Small Wars Journal

Lopsided Wars of Peace: America’s Anemic Ability to Project Civilian Power

Mon, 12/12/2011 - 6:54am

One of the most painful, and expensive, lessons we have re-learned over the past decade was best articulated by T.E. Lawrence when he stated, “It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them.”[i]  Yet, if we accept the premise that the long term strategic success of U.S./Coalition undertakings rides most heavily on the motivation, legitimacy, and effectiveness of host governments and their economies, then helping “them” - and thus ourselves – win, requires a significant capability on our part to rapidly promote the transition and development of foreign states to acceptable levels of political and economic stability. These transition and development efforts, whether occurring in permissive or conflict areas, are often grouped under the general terms of reconstruction and stabilization operations

Despite the additional cost in blood, treasure and international standing, the United States has still not adequately developed an interagency capability to project the full spectrum of national power in current, and future, reconstruction and stabilization scenarios. While several administrations have advocated a "Whole of Government" approach, the concept has not been fully conceptualized, institutionalized and resourced. The result is that America remains capable of only an anemic ability to project the full capabilities of the nation, to include non-military, or “civilian power” as the recent Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) calls it. This article will examine the background and scope of America's limited ability to project its full, non-military capabilities and present some possible solutions to address this issue.  While the QDDR’s recommendations are an excellent start, more ambitious change is needed to tackle the scale of the problem. This article’s recommendations center on the need for a Congressional mandate on the scale of the 1947 National Security Act or the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act to fully develop America’s whole of government reconstruction and stabilization capability.


Although we currently lack an agreed upon interagency definition of reconstruction and stabilization operations, [ii] the United States government has a long history of involvement in reconstruction and stabilization operations dating back to the founding of the Republic.  Noted military historian and theorist Max Boot has documented a successful tradition of American involvement in small wars and stabilization operations to include the American occupation of the Philippines after the Spanish-American War and the training of security forces in places such as the Dominican Republic.[iii]  However, the contemporary operating environment places the United States in a far more challenging position than it did in the 19th and early 20th centuries in regards to reconstruction and stabilization operations.  The 24 hour news cycle, international character of most operations, strict rules of engagement, globalization and other factors have created conditions that complicate reconstruction and stabilization operations to the point that capabilities normally outside the military profession are required to be successful.[iv]

Based on current experience and historical precedent, we can neither neatly divide reconstruction and stabilization responsibilities between the military and interagency, nor can we pretend that we can wait to begin developmental work until after we have a completely permissive security environment. Recent Coalition efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan show that both are interdependent and require simultaneous action. The military has a huge role in reconstruction and stabilization operations simply because of the security task it faces and the resources it brings to bear.  A 2005 Department of Defense directive on military support to stability operations said it best: “Many stability operations tasks are best performed by indigenous, foreign, or U.S. civilian professionals.  Nonetheless, U.S. military forces shall be prepared to perform all tasks to establish or maintain order when civilians cannot do so.”[v]  However, many of the national and provincial level developmental tasks are beyond the typical scope and capability of the military.  Military leaders have been forced to make due the best they can with a small Civil Affairs force, contractor augmentation, and the best effort support of the interagency community.  The military's relative lack of capability in reconstruction and stabilization operations has resulted in higher casualties and reduced their probability of success at the operational level.

The U.S. civilian interagency community has a vital role to play in reconstruction and stabilization activities. Lt. Gen. John Vines, while in command of the Multinational Corps – Iraq, put it best when he stated, “As much as I hate to admit it, what we need are more bureaucrats [to build governance capacity].”[vi]  America’s reconstruction and stabilization challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown that the bureaucrats have not always been where they need to be.

Scope of the Problem

While the United States military has a critical role in reconstruction and stability operations, it is neither suited, nor resourced, to carry the full weight of national reconstruction and stabilization responsibilities. Unfortunately, the U.S. military is often forced to do so because its expeditionary capabilities allow it to arrive sooner, and with far greater capacity, than other U.S. organizations. As a result, the military is often comparatively better resourced to do so than anyone else.[vii]  Recognizing this, the Army even states in its primary operations manual, FM 3-0, that stability operations are to be given the same attention and importance as offensive and defensive operations.[viii]  However, many national and provincial level developmental tasks, to include justice system reform, monetary policy, and macroeconomic policy are beyond the typical scope and capability of the military.  It is at this level, the operational level, that the civilian interagency contribution is most critically needed.  The delay in achieving United States stability and reconstruction objectives has increased the price in blood and treasure and the long term probability of success.

