The Fate of the Civilian Surge in a Changing Environment

  • September 17, 2016
  • Mister Ryan Sean McCannell

As the United States winds down its stabilization operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development will face bureaucratic and political pressures to abandon their already modest reconstruction and stabilization (R&S) lines of effort in favor of more traditional diplomacy and development assistance priorities. Yet this period of relative peace allow policy makers to reflect on past challenges to creating a “civilian surge” capacity and determine feasible, acceptable, and suitable ways and means to ensure robust civilian participation in future R&S operations. The author recommends expanding the work of a recently created interagency task force on fragile states to include leading a new generation of civil-military planning tied explicitly to resources, since past planning efforts have not always done so effectively. Civilian agencies should work with the Department of Defense (DOD) to conduct formal interagency after action reviews on R&S activities outside of Iraq and Afghanistan, track and respond to congressional efforts at DOD reform, and encourage R&S knowledge centers to take stock of existing capabilities and reinvigorate their relationships with policy makers.