Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Aaaaand, We’re Going With the 80% Solution. Again.

Editor's Note: The following is a guest post by Jamie Morgan. The views expressed are her own.
“Smart power,” “the 3Ds”: Everyone seems to have an answer to the national security crisis facing our country. How do we realign our governmental infrastructure to address new and non-traditional security threats? General (ret.) Tony Zinni took a good stab at it today with a funny, thoughtful presentation at the New America Foundation. Yet despite a brilliant analysis of the problem, General Zinni stopped short of pushing the 100% solution. And I don’t think one can approach such sweeping problems with 80% solutions.

General Zinni suggested building a Civil Affairs Command, run by DOD, which would house the requisite capabilities for addressing the social, economic, political, and security efforts involved in post-conflict reconstruction.

With all due respect to General Zinni’s analysis and expertise, here are my problems with his proposed solution:

Low likelihood of full State and USAID participation. The likelihood of getting full participation, cooperation, and integration of personnel from State and USAID is unlikely if a new Civil Affairs Command is under DoD. Look at AFRICOM: The Command had the initial goal of upwards of 100 personnel from State, and after nearly a full year since being stood up, it currently houses 4. The reasons State officials cite for this range from a lack of available personnel to not wanting to send personnel over to make a DoD agency look good (this is of course, not the publically given answer). Regardless, State and AID are not going to come running with personnel and resources for a DoD run venture.

Leaves organizational culture issues unaddressed. While many elements of the culture of DoD are valuable and worth carrying into future organizations (such as the tireless determination to plan), some elements of DoD culture* would not be ideal for post-conflict reconstruction (such as the rigid adherence to organizational rules and models). Building a Civil Affairs Command under DoD rather than an inter-agency organization would not build on the positive cultural elements that State and AID have to offer, and would retain some of the organizational modus operandi that hinder it from being truly effective in post-conflict reconstruction.

Just is not the sweeping reform that is needed. Such an organization would not impart the message of sweeping reform among personnel – which is at the heart of the issue. In order for State, AID, and DoD personnel to really begin to consider the security, developmental, and political issues involved in post-conflict reconstruction, they will need to change the way they think and operate on a day-to-day basis. That type of change is hard for people to make. It takes pushing from on top, and pulling from a few determined soles within. Moving a few boxes on the organizational chart is not going to do that.

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