As laid out in the QDDR, in order to effectively contribute to large scale reconstruction and stabilization operations such as a failed state, the U.S. civilian interagency community will need to develop an expeditionary capability marked by the following characteristics: 1) The ability to rapidly marshal, deploy, protect, and sustain personnel, equipment and funding (Capability Projection); 2) The ability to surge resources for both short and long term reconstruction and stabilization operations as required (Surge Capability); and 3) The ability to effectively plan, coordinate, and execute strategic, operational and tactical level tasks required to achieve national strategic and operational objectives (Planning and Execution).  Comparing the expeditionary capabilities of the interagency community and the military provides a useful framework for these requirements.

The U.S. military is generally accepted as very capable in terms of projecting and sustaining power on foreign soil, as defined above. Since 2001, the Department of Defense has marshaled and deployed several hundred thousand Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines throughout the Middle East. The military has orchestrated their deployment, combat operations, stability operations, and logistics efforts by committing hundreds of trained personnel to the herculean effort of planning, coordinating, and executing a militarily integrated counterinsurgency campaign throughout the Middle East.  Additionally, in order to meet the dramatically increased personnel demands required to execute these plans, the military has surged its capacity with the largest call-up of reserve forces since World War II, with many reservists serving on multiple tours of duty. Quite simply, this is what the U.S. military is designed to do: execute operations on an enormous scale under difficult circumstances and over long distances.

The military’s structure and demonstrated capability contrast starkly with how the U.S. has designed and resourced the rest of the whole of government response to large scale reconstruction and stabilization operations.  Despite good intentions and talented individuals, many civilian agencies have struggled to marshal and deploy sufficient personnel or adequately plan, coordinate, and execute strategic and operational level tasks. They have also displayed little ability to surge in support of current or future operational demands.

Current Department of State (DoS) and US Agency for International Development (USAID) personnel policy provides manning to the U.S. Embassies in Iraq and Afghanistan on a volunteer basis with contractor augmentation.[ix] A 2005 staff trip report to the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations stated, “The Iraqi reconstruction mission has, from the General Garner days, been challenged to recruit and retain qualified civilians to serve lengthy tours of duty.” There is no evidence that this challenge has abated.[x]  The personnel system is slow to respond to changes and demands, with frequent underlaps occurring with replacements. The result is that we do not always get the right people, with the right skills, in the right place, at the right time.  This situation has been especially acute in regards to attracting highly specialized personnel from agencies that do not traditionally have a foreign focus but are nonetheless crucial in reconstruction and stabilization operations. Time magazine noted that a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq, “criticize[d] the Bush Administration for failing to attract government employees from outside the State and Defense departments to work in Iraq. Result: Scores of unqualified people parachuting in simply to build their resumes and rack up overtime.”[xi]  This has not always been the case. As recently as the Vietnam Conflict, the State Department assigned several hundred FSOs [Foreign Service Officers] to serve on the CORDS [Civil Operations and Rural Development Program] Provincial and District Advisory Teams.[xii] One can imagine the personnel and manning chaos that would ensue if military members could elect which conflicts to participate in on a case-by-case basis akin to the way the U.S. civilian agencies do. If reconstruction and stabilization operations are as important to national security as the both the Bush and Obama administrations have stated,[xiii] then it is not consistent to allow half of the governmental team (the civilian agencies) to participate on a voluntary basis. Describing the early days of the U.S. occupation of Iraq, former Coalition Provisional Authority budget director Rear Adm. David Oliver, lamented that “the coalition nations have millions of the most talented individuals in the world . . . We needed, and did not have, several thousand of them.”[xiv] When we consider these factors, combined with the interagency community’s relative inability to operate in less than permissive threat environments, the limited or delayed operational and strategic successes are not surprising.

