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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

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

In November 2011, the Obama Administration announced the creation of a new State Department Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO) to provide the institutional focus for policy and “operational solutions” to prevent, respond to, and stabilize crises in priority states. This bureau integrates the former Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS). In December 2011, the Administration nominated Frederick D. Barton to two posts: the Assistant Secretary for Conflict and Stabilization Operations and the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization. The second session of the 112th Congress may wish to follow the progress of the CSO Bureau in furthering the work of S/CRS as part of appropriations and oversight functions.

Congress established S/CRS by law in 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 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. Earlier, in 2004, the George W. Bush Administration had stood up S/CRS 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.

From July 2004, S/CRS worked to establish the basic concepts, mechanisms, and capabilities necessary to carry out such operations. With a staff that slowly grew from a few dozen to well over 100 individuals, S/CRS took 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. 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 111th 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 112th Congress continued to fund S/CRS and its successor, the CSO Bureau, as well as the CCF, although at reduced levels. This report does not cover events since the formation of the CSO Bureau. It will not be updated.

Date of Report: October 2, 2012
Number of Pages: 34
Order Number: RL32862
Price: $29.95

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