Since 2003, the Congress has obligated nearly $400 billion for US efforts in Iraq, of which about $40 billion has supported reconstruction and stabilization efforts.
Congressional oversight of this substantial investment is crucial as the Bush Administration requests additional military and economic funds for Iraq. The results of recent General Accounting Office audit work proposes three areas for which continued oversight is needed: (1) progress in improving security and national reconciliation, (2) efforts to develop clear US strategies, and (3) Iraqi and international contributions to economic development.
GAO analysts reviewed US agency documents and interviewed agency officials, including the departments of State, Defense, and Treasury; and the US Agency for International Development; the UN; and the Iraqi government. These analysts also made multiple trips to Iraq as part of their work.
Since GAO last reported in September 2007, on the status of the 18 Iraqi benchmarks, the number of enemy attacks in Iraq has declined. While political reconciliation will take time, Iraq has not yet advanced key legislation on equitably sharing oil revenues and holding provincial elections.
In addition, sectarian influences within Iraqi ministries continue while militia influences divide the loyalties of Iraqi security forces. US efforts lack strategies with clear purpose, scope, roles, and performance measures. The US strategy for victory in Iraq partially identifies the agencies responsible for implementing key aspects of the strategy and does not fully address how the United States would integrate its goals with those of the Iraqis and the international community.
US efforts to develop Iraqi ministry capability lack an overall strategy, no lead agency provides overall direction, and US priorities have been subject to numerous changes. The weaknesses in US strategic planning are compounded by the Iraqi government's lack of integrated strategic planning in its critical energy sector. The US strategy assumed that the Iraqis and international community would help finance Iraq's reconstruction. However, the Iraqi government has limited capacity to spend reconstruction funds.
For example, Iraq allocated $10 billion of its revenues for capital projects and reconstruction in 2007. However, a large portion of this amount is unlikely to be spent, as ministries had spent only 24 percent of their capital budgets through mid-July 2007.
Iraq has proposed spending only $4 billion for capital projects in 2008, a significant reduction from 2007. The international community has pledged $15.6 billion for reconstruction efforts in Iraq, but about $11 billion of this is in the form of loans.
The State Department and Department of Defense have begun to take steps to better coordinate stabilization and reconstruction activities, but several significant challenges may hinder their ability to integrate planning for potential operations and strengthen military and civilian capabilities to conduct them.
State's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization is developing a framework for US agencies to use when planning stabilization and reconstruction operations, but the framework has yet to be fully applied to any operation. The National Security Council has not approved the entire framework, guidance related to the framework is unclear, and some interagency partners have not accepted it.
For example, some interagency partners stated that the framework's planning process is cumbersome and too time consuming for the results it produces. While steps have been taken to address concerns and strengthen the framework's effectiveness, differences in planning capacities and procedures among US government agencies may pose obstacles to effective coordination.
DOD has taken several positive steps to improve its ability to conduct stability operations but faces challenges in developing capabilities and measures of effectiveness, integrating the contributions of non-DOD agencies into military contingency plans, and incorporating lessons learned from past operations into future plans. These challenges, if not addressed, may hinder DOD's ability to fully coordinate and integrate stabilization and reconstruction activities with other agencies or to develop the full range of capabilities those operations may require.
Among its many efforts, DOD has developed a new policy, planning construct and joint operating concept with a greater focus on stability operations, and each service is pursuing efforts to improve capabilities. However, inadequate guidance, practices that inhibit sharing of planning information with non-DOD organizations, and differences in the planning capabilities and capacities of DOD and non-DOD organizations hinder the effectiveness of these improvement efforts.
Since 2005, the State Department has been developing three civilian corps to deploy rapidly to international crises, but significant challenges must be addressed before they will be fully capable. State and other agencies face challenges in establishing two of these units -- the Active Response Corps and Standby Response Corps -- because of staffing and resource constraints and concerns that stabilization and reconstruction operations are not core missions for each parent organization.
Congress has not yet enacted legislation necessary for State to obligate funds for the third unit, the Civilian Reserve Corps, staffed solely with non-federal volunteers. Further, State has not fully defined the types of missions these personnel would be deployed to support.
Jim Kouri, CPP is currently fifth vice-president of the National Association of Chiefs of Police. He's former chief at a New York City housing project in Washington Heights nicknamed "Crack City" by reporters covering the drug war in the 1980s. In addition, he served as director of public safety at a New Jersey university and director of security for a number of organizations. He's also served on the National Drug Task Force and trained police and security officers throughout the country. He writes for many police and crime magazines including Chief of Police, Police Times, The Narc Officer, Campus Law Enforcement Journal, and others. He's appeared as on-air commentator for over 100 TV and radio news and talk shows including Oprah, McLaughlin Report, CNN Headline News, MTV, Fox News, etc. His book Assume The Position is available at Amazon.Com, Booksamillion.com, and can be ordered at local bookstores. Kouri holds a bachelor of science in criminal justice and master of arts in public administration and he's a board certified protection professional.