The war-funding request the Obama administration will send to lawmakers in coming weeks will include monies to begin building an interagency "civilian response corps" to tackle a number of political, economic and developmental tasks in places like Afghanistan, the new Pentagon policy chief says.
Michèle Flournoy, recently installed as the undersecretary of defense for policy, said March 27 that the war supplemental will feature "a substantial request for resources on the civilian side" of the federal government.
In comments made during a Brookings Institution-sponsored forum in Washington, Flournoy said the revamped Afghanistan strategy unveiled earlier the same day by President Obama "requires a down payment" on beefing up certain capabilities within non-Defense Department arms of the federal government.
She did not say where in the executive branch the corps would be placed, but recommended it not be in the military.
The idea behind using the second 2009 war-funding measure - the Bush administration crafted the first one - is to "hopefully get this off the ground," Flournoy said.
She did not disclose a specific dollar amount or a number of how many civilians would be needed to fill out the envisioned response corps, and declined to speak to reporters following the event.
U.S. Army Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, commander of the service's Combined Arms Center, said during the same forum that it is imperative that Washington strengthen the ability of nonmilitary agencies to do a host of economic, developmental, diplomatic and political tasks.
"If you ask commanders on the ground [in Iraq and Afghanistan] what they're doing, they will tell you 70 percent to 80 percent of what they do every day are things we wouldn't typically think of as what a military should be doing," Caldwell said.
Carlos Pascul of Brookings - who has held key posts at the National Security Council, State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development - said the Obama administration should create a 250-person civilian team do carry out the so-called "three Ds" in places where U.S. assistance is needed. Those Ds are diplomacy, developmental and defense.
Flournoy said the civilian team will be crucial because she sees a higher probability in coming years that the military "will be asked to prevent a war than fight a war." That prediction, she said, is driven by her calculation that weak governments and failed states will be a major driver of the "future threat environment."
Pascul said the U.S. government should resist placing the new corps under DoD, even though it might make funding easier.
The Obama administration has yet to disclose its full defense and national defense strategies. Its first Quadrennial Defense Review will be completed later this year.
But Flournoy offered a window into the threats the administration believes Washington likely will face in coming years. In addition to weak states, her list includes:
■ Violent extremists.
■ Nuclear proliferation.
■ The rise of China and India, and the decline of other nations.
■ The emergence of "more autocratic governments."
■ Conflicts over and competition for energy resources and minerals.
■ The ramifications of climate change."
■ Increasing globalization.
■ The global economic crisis.