The interagency community has neither adequate depth nor breadth of reserves from which to draw upon during times of crisis. Patrick Garvey’s report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee lays out this issue quite clearly when he states that “there is no surge capacity in the civilian agencies. USAID, whose expertise is essential, has had trouble filling the seats it has in Baghdad.”[xv] If operational demands require interagency officers and support personnel for a period of several years (as in Iraq and Afghanistan), there is no ready source of personnel or mechanism to marshal, train and deploy them. Lacking a system similar to the military reserve system to fill these demands, the personnel gap in reconstruction and stabilization operations has tended to be left unresourced or hastily filled by contractors.

Finally, few civilian interagency organizations place as significant an emphasis on preparing individuals for leadership positions and operational/managerial responsibilities through a formal educational process as does the military. The art of diplomacy, policy development and diplomatic reporting is a key role filled admirably by our FSOs.  However, planning and executing large, complicated programs, especially in post conflict environments, is not a function for which FSOs generally have significant training or experience. “Reconstruction and stabilization missions,” notes Patrick Garvey in a report to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “demand program management skills and hands on field experience, rather than policy management and analytical skills needed in traditional embassy positions.”[xvi] Based on a 2004 trip to Iraq, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee staff reported that “several people who had or were serving in Iraq expressed astonishment at the responsibilities they were given for which they were unprepared. For example, personnel with no budget or program management experience were overseeing enormous budgets and developing technical assistance programs.”[xvii] Many interagency leaders were not provided the tools and skills to succeed at operational level decision making, planning, and execution.  According to Max Boot, unless we change the U.S. paradigm, “The Foreign Service [will remain] trapped in a framework straight out of the 19th century, producing diplomats whose primary skill is liaison work with other diplomats.”[xviii]

A Proposed Way Ahead

If the U.S. is to develop a fully expeditionary whole of government reconstruction and stabilization capability, it will require nothing less than a national commitment that would take the form of a Congressional mandate to both the military and interagency communities, a sufficient allocation of resources to implement this mandate, and a mechanism to ensure accountability for progress.

A New Mandate. First and foremost, the U.S. must establish a new mandate for our government in the form of historic, and far reaching, legislation that addresses Capability Projection, Sure Capability and Interagency Planning and Execution, to include binding Guidelines for Interagency Operations.  While S.2127, the Stabilization and Reconstruction Civilian Management Act of 2004, has been a start, the scope of the problem requires bold and far reaching legislation similar in scope and breadth to the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act. This act established the standards of “Jointness” for the military that we now need in the interagency community.  Most importantly, the original Goldwater-Nichols act tied promotion and advancement for officers to service in Joint duty assignments and proficiency in Joint matters.  The Goldwater-Nichols act has been so successful that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has called for the closing of Joint Forces Command, which is tasked with promoting joint matters, in part because “jointness” has effectively taken root throughout the military.[xix]

Current interagency policies offer no such requirements or incentives and as a result interagency cooperation has not reached the level of integration that joint matters have.  This new proposed interagency legislation would provide directives for the military and interagency community in four key areas: capability projection, planning and execution, and guidelines for civil-military operations.

Capability Projection. To better project our capabilities the U.S. must be able  not only, as the QDDR states “get the right people to the right places at the right time”[xx] but also get them there with the right resources. To achieve this, the U.S. Government will have to have to use directed assignments when required, as well as develop civilian interagency pre-packaged elements able to deploy in a reasonable time period. Though the QDDR recommends the creation of a new Department of State Bureau to oversee stabilization missions, the organization currently designated to plan and lead large scale, interagency efforts in complex environments is the State Department's Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS).  S/CRS was created in 2004 by National Security Presidential Directive 44 which also gave the Secretary of State the responsibility to prepare, plan for and conduct reconstruction and stabilization activities.[xxi]  S/CRS most prominent feature is the Civilian Response Corps, a group of federal employees from the Department of State and other federal agencies who have agreed to deploy in support of reconstruction and stabilization operations.  The CRC currently has an active component of approximately 150 members that is deployable within 48 hours and a larger standby group of close to 1,000 employees from other federal agencies that are deployable within 30 days.[xxii]

