- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 17, 2008

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice inaugurated the U.S. government’s first-ever civilian nation-building team Wednesday in a bid to learn from missteps in Iraq and Afghanistan reconstruction efforts.

The “active” component, called the Civilian Response Corps, is a team of 250 federal employees from several agencies - diplomats, development specialists, public health officials, law enforcement and corrections officers, engineers, economists, lawyers, public administrators, agronomists and others.

Their primary responsibility is to deploy to crisis spots around the world within 48 to 72 hours.

“This is a mission that requires the integration of security, diplomacy and development,” Miss Rice said at a State Department ceremony.

For the team’s active members, the response corps will be a full-time job. Another 2,000 who have other federal jobs will serve as the “standby” component, said John Herbst, the department’s coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization.

About 37 percent of the active corps will come from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), about 30 percent from the State Department and the rest from the departments of Justice, Commerce, Agriculture, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services and Treasury, Mr. Herbst said.

Members of the nation-building corps already have deployed to missions in Sudan, Chad, Haiti, Lebanon, Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, although the numbers are much smaller than the targets of 250 active members and 2,000 standby members.

Only 100 active members have been hired so far because the $75 million appropriated by Congress is less than needed to fund the operation.

The administration has requested more than $248 million in next year’s budget, which has yet to be approved.

Plans call for active and standby members to be supplemented with another 2,000 “reserve” members from state and local governments, as well as the private sector.

“America’s federal civilian workforce has a long and distinguished history of service in difficult environments abroad,” the State Department said. “Yet the challenges of the 21st century require a significant increase in our capacity to respond quickly and effectively to emerging threats to the security of the United States and our friends and allies.”

USAID administrator Henrietta Fore “inducted” Miss Rice as an honorary member of the corps.

The secretary previewed the effort in a March interview at The Washington Times.

“There’s been a lot written about Iraq and did we have the civilian side right after the initial overthrow of Saddam Hussein,” she said at the time, a reference to the criticism of the administration for its well-documented mishandling of Iraq’s reconstruction.

The Pentagon was in charge of the initial phase of reconstruction.

“The Defense Department will be the first to tell you they couldn’t, in a coherent way, put together all the different functions - police, justice systems, city planners, governance people and so forth - that were needed to do that,” Miss Rice told The Times. “But the State Department certainly didn’t have the capacity to do that.”

The administration later created Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan, which usually are headed by senior diplomats and include other civilian specialists working with the military.

Because of the need to help stabilize and rebuild weak, war-torn or poorly governed countries, Miss Rice has advocated “transformational diplomacy” as a part of the Foreign Service’s future.

“We had a structural problem,” she said. “If you look at post-conflict societies, you are really not talking about war and then peace. You are talking about a continuum, where you are continuing to fight terrorists and extremists at the same time in a counterinsurgency way that you are trying to win the population by providing goods and services and governance.”

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