Nina M. Serafino Specialist in International Security
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
represents a “second generation” effort to develop civilian capacity to deal
with conflict, integrating the “first generation” Office of the
Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS).
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 “Lugar-Biden” 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
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 to establish 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.
As background for the 113th Congress’s
possible consideration of civilian capabilities, this report covers their
development through the formation of the CSO Bureau. This report will not be updated.
For information on the CSO Bureau, see CRS Report R42775, In Brief: State Department
Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations (CSO), by Nina M. Serafino.
Date of Report: December 19, 2012
Number of Pages:34 Order Number: RL32862 Price: $29.95
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