Doctrine by Ron Suskind was a book that was on my list when it came out.

This is not a review, just a recommendation (hereby given) - plus a few general observations:
  • Suskind writes well, very well even. Once in a while even too well when his asides on the general character of modern politics become to fluffy, even if they're generally illuminating.
  • The book underscores the most important lesson one can learn about politics: It is about ideas that are put to work. Not everyone can do grand strategy, but every (political) organization should prize and protect the people they have that will question the assumptions - doxa in Bourdieu's sense - that we take for granted.
  • Explicitness and formalization of the policy process are paramount. It doesn't have to be difficult: hear out the stakeholders and experts, then make a choice. Cherry picking reality is ... evidently idiotic.
  • Even if the GWOT (or the Long war) may be in bad standing in European press and public, nobody can or should close their eyes to the basic challenge that Cheney tries/tried to solve with the one percent doctrine. We cannot allow a nuke to go off in our cities - or elsewhere for that matter. As Blair so emphatically stated in his farewell op/ed in the Economist it is not going to go away - we have to fight this struggle.

Monday, July 02, 2007

GAO Report Confirms Civil Planning Need

New GAO report out on US Stability Operations capability and reform (link here is to pdf). From the exec summary:
DOD has taken several steps to improve planning for stability operations, but faces challenges in developing capabilities and measures of effectiveness, integrating the contributions of non-DOD agencies into military contingency plans, and incorporating lessons learned into future plans. These challenges may hinder DOD’s ability to develop sound plans. Since November 2005, the department issued a new policy, expanded its military planning guidance, and defined a joint operating concept to help guide DOD planning for the next 15–20 years. These steps reflect a fundamental shift in DOD’s policy because they elevate stability operations as a core mission comparable to combat operations and emphasize that military and civilian efforts must be integrated. However, DOD has yet to identify and prioritize the full range of capabilities needed for stability operations because DOD has not provided clear guidance on how and when to accomplish this task. As a result, the services are pursuing initiatives to address capability shortfalls that may not reflect the comprehensive set of capabilities that will be needed by combatant commanders to effectively accomplish stability operations in the future. Similarly, DOD has made limited progress in developing measures of effectiveness because of weaknesses in DOD’s guidance.

DOD is taking steps to develop more comprehensive military plans related to stability operations, but it has not established adequate mechanisms to facilitate and encourage interagency participation in its planning efforts. At the combatant commands, DOD has established working groups with representatives from several key organizations, but these groups and other outreach efforts by the commanders have had limited effect. Three factors cause this limited and inconsistent interagency participation in DOD’s planning process: (1) DOD has not provided specific guidance to commanders on how to integrate planning with non-DOD organizations, (2) DOD practices inhibit sharing of planning information, and (3) DOD and non-DOD organizations lack a full understanding of each other's planning processes, and non-DOD organizations have had a limited capacity to participate in DOD's full range of planning activities.

Although DOD collects lessons learned from past operations, planners are not consistently using this information as they develop future contingency plans. At all levels within the department, GAO found that information from current and past operations are being captured and incorporated into various databases. However, planners are not consistently using this information because (1) DOD’s guidance for incorporating lessons into its plans is outdated and does not specifically require planners to take this step, (2) accessing lessons-learned databases is cumbersome, and (3) the review process does not evaluate the extent to which lessons learned are incorporated into specific plans.
The report then confirms what I have said before (in "The Most Unsexy Headline Ever: Planning Capabilities in the Inter-Agency Process"): We need civil planning - or at least: planning for the civilian side of contingency plans. And nobody - including internationally - has the knowhow and the resources to do it but Pentagon.