Monday, November 10, 2008

About That Civilian National Security Force

There has been a lot of buzz lately on Obama's plan to create a Civilian National Security Force:
We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives that we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded.
Now, this comment has evoked images in some corners of brownshirts, Gestapo and the SS. I think its something much more mundane than that. There is a debate in the field of counterinsurgency on the role of the military and the role of civilian agencies like State Department and USAID. Most counterinsurgency professionals agree, and Secretary Gates has echoed these thoughts, that civilian capabilities are not where they should be, leaving the military overworked as they try to create security, as well as the state-building activities normally undertaken by civilian agencies. Secretary Gates has called for increased funding for our civilian agencies, and has even mentioned that if he legally could (in other words, he doesn't want to, he's just making a point), he would give the State Department some DoD money.

The military's role in counterinsurgency is to create security so that civilian agencies can go to work rebuilding a country and consolidating gains made. Recently, State created a new division - the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, also known as S/CRS - to coordinate civilian response in counterinsurgency, stability operations and other state-building activities. It is woefully underfunded and undermanned. I suspect this is what Obama was speaking to - however clumsily. If this is what he meant, I can guarantee you it will get strong support from the Pentagon, as it would take much of the excess burden off the military to let it get back to doing what it does best - killing terrorists.

As for that mandatory national community service that the Obama had up - and then subsequently altered - on its transition page, that's concerning. I suspect these are two separate initiatives though.

UPDATE: No sooner do I write this that someone goes and gives a perfect example of the criticism.  Of course, it would be helpful if Obama clarified what this means...as it would be helpful if he clarified his position on, um, everything.

3 Comments:

Blogger Chakra Healing said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

On newsstands today, the "In Box" Section of Time Magazine has a piece that addresses this subject.

“Walter Isaacson persuasively presents the case for a Civilian Reserve Corps that would harness the skills of American engineers, doctors, judges and teachers to help in troubled areas [Sept. 22]. I am pleased to inform TIME's readers that such a group, the Civilian Response Corps, is already coming into existence. The Corps will consist of Active, Standby and Reserve components. The Active and Standby components, which will be prepared to deploy abroad rapidly, will draw on the expertise and experience of U.S. government employees from eight departments and agencies. We are in the final planning stages for the Reserve. For Americans willing to make a commitment to service for a limited period of time, their experience with the Civilian Response Corps could change the way they see the world and, perhaps more important, change the way many in the world see us. The next President will have in his first year in office a new instrument to manage one of the principal national-security challenges of the 21st century. Ambassador John E. Herbst, Coordinator for the Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization, U.S. State Department WASHINGTON”

For more information on the Corps www.crs.state.gov

5:41 PM  
Blogger Todd said...

On newsstands today, the "In Box" Section of Time Magazine has a piece that addresses this subject.

“Walter Isaacson persuasively presents the case for a Civilian Reserve Corps that would harness the skills of American engineers, doctors, judges and teachers to help in troubled areas [Sept. 22]. I am pleased to inform TIME's readers that such a group, the Civilian Response Corps, is already coming into existence. The Corps will consist of Active, Standby and Reserve components. The Active and Standby components, which will be prepared to deploy abroad rapidly, will draw on the expertise and experience of U.S. government employees from eight departments and agencies. We are in the final planning stages for the Reserve. For Americans willing to make a commitment to service for a limited period of time, their experience with the Civilian Response Corps could change the way they see the world and, perhaps more important, change the way many in the world see us. The next President will have in his first year in office a new instrument to manage one of the principal national-security challenges of the 21st century. Ambassador John E. Herbst, Coordinator for the Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization, U.S. State Department WASHINGTON”

For more information on the Corps www.crs.state.gov

5:42 PM  

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