Monday, July 10, 2006

Fixing Phase IV

Blogger’s Note: I’m back. Insert lazy blogging excuse here. Actually the truth is that I went and got myself back on active duty…errr…well kind of. I joined the active guard and reserve program. So I’m still home in sunny Austin, TX but just wearing different clothes to work. I’ve been busy transitioning careers, and the blogging policy where I’m at is a little unclear. That's the cause of the slow down. I’ve been hesitant to seek clarification lest I get a cease and desist order, but I figure blogging about this topic is okay.

I’ve been shooting my mouth of in the blogosphere for over a year now, and I guess somebody finally listened. Myself, Bobby Bran, and a couple other smart guys submitted our ideas for a panel at the 2006 TRADOC/CSI Military History Conference this summer at Fort Leavenworth. I’m pretty excited. LTG David Petraeus and Andrew Krepinevich are scheduled to be speakers.

The name of our panel is “Breaking Out of the Box” and is intended to be a discussion on how the US can better organized itself for support and stability operations. The tentative title of my presentation is: “If You Build It They Will Come: The Case for Establishing Standing Reserve Civil Affairs Packages for Nation-Building and Security Assistance Operations”.

My bright idea centers on the fact US military and government is not particularly well structured for “Phase IV” operations—that nasty “nation building” thing that we don’t do. The military is well adapted to enter and survive in zones of conflict. We second to none when it comes to blowing things up and breaking things. But, then what?

The truth is that our efforts in both Iraq and Afghanistan have stalled, and the way our military and government is structured is partially to blame. We’ve wished away the nation building problem, and it’s biting us in the ass. Soldiers don’t necessarily posses the skills needed to do all the things it takes to win in “Phase IV”, and the governmental entities like USAID, although they are in the fight, aren’t “expeditionary” in nature. And military civil affairs is often stretched to thin.

What’s needed is a force to bridge the gap between military and civilian skill sets. We need a force that the military controls and doesn’t have to rely on other agencies to use. We need a way to “crowdsource” the American people. We need to create reserve civilian augmentation force to military that taps into the deep reservoir of skills that our nation possesses.

The type of person that I envision recruiting for this effort is someone who is already well-established in their career or profession-- the type of person who is unlikely to join the military or become a pay-for-play contractor, but who wants to help their country. These people would be afforded the same protections of the soldier and sailor relief act, and organized along the lines of provincial reconstruction teams. The teams would be task organized around the different regional combatant commands like CENTCOM.

The teams would be a mix of military and civilians and train to be experts in their regions. They would participate in team-building exercises like Cobra Gold, and be available for the military to use without having to say “mother may I” to the rest of the government or worse having to hire contractors.

Team members would have specialties such as agriculture, education, emergency services, small government, business, public health, utilities, information management, etc.

Of course, the military does have soldiers with these skill sets, but it’s hit or miss when or how you get them. A guy like me could join a civil affairs team and be educated to manage a certain program that I may not be an expert in. I could help you set up an emergency management program, but judging by my brown-thumb landscaping skills, I would not be the right guy to manage an agriculture program. My idea would allow the military to recruit, train, and retain, the right tool for the job. A guy who is an agriculture professor at an institution like Texas A&M is unlikely to elect to go to basic training, but given the opportunity, he might lend a hand by joining a program like this.

So what do you think? Would you join something like this? If so, what skills would you bring with you?