S/CRS, in coordination with the interagency community, should be granted the authority to request directed assignments from within the State Department and other federal agencies.  In effect, this would mean that if S/CRS, as the lead federal agency in a reconstruction and stabilization operation, concluded that it required three agricultural experts from the Department of Agriculture and two legal experts from the Department of Justice, those agencies would be required to direct assignments for those personnel.[xxiii]

Surge Capability. While S/CRS in its current form is an excellent start, the United States must develop an ability to surge in response to sustained reconstruction and stabilization operations.  Our current capability falls far short of is desirable based on historical precedent.  A 2008 RAND study determined that to reach the same level of civilian involvement that was achieved during the CORDS era in Vietnam of one U.S. civilian official per 14,000 local citizens a country the size of Afghanistan would require 2,000 personnel in country and a country the size of Pakistan would require 12,000 civilian personnel to be deployed.[xxiv]  Using the military's preferred (but still not fully realized) 1-2 ratio of time deployed to time at home for refit and retraining, a fully resourced CORDs level engagement in Afghanistan would require a total strength of approximately 6,000 deployable civilian personnel.  While these are imperfect analogies, it is still clear that America does not possess anywhere close to the ability to deploy such a large number of civilian personnel.  Currently, the CRC has 1,000 active and standby members meaning that it could only deploy about 350 at any one time to ensure that the remaining two thirds of the CRC would be able to adequately rest, retrain, and keep up with their "regular" duties.  

The United States must develop its capability to surge in response to sustained reconstruction and stabilization operations.  Conceptually, this surge capability should resemble a Civil Reserve akin to the armed forces reserve and would provide individuals and potentially small modular organizations to particular agencies in support of long term operations.  The CRC did have plans to develop a reserve component.  This reserve component would have consisted of individuals with expertise in education, public health and other critical skills in short supply in the federal workforce who agree to deploy in support of reconstruction and stabilization operations and participate in periodic training. [xxv]

Unfortunately, Congress authorized but did not fund the CRC reserve component.  As a result, the QDDR recommends replacing the reserve component with an “Expert Corps” of individual technical experts that are willing, but not obligated to deploy.[xxvi]  This proposal should be dropped and instead the State Department should return to its original concept of a robust, well trained and, most critically, obligated reserve component that is similar the U.S. Army Reserve Civil Affairs functional specialists.  To achieve a deployable civilian reserve capability, Congress must not only fully fund the CRC reserve component but also give similar employment and civil relief protection to members of the CRC reserve component as military reserve members currently do.  It will be very difficult to recruit and retain high quality, in demand civilians for possibly dangerous deployments overseas if there is little assurance that their jobs will be waiting for them upon their return.  The current job market makes this protection even more important.    

Planning and Execution. One particular challenge for the interagency community is in the planning and execution of large and complicated programs in areas of ongoing conflict. This is an institutional shortcoming in that we take individuals with excellent educations in diplomacy, political reporting, and policy development, and then expect them, often without adequate training and experience, to work as senior managers, supervising exceptionally difficult projects in insecure reconstruction and stabilization environments.  We must provide our interagency leaders with the tools (primarily training and experience) that they need to succeed in effectively planning, coordinating, and executing long term strategic and operational level tasks.  

The training of both our interagency executives and military leaders should include academic training focused on leadership and execution, institutional training, and, most importantly, realistic Joint/Interagency exercises. Institutional training may include formal coursework at our national defense universities, or ideally, courses taught at a newly created interagency equivalent of the service War Colleges or, as then-Senator Clinton proposed in 2006, a “West Point for public service.”[xxvii]  Such institutions could help ensure a common strategic and operational understanding among our interagency elements and ensure that interagency officials meet essential organizational education requirements prior to promotion and being placed in leadership positions of critical importance.

