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Friday, March 18, 2011

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 112th Congress may face 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. S/CRS slowly expanded, and the creation of the active and standby response components is in progress. Nevertheless, some members have argued for changes. S/CRS was established in 2004 to address long-standing 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. With a staff that has slowly grown from a few dozen to well over 100 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.

Not until four years later, in 2008, did Congress provide the first funding to establish civilian response capabilities, as well as the first line-item funding for S/CRS. (This funding was provided in a supplemental appropriation.) The 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. The Obama Administration proceeded with plans and funding requests to develop S/CRS and its operational arm, the CRC. The 111
th Congress provided funding to expand the active and standby units, but not the civilian reserve. The 111th Congress also established a new USAID Complex Crises Fund (CCF) to support programs and activities responding to emerging or unforeseen complex crises abroad. The State Department/USAID December 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR) proposals, if implemented, would affect S/CRS and the CRC.

For FY2012, the Obama Administration requests $92.2 million for Conflict Stabilization Operations and $75 million for the USAID Complex Crisis Fund. Its proposal for a new, joint State Department-Department of Defense (DOD) Global Security Contingency Fund, with $50 million contributed by each department and a DOD transfer authority of $450 million, may play into consideration of the request.

The 112
th Congress’s consideration of the terms of future FY2011 funding, particularly if based on the FY2008 budget level, may affect the future of S/CRS and the CRC. The FY2008 funding was considerably below the FY2010-FY2011 level, and was appropriated as supplemental, not regular, appropriations.

Date of Report: March 4, 2011
Number of Pages: 36
Order Number: RL32862
Price: $29.95

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