DoD Officials Reviewing Recommendations in Reconstruction Report
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 18, 2003 Defense Department officials are looking hard at recommendations regarding rebuilding Iraq that a team of post-war reconstruction experts made in a report released July 17.
The team's five experts spent 11 days in Iraq from June 26 to July 7 and presented officials at DoD and the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq a 10- page report, entitled "Iraq's Post-Conflict Reconstruction," consisting of seven major areas of concern.
Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith told reporters in the Pentagon July 18 that the report is "a professional and incisive assessment of conditions in Iraq."
However, he cautioned, officials are still reviewing the findings and recommendations. "Not everyone in the Pentagon or in the U.S. government agrees with every factual analysis or judgment or recommendation in the report," he said. "But it is a serious piece of work with lots of good observations and good ideas in it."
The ideas put forth in the report "are worthy of consideration," Feith said, "even if we don't necessarily see the whole situation exactly as laid out in the report."
In a foreword to the report, the team's leader, former Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre, wrote that the team saw "significant progress" while in Iraq, but that "the enormity of this undertaking cannot be overstated."
"There are huge challenges ahead," wrote Hamre, who is now president of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan think tank.
The seven major areas of concern in Iraq, according to the report, are:
- Establishing public safety;
- Providing the Iraqi people "ownership" in the rebuilding process;
- Putting people to work and providing basic services;
- Decentralizing key functions of the Coalition Provisional Authority;
- Changing the Iraqi national mindset "from suspicion to trust (and) from skepticism to hope";
- Mobilizing a new coalition dedicated to reconstruction; and
- Providing the CPA with "complete flexibility to spend money."
In the report, each area of concern is followed by two to seven recommendations. For example, on ensuring public safety, the team recommended reassessing force composition and troop levels to immediately improve "street-level visibility of coalition troops" and contracting more "private security forces" at low-risk locations.
The next 12 months in Iraqi reconstruction "will be decisive" and team members are "very worried about (security in) the next three months," said Frederick Barton, a senior CSIS adviser and a former U.N. deputy high commissioner for refugees. "Security is the precondition for all progress," he added during the Pentagon press conference with Feith.
The team members also felt the Coalition Provisional Authority must work "to facilitate a profound change in the Iraqi national frame of mind," according to the report.
Unfortunately, the coalition forces have "limited information" on the Iraqi mindset, Barton said.
"At the same time, we don't think we're doing anywhere near as much as we could (be) in terms of informing the Iraqi public ...," he said. "Everything from (the need for) national unity to what's happening to your electricity today needs to be much more broadly disseminated.
"At this point there is a great demand for hard information in a country where trust really has not existed and where there's never been anything but propaganda."
Barton said this would require "a full-scale national marketing campaign, not some sort of polite public-information effort."
In the section of the report regarding the authority's flexibility to spend money without bureaucratic hold-ups, the team recommended that the DoD "create a strong office in Washington to support the CPA's needs."
This, Feith said, is an example of a recommendation from the report that Defense Department officials were already moving full steam ahead on.
DoD is in the process of "significantly strengthening what we call the reach- back office that originally served the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, which is now the Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority." The new organization, the Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority Representative, will include representatives from government agencies that support the CPA's mission.
Feith described the office as "a convenient portal for people who are interested in being in contact with the CPA."