While major training centers are already in place for the U.S. Military, the United States has not developed methods for realistic large scale collective training for whole of government reconstruction and stabilization operations. [xxviii]  The whole of government in general and S/CRS in particular must develop interagency doctrine and training models to ensure that whole groups of interagency personnel (what the military would call units) are trained and then validated to conduct reconstruction and stabilization operations abroad.  The most important aspect of this training model would be exercises that serve to certify these organizations as prepared to deploy and conduct reconstruction and stabilization operations.  These exercises would be “graded events” and personnel or teams that failed to meet stated requirements would not be allowed to deploy.  A serious commitment to training S/CRS and other interagency organizations that respond to crises would require an interagency equivalent of the National Training Center.  At such a center, S/CRS would be able to exercise the management and operational systems required for responding to complex stability and reconstruction scenarios under difficult, realistic conditions.  Beyond training S/CRS personnel for specific missions, such a center would also serve as a place for State Department and USAID to train on new QDDR related training requirements, skill sets and competencies.  

An additional way to ensure we are prepared to implement a whole of government response to reconstruction and stabilization operations is to increase the number of interagency officers on existing strategic and operational military staffs, and vice versa.  As repeatedly shown in recent conflicts, standing or habitual relationships between individuals and organizations greatly increase the effectiveness and timeliness of coordination between these same organizations in crisis planning situations. For instance, for the last few years, a senior level US Army Civil Affairs officer has been assigned to USAID headquarters in Washington.  This standing relationship paid operationally significant dividends by enhancing coordination between USAID and military elements during the US response to the 2009 Haiti earthquake.  Testifying before Congress, senior USAID official Susan G. Reichle stated that, “The Haiti earthquake response is an excellent example of the impact and critical nature of contributing to interagency collaboration...As a result of years of investment in greater civilian-military coordination, we were able to respond much more effectively.”[xxix]  Better institutionalizing these relationships would greatly increase our ability to coordinate and bring to bear the resources of the whole of government. Additionally, any time DoD is called upon to form a Joint Task Force for a military endeavor, we must ensure the interagency community is represented adequately.

Guidelines for Interagency Operations. Just as the Goldwater-Nichols Act forced squabbling armed services to work together more effectively, the mandate must provide new guidelines for cooperation between the civilian interagency community and the military. Under a new mandate, in situations that do not require significant high intensity combat operations, or at a determined point following these activities, the State Department will have operational primacy for achieving desired economic, political and development objectives. In such cases, the military may be required to provide significant logistical, operational or security assistance to the interagency community. This might take the form of aircraft, medical assets, engineering capability, liaison officers, planning staffs and military training teams. The activities of these military assets would be directed by the U.S. Ambassador with assistance from the senior military commander for the country and the Embassy’s attached Defense Attaché. 

In less stable situations such as a counterinsurgency that are marked by high intensity conflict or prolonged combat operations, and for a necessary period following the end of high intensity conflict, DOD will likely have operational primacy for achieving reconstruction and stabilization objectives. In such cases, the interagency community may be required to provide significant developmental, governmental, reconstruction and stabilization assistance to DOD. This might take the form of deployments of S/CRS active or standby members or even additional directed assignments from DoS, USAID, Department of Justice, Department of the Treasury or liaison officers requested by S/CRS in coordination with the Combatant Commander.  The activities of these teams would be directed by the Combatant Commander responsible for the operation with the assistance of S/CRS and senior interagency representatives.

Clear guidelines would ensure unity of action during all phases of operations, and would, however, require a significant cultural shift for both the military and the civilian interagency communities. However, tying incentives and promotion to overcoming these cultural biases (as Goldwater-Nichols did for Joint matters) is exactly the point of creating a new Congressional mandate.

Resourcing the Mandate. The saying goes, “Vision without resources is hallucination.” The structural changes proposed so far will cost money, and a significant amount of it. Given that federal budgets will be reduced substantially for the foreseeable future, it may seem difficult to ask Congress to actually increase budgets in agencies that to many only seem tangentially connected to national security.  Yet, in terms of our ability to influence world events and opinion, military force is generally the most expensive way to solve a problem, and increasing our non-kinetic capabilities would appear to be an exceptionally cost effective mechanism for achieving the strategic aims defined in the current National Security Strategy. Writing in Foreign Affairs, Secretary Clinton suggests that, "It is time to move beyond the past and to recognize diplomacy and development as national security priorities and smart investments in the United States' future stability and security."  According to Secretary Clinton, diplomacy and development can succeed, "but only with the necessary congressional leadership and support. Congress must provide the necessary funding now."[xxx]

