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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Peacekeeping/Stabilization and Conflict Transitions: Background and Congressional Action on the Civilian Response/Reserve Corps and other Civilian Stabilization and Reconstruction Capabilities

Nina M. Serafino
Specialist in International Security Affairs

The second session of the 111th Congress faces a number of issues regarding the development of civilian capabilities to carry out stabilization and reconstruction activities. In September 2008, Congress passed the Reconstruction and Stabilization Civilian Management Act, 2008, as Title XVI of the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2009 (S. 3001, P.L. 110-417, signed into law October 14, 2008). This legislation codified the existence and functions of the State Department Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) and authorized new operational capabilities within the State Department, a Civilian Response Corps (CRC) of government employees with an active and a standby component, and a reserve component. Although the establishment of active and standby units began under the Bush Administration, Congress has yet to fund the reserve component. The first session of the 111th Congress created a new fund to support Corps deployments, but the second session faces questions about the appropriate funding level for it. 

S/CRS was established in 2004 to address longstanding concerns, both within Congress and the broader foreign policy community, over the perceived lack of the appropriate capabilities and processes to deal with transitions from conflict to stability. These capabilities and procedures include adequate planning mechanisms for stabilization and reconstruction operations, efficient interagency coordination structures and procedures in carrying out such tasks, and appropriate civilian personnel for many of the non-military tasks required. Effectively distributing resources among the various executive branch actors, maintaining clear lines of authority and jurisdiction, and balancing short- and long-term objectives are major challenges for designing, planning, and conducting post-conflict operations, as is fielding the appropriate civilian personnel. 

Since July 2004, S/CRS has worked to establish the basic concepts, mechanisms, and capabilities necessary to carry out such operations. Working with a staff that has slowly grown from a few dozen to 175 individuals, S/CRS has taken steps to monitor and plan for potential conflicts, to develop a rapid-response crisis management "surge" capability, to improve interagency and international coordination, to develop interagency training exercises, and to help State Department regional bureaus develop concepts and proposals for preventive action. In 2008, Congress first provided funding to establish civilian response capabilities. Bush Administration plans at that point contemplated a CRC force of 4,250, including a sizable reserve component of private citizens similar in concept to the U.S. military reserve. 

In 2009, the Obama Administration requested $323.3 million in FY2010 funds for the Civilian Stabilization Initiative (CSI) to continue developing and to deploy a CRC active component and a CRC standby component, and to establish a 2,000-member civilian reserve component. In addition, the Administration requested a $40 million Stabilization Bridge Fund under the Economic Support Fund (ESF) to support the activities of deployed CRC members and $76 million to establish a response fund under the USAID Transition Initiatives account. 

The first session of the 111th Congress partially funded this initiative. In the FY2010 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 111-117) Congress provided $150 million for CRC development and support: $120 million for the State Department and $30 million for USAID to support the recruitment, hiring, and training of the first two response corps components, the Active and Stand-by units of federal government employees. Congress did not provide funding for the CRC reserve component. In addition, Congress established a new USAID Complex Crises Fund to support programs and activities to respond to emerging or unforeseen complex crises abroad, but the $50 million appropriated for it falls short of the amount many analysts argue is necessary. 

This report will be updated as events warrant. 

Date of Report: January 28, 2010
Number of Pages: 29
Order Number: RL32862
Price: $29.95

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