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Council Task Force Urges United States to Put Nation-building on Par with War-fighting

July 27, 2005
Council on Foreign Relations

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Calls for Overhauling U.S. Government for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations

July 27, 2005-Nation-building is not just a humanitarian concern, but a critical national security priority that should be on par with war-fighting, concludes an independent Council Task Force co-chaired by former national security advisors Samuel R. Berger and Brent Scowcroft. The report, In the Wake of War: Improving U.S. Post-Conflict Capabilities, argues that the United States must acknowledge that "War-fighting has two important dimensions: winning the war and winning the peace."

The Task Force finds that "To succeed, initial military combat operations require advance planning and a substantial commitment of money and manpower. The same is true for the subsequent phase of conflict, commonly called nation-building, and known inside the Pentagon as 'stabilization and reconstruction.' The failure to take this phase of conflict as seriously as initial combat operations has had serious consequences for the United States, not just in Iraq but, more broadly, for international efforts to stabilize and rebuild nations after conflict."

It continues, "In Iraq, pre-war inattention to post-war requirements--or simply misjudgments about them--left the United States ill-equipped to address public security, governance, and economic demands in the immediate aftermath of the conflict, seriously undermining key U.S. foreign policy goals and giving early impetus to the insurgency."

The U.S. government is currently poorly organized for the task of nation-building. "The higher priority now accorded to nation-building has yet to be matched by a comprehensive policy or institutional capacity within the U.S. government to engage successfully in stabilization and reconstruction missions," the report says.

The Task Force calls on the President to make clear that building America's capability to conduct stabilization and reconstruction operations will be a top foreign policy priority. The report recommends concrete ways for the U.S. government to organize to take on these challenges, including giving greater authority to the State Department.

  • "The National Security Advisor and his staff should be formally tasked with civilian-military coordination and establishing overarching policy associated with stabilization and reconstruction activities. This role should be codified in a new National Security Policy Directive, and knowledgeable, competent personnel assigned to fulfill this mandate."
  • "The President and the Secretary of Defenseshould firmly establish that stability operations are a strategic priority for the armed forces. Stability and reconstruction needs to be understood and treated as a mission as important to America's security as high-intensity combat operations."
  • "The State Department should lead all civilian efforts related to stabilization and reconstruction." While the NSC should lead coordination on civilian-military issues, "the Department of State must be empowered to manage and oversee implementation of policy in this area." Further, "The State Department coordinator should be elevated to an undersecretary of state-level position" and a reserve or contingency fund of $500 million should be established for this office.
  • "USAID would lead the day-to-day execution of the programs and activities on the ground." The report recommends creating "a Deputy Administrator for Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations at USAID."
  • The administration should "Establish coordinators for reconstruction-related programs in other agencies, including the Departments of Treasury, Commerce, Agriculture, Labor and Health and Human Services." Also, the administration should "Strengthen the capacity of theIntelligence Community to provide timely and effective information relating to the requirements of stabilization and reconstruction operations."
  • The United States should "Push to create a standing multilateral reconstruction Trust Fund, managed under the auspices of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations." The report says that "The new fund would be capitalized at approximately $1 billion and managed by a donor board consisting of representatives from the G8 member states, the UN, the World Bank, and other contributing countries."

The Task Force also notes that "demand for United Nations involvement in stabilization and reconstruction missions is straining the organization." The report says that "Member states must recognize that many UNSC-authorized missions may be more appropriately led by 'green helmeted' national forces than 'blue helmeted' ones." The report calls for linking Security Council mission approval to resource commitments by member states and establishing an assessment schedule for contributions to post-conflict reconstruction activities.

The Task Force co-chairs and directors urge Congress to fund the President's FY 2006 budget request for the Conflict Response Fund as well as for the operations of the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. Congress should also enact the administration's recent proposal to transfer up to $200 million in FY 2006 from DOD to the State Department in the case of an emergency that requires immediate reconstruction, security, or stabilization assistance.

The Task Force is directed by retired Army Major GeneralWilliam L. Nash, Director of the Council's Center for Preventive Action. The deputy director is former National Security Council staffer Mona Sutphen of Stonebridge International.

Task Force Members

Samuel R. Berger (Co-Chair)
Stonebridge International LLC

Brent Scowcroft (Co-Chair)
The Scowcroft Group

William L. Nash (Director)
Council on Foreign Relations

Mona K. Sutphen (Deputy Director)
Stonebridge International LLC

Frederick D. Barton
Center for Strategic & International Studies

Peter Dexter Bell
CARE USA

Nora J. Bensahel
RAND

Henry S. Bienen

Northwestern University

Hans Binnendijk
National Defense University

Antonia Handler Chayes
The Fletcher School

Jock Covey
Bechtel Corporation

Ivo H. Daalder
The Brookings Institution

James F. Dobbins
RAND

Evelyn N. Farkas
Senate Committee on Armed Services

Shepard L. Forman
Center on International Cooperation

Bob Graham

Chuck Hagel
U.S. Senate

John J. Hamre
Center for Strategic & International Studies

Jane Harman
U.S. House of Representatives

Victoria K. Holt
Stimson Center

Robert D. Hormats
Goldman, Sachs & Co.

Jeff Kojac
U.S. Marine Corps

David A. Lipton
Citigroup

Michael Pan
United Nations

Susan E. Rice
The Brookings Institution

David Rieff

World Policy Institute

Kenneth Roth
Human Rights Watch

Eric P. Schwartz
Princeton University

Michael A. Sheehan
New York Police Department

Walter B. Slocombe
Caplin & Drysdale, Chartered

Gordon R. Sullivan
Association of the U.S. Army

Fareed Zakaria
Newsweek International

Founded in 1921, the Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, national membership organization and a nonpartisan center for scholars dedicated to producing and disseminating ideas so that individual and corporate members, as well as policymakers, journalists, students, and interested citizens in the United States and other countries, can better understand the world and foreign policy choices facing the United States and other governments.


Contact: Lisa Shields, Vice President, Communications +1-212-434-9888 or lshields@cfr.org

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