 Accountability for Achieving the Mandate. Lastly, given a mandate and taxpayer resources, we must build in accountability mechanisms for progress, lest bureaucratic inertia overcome any significant changes. Congress, in return for providing increased recourses, should take an active oversight role in implementing these changes and expect the same level of accountability as required by Goldwater-Nichols. A good model is again the Goldwater-Nichols legislation in which the military is restricted in its ability to promote generals who have not served in Joint billets that help broaden them in their exposure to other organizations and help to prevent parochial service views. Additionally, just as military units are evaluated against established performance standards, we must test and evaluate the interagency community's ability to perform its assigned roles and missions in a stabilization and reconstruction environment.  Such evaluation is necessary if the US Government is to achieve a fully realized, and projectable, ability to conduct influence world events.


Our national ability to conduct timely reconstruction and stabilization operations remains anemic due to our limited ability to project "civilian power," the full, non-military capabilities of our nation in a "Whole of Government" manner. We will remain so until we respond to the fundamental changes demanded during this era of persistent conflict by providing our interagency community with a legislated mandate for change, the resources to achieve the mandate, and accountability for progress. Should we continue to embrace the status quo, we will not only jeopardize our ability to achieve the aims of our current National Security Strategy, but continue to risk additional blood and treasure in future conflicts.

This article represents the personal observations and opinions of the authors and does not reflect the official views of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne), the Civil Affairs community, the U.S. Army, or the Department of Defense.

[i] T.E. Lawrence, “Twenty-Seven Articles,” Arab Bulletin, 20 August, 1917, available from, accessed 7 February, 2011.

[ii] U.S. General Accounting Office. Stabilization and Reconstruction: Actions Are Needed to Develop a Planning and Coordination Framework and Establish the Civilian Reserve Corps, GAO-08-39. Washington, DC: General Accounting Office, 2007. Available from (accessed 16 January, 2010), 3.

[iii] Max Boot, The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. (New York: Basic Books, 2002). 

[iv] John E. Herbst, “Addressing the Problem of Failed States: A New Instrument,” Prism 1-1 (2009): 23, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[v] DoD Directive 3000.05, Military Support to Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations, 28 November, 2005.  This directive was canceled in 2009 by updated guidance.  See “Background” section.

[vi] Briefing by LTG John Vines, Baghdad, Iraq, 2006.

[vii] Janie Davidson and Tammy S. Schultz, “What the Troops Really Need,” The Washington Post, 17 December, 2005, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[viii] U.S Army FM 3-0, Operations (Washington, DC: GPO), viii.

[ix] See Department of State, “Iraq Jobs,” Department of State Website, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[x] U.S. Senate. Committee on Foreign Relations. Iraq: Assessment of Progress in Economic Reconstruction and Governmental Capacity. (S. Rpt. 109-40). Washington: Government Printing Office, 2005, 16, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[xi] Sally B. Donnely, “Iraq Rebuilding Follies,” Time, March 6, 2006, available from,9171,1167744,00.html, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[xii] Iraq: Assessment of Progress in Economic Reconstruction and Governmental Capacity, 15.

[xiii] See The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, March 2006, 12 and The National Security Strategy, May 2010, 14.

[xiv] Rowan Scarborogh, “U.S. Lacked Plan for Rebuilding Iraq, Report Says,” Washington Times, February 27, 2006, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[xv] Iraq: Assessment of Progress in Economic Reconstruction and Governmental Capacity, 15.

[xvi] Ibid., 20

[xvii] Ibid., 20.                                                                                                    

[xviii] Max Boot, “Diplomacy for the Real World,” Los Angeles Times, February 22, 2006.

[xix] John T. Bennett, “Sen. Blasts Closed-Door Decision to Close JFCOM,” Defense News, 28 September, 2010, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[xx] United States Department of State, “Quadrennial Diplomacy and Defense Reviews,” USAID website, available from, accessed 01 March, 2011, 159.

[xxi] National Security Council. National Security Presidential Directive-44. Washington: Government Printing Office, 2005.

[xxii] Samuel S. Farr, "From Idea to Implementation: Standing up the Civilian Response Corps," Prism 2-1 (2010): 19-20, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.  A fully manned CRC should have an active component of 250 and a standby component of 2,000.

