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General Links Future Success to Interagency Cooperation

By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 13, 2009 – Interagency operations are going to increase as the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan transition away from combat and into support and stability ventures. How to best coordinate those operations is at the forefront of many high-level discussions.

Army Brig. Gen. Ed Cardon, deputy commandant of the Army Command and General Staff College, discussed how the military and interagency cooperation in training and education will become more vital as future deployments involve stability operations during an Oct. 8 “DoDLive” bloggers roundtable.

Cardon spoke from an interagency symposium co-hosted by the Center for Complex Operations at National Defense University and the Combined Arms Center, at which he and other leaders discussed the issues interagency operations could face and how to resolve potential problems.

“A lot of those problems can be addressed through better interagency coordination and training, and so this conference is addressing those two things specifically,” he said.

A book released Oct. 7 is going to be a great help, Cardon said. The U.S. Institute of Peace released "The Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction," a handbook for civil agencies working alongside the military on provincial reconstruction teams and similar units.

“What's so significant about this is, while we have … doctrine, especially in the Army -- a guideline for how we conduct our operations -- the U.S. Institute of Peace now created the first civilian guideline to operations with stabilization and reconstruction,” he said. “So this is going to be powerful as we move forward, because … there's some accusations that we're over-militarizing the civil agencies. Now, they have their own document to use.”

He said one key thing U.S. civil agencies lack is a process like the military’s that allows people to attend school and train, Cardon said. Another is the lack of allowance for manpower to devote new missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Rather than creating a number of new positions to allow for the new operations, he explained, agencies such as the State Department have to pull qualified people from other positions, often leaving vacancies.

“[One of our men in Iraq] was the economic advisor in Hong Kong. That slot was empty for the year while he was gone,” Cardon said. “And so every one of those … experienced officers out of any of the departments and agencies, the slots they come from are left empty. And that's something that has to be addressed.”

Cardon said bringing in civil agencies is paramount to accomplishing American missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The military is very effective at “hard” force, but isn’t very good at applying the other kinds of tactics in post-combat stabilization, he said. Agencies such as the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and the International Red Cross are designed specifically for diplomacy and development.

“There are times when the right phone call to the right person at the right time is equal to battalions of combat power,” he said. “That's based on personal relationships. Those personal relationships are mainly built through a diplomatic corps that has held us in good stead since the birth of our country.

“But we don't tend to think of that except at the State level,” he continued. “We need to bring this down much, much lower, and, as a result, you [would] have a much more efficient use of our organizations, of our resources, and people that we put on the ground.”

Cardon said cooperation between the military and civilian agencies needs to be streamlined and ironed out so current and future stabilization operations follow standard procedures. While the military is re-learning lessons about stabilization operations, he added, missions to come will benefit from having best practices laid out so different civil departments can contribute to stabilization efforts.

“Often, I think, we focus on the challenges. But there are also a lot of opportunities,” Cardon said. “And so I'd like to see a more formalized working group that will take on these issues. And we're certainly going to offer our part. We're doing a lot and we need to do more.”

(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity’s emerging media directorate.)

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