Stabilization and Reconstruction: Actions Are Needed to Develop a Planning and Coordination Framework and Establish the Civilian Reserve Corps

GAO-08-39 Published: Nov 06, 2007. Publicly Released: Dec 06, 2007.
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In 2004, the Department of State created the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization to coordinate U.S. planning and implementation of stabilization and reconstruction operations. In December 2005, President Bush issued National Security Presidential Directive 44 (NSPD-44), charging State with improving coordination, planning, and implementation of such operations and ensuring that the United States can respond quickly and effectively to overseas crises. GAO was asked to report on State's efforts to improve (1) interagency planning and coordination for stabilization and reconstruction operations, and (2) deployment of civilians to these operations. To address these objectives, we conducted interviews with officials and reviewed documents from U.S. agencies and government and private research centers.

The office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) is developing a framework for planning and coordinating U.S. reconstruction and stabilization operations. The National Security Council (NSC) has adopted two of three primary elements of the framework--the Interagency Management System and procedures for initiating the framework's use. However, the third element--a guide for planning stabilization and reconstruction operations--is still in progress. We cannot determine how effective the framework will be because it has not been fully applied to any stabilization and reconstruction operation. In addition, guidance on agencies' roles and responsibilities is unclear and inconsistent, and the lack of an agreed-upon definition for stabilization and reconstruction operations poses an obstacle to interagency collaboration. Moreover, some interagency partners stated that senior officials have shown limited support for the framework and S/CRS. Some partners described the new planning process, as presented in early versions of the planning guide, as cumbersome and too time consuming for the results it has produced. S/CRS has taken steps to strengthen the framework by addressing some interagency concerns and providing training to interagency partners. However, differences in the planning capacities and procedures of civilian agencies and the military pose obstacles to effective coordination. State has begun developing three civilian corps that can deploy rapidly to international crises, but key details for establishing and maintaining these units remain unresolved. First, State created the Active Response Corps (ARC) and the Standby Response Corps (SRC) comprised of U.S. government employees to act as first responders to international crises and has worked with several agencies to create similar units. However, these efforts are limited due to State's difficulty in achieving planned staffing levels for ARC, a lack of training available to SRC volunteers, other agencies' inability to secure resources for operations unrelated to their core domestic missions, and the possibility that deploying employees to such operations can leave units without sufficient staff. Second, in 2004, State began developing the Civilian Reserve Corps (CRC). CRC would be comprised of U.S. civilians who have skills and experiences useful for stabilization and reconstruction operations, such as police officers, civil engineers, public administrators, and judges that are not readily available within the U.S. government. If deployed, volunteers would become federal workers. S/CRS developed a plan to recruit the first 500 volunteers, and NSC has approved a plan to increase the roster to 2,000 volunteers in 2009. In May 2007, State received the authority to reallocate up to $50 million to support and maintain CRC, but it does not yet have the authority to obligate these funds. In addition, issues related to volunteers' compensation and benefits that could affect CRC recruitment and management would require congressional action. Furthermore, State has not clearly defined the types of missions for which CRC would be deployed. State has estimated the costs to establish and sustain CRC at home, but these costs do not include costs for deploying and sustaining volunteers overseas.

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Matter for Congressional Consideration

Matter Status Comments
To better understand the long-term fiscal and oversight commitments that would accompany authorizing CRC, when considering whether to grant such authority, the Congress may wish to consider requiring the Secretary of State, in consultation with other relevant agencies, to report on the activities and costs required for its development; the administrative requirements and annual operating costs once it is established, including for sustainment at home, deployment, and sustainment once deployed; the types of operations for which it would be used; and potential obstacles that could affect recruitment, retention, and deployment of personnel.
Closed – Implemented
In the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (22 U.S.C. 2734 sec. 62(b)), Congress authorized the establishment of the Civilian Reserve Corps (CRC) and mandated, upon establishment, that State submit annual implementation reports to Congress for 5 years. Specifically, Congress required that, if established, the Secretary of State shall provide detailed information on, among other things, the structure, operations, and cost of the Response Readiness Corps and the Civilian Reserve Corps; recommendations to improve implementation of subsection (b) of section 62 of the State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956, including measures to enhance the recruitment and retention of an effective Civilian Reserve Corps; and a description of anticipated costs associated with the development, annual sustainment, and deployment of the Civilian Reserve Corps. However, Congress did not provide funds to establish the Civilian Reserve Corps due to concerns about projected size and costs. State has since sought to replace the Civilian Reserve with a new Expert Corps, consisting of an active roster of technical experts, as recommended in the 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR).

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of State To strengthen interagency planning and coordination of stabilization and reconstruction operations, the Secretary of State should clarify and communicate specific roles and responsibilities within State for S/CRS and the regional bureaus, including updating the Foreign Affairs Manual.
Closed – Implemented
In response to our recommendation, State updated the Foreign Affairs Manual on September 27, 2010 to clarify the specific roles and responsibilities of S/CRS. In addition, according to agency officials, S/CRS conducted a review of the roles and skill sets of offices within State, and of interagency partners involved in reconstruction and stabilization operations. State used this information to determine how these offices and partners could be better utilized in future operations.
Department of State The Secretary of State, with the assistance of interagency partners, should finish developing the framework and test its usefulness by fully applying it to a stabilization and reconstruction operation.
Closed – Implemented
According to State officials, this framework has not been fully developed or applied to a stabilization and reconstruction operation. According to State officials, the primary element of this framework, the Interagency Management System, was never applied to an operation and had flaws which led to the framework never being fully tested. The 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) recommended that a new framework be established?the International Operational Response Framework?which will replace the previous framework. Therefore, according to State officials, the original framework we reported on is no longer in use and will not be applied to a stabilization and reconstruction operation.

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