[xxiii] Currently, NSDD-38 grants the Chief of Mission the authority to determine staff size at his or her embassy.  A directed assignment policy may require updating or replacing this directive.

[xxiv] David C. Gompert and John Gordon IV, et al. War by Other Means (Arlington: RAND Corporation, 2008), 116-7.

[xxv] United States Department of State, “Reserve Component, Civilian Response Corps,” State Department website, available from, accessed 16 January 2011. “(CRC Reserve Component members) will enter into an agreement with the Department of State to serve for 4 years, during which time they will be expected to deploy for one year…Upon entering the Reserve Component, they will be required to attend 2-3 weeks of orientation training, and will receive 10-15 days of pre-deployment training prior to each deployment. In addition, they must attend 5-10 days of annual training throughout their service.”

[xxvi] “Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review,” 145.

[xxvii]Hillary Rodham Clinton, “Challenges Facing the United States in the Global Security Environment,” Council of Foreign Relations Website, 31 October, 2006, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[xxviii] See United States Department of State, “Exercises and Experiments,” State Department website, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011 for a brief summary of S/CRS collective training opportunities and philosophy.

[xxix] Susan G. Reichle, “Statement of Susan G. Reichle Senior Deputy Assistant Administrator Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance: National Security, Interagency Collaboration, and Lessons from SOUTHCOM and AFRICOM, Before the Subcommittee on National Security and Foreign Affairs, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, U.S. House of Representatives,” USAID website, 28 July, 2010, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.

[xxx] Hillary Rodham Clinton, "Leading through Civilian Power: Redefining American Diplomacy and Development," Foreign Affairs, November/December 2010, available from, accessed 16 January, 2011.


About the Author(s)

Sean P. Walsh is a candidate in the Masters of Science in Foreign Service program at the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.  Prior to beginning his studies at Georgetown, Sean Walsh served 7 years as an Army officer first as an infantry officer with the 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment and then as a Civil Affairs officer in the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade. His last piece in Small War Journal was “Lopsided Wars of Peace” with COL Brian M. Michelson.

Lieutenant Colonel Brian M. Michelson, U.S. Army, is currently serving as the Deputy Commander of the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne). His previous assignments include command and staff positions in Afghanistan, Iraq, South Korea, Laos and CONUS.


gian gentile

Tue, 12/13/2011 - 7:24am

The only way to make this work is to either militarize the country along the lines of World War II where the major institutions of state were involved in the war effort, or, establish imperial institutions along the lines of the British in the second half of the 19th Century. Of course neither of these two options are politically feasable in America today. As a result, if we are to do more campaigns of nation building then it will be the American army and marines doing them. We can lament, plead and hope all we want but the reality is just that, it will be only the army and marines carrying out these campaigns.

And then of course strategy should also kick in and we should ask do we have vital interests in the world that demand such a committment in treasure. It seems that parts of the American defense establishment have accepted by rule that if we break something we therefore must fix it; but the fixing is also a question of strategy and should not be seen as automatic.

I'm the outlier on SWJ, but our lack of ability to colonize other nations and make little Americas is a strength, not a weakness. The ability to assist governments (not build them) is adequate, but agree with the authors that the IA process is broken and we waste millions of dollars on failure because of it. However, like military tactics without strategy being the noise before failure, building a government that isn't accepted by the constituents is also the noise before failure. Overall I agree with the authors' points, but there is something missing regarding strategy and feasibility that must be addressed before we start throwing resources against the problem.

Given that an effort to (1) use the opportunity presented by the conflict to (2) fundamentally change the political, economic and social structure of various countries (to wit: reconstruction and stability operations) are often more counterproductive than productive (can create more enemies than friends; aggravated when more rather than less foreign military and civilian personnel are involved in the process),

And given that the immediate goal is to make the host nation government more rather than less attractive,

Then should:

a. More "close to home" (indigenous political, economic and social structures) be utilized to accomplish this more immediate, pressing and short-term goal (attractiveness of the host nation government),

b. And efforts relating to our long-term strategic goals (the modernization -- along Western lines -- of the state and society) be left to a different time and a different forum?