View Full Version : Have you worked with CERP -- the Commander's Emergency Response Program

05-02-2008, 03:33 PM
Hi, My name is Dana Hedgpeth and I'm a reporter with the Washington Post and I registered on this site to try to make contact with any military personnel who have recently gotten back from Iraq. I would like to talk to people who have worked with CERP -- the Commander's Emergency Response Program. I'd like to know how this program actually works in the field? Is it successful? I can be reached at hedgpethd@washpost.com or by phone, 202.334.6113. Thanks in advance for your time and help, Dana Hedgpeth

05-02-2008, 04:12 PM
The first person you might want to ask is someone with a Civil Affairs background to first give you an overview of the different types of funds that are similar to CERP.

I'm not a CA guy and not willing to do an interview, but just a recommendation here - recognize that CERP is but one of numerous similar programs. I often had to consult a JAG Officer to figure out whether what we were trying to attempt required CERP or something else. It often has to do with whether you are doing things that directly or indirectly benefit the ISF, whether it directly or indirectly benefits local (non-ISF) Iraqis, etc. CERP has become such a commonly used term among rank and file folks like me, that people often say "CERP" when they mean some other type of fund. It has become synonymous with "money that we request for some Iraqi contracting project."

And, yes, it does work well. We always told our paying agent that, "dude, you are sooo money." I hereby grant you free license to use that as the title for your article.

05-02-2008, 09:26 PM
Hi, I like the dude you are sooo money quote. Do you have suggestions of how I find civil affairs folks who are recently back or still there? I need Army guys and people who can explain how it works. What I'm interested in knowing is how the money is tracked...Suggestions of where to find the civil affairs folks is welcomed. Thanks Dana.

05-02-2008, 10:10 PM
Just sent an e-mail to an old CA hand / guru directing him to this thread. Not sure if he will see it over the weekend...

05-02-2008, 10:40 PM
I think most Civil Affairs personnel are concentrated in Fort Bragg, NC. However, there might be some reserve Civil Affairs units closer. The reservists get deployed pretty often, so I am sure they can speak to CERP in Iraq (or the Afghan equivalent).

As for how the money is tracked, it is a painful process for the staff officers, routine for the paying agent, and mind-boggling to anyone seeing it for the first time. It actually begins before the money is even requested. Here is a short list of the paper trail, off the top of my head. Keep in mind I forget the form numbers and technical terms...

Before even thinking of using CERP funds...
- Paying Agent and Project Purchasing Officer get a short course on how to draw, account for, and pay funds, what they can be used for, not used for, etc.
- PA and PPO get a certificate proving that they got the training, above.
- Commander appoints the individuals above as the CERP PA and PPO for the unit with a memorandum for record
- Commander also fills out some DD/DA Form appointing the PA and PPO and it gets signed by a CERP manager and/or commander at some higher echelon and signed by the commander of the nearest finance office where the PA will draw funds
- PA and PPO get specific briefings on the SOPs for the finance unit that they will draw funds from (and another document certifying that they have had this additional training)
- I will hereafter refer to this paperwork, above, as "the stack" (not a commonly used term - so don't go asking people about "the stack")

Now, if the need for a project or other disbursement of cash is identified...
- Write a memo authorizing a need for the project (signed by an O-5, though this may have changed)
- Submit a multiple page request for the project (usually a locally-produced form that varies by command)
- Submit multiple bids (usually three bids are required from local contractors)
- Have your JAG Officer review it to make sure it is actually CERP funds that are appropriate and not some other type of fund and to make sure that it is within the legal boundaries
- Send the stuff above, along with "the stack" to the next higher echelon CERP manager

All of the stuff above must be approved by each echelon, up to whatever echelon is the approving authority (usually depends on dollar amount)

Once the approving authority approves the funds...
- A PR&C is issued
- The PA takes the PR&C to the finance office
- A DD Form (some kind of money hand receipt) is used to document that the money was disbursed to the PA
- The PA uses a copy of that DA/DD Form to document that the money was paid to the contractor
- The PA obtains a receipt from the contractor
- Before and after photos are taken (to document that the funds were used as requested and to update the commander on progress)
- If the project takes a while, weekly updates, with photos, are submitted
- An after action review of the work is generally submitted after the project

From the time the PA draws the money, he is personally accountable for it. He clears his account by bringing the following the finance office...
- Original receipt of funds disbursed from the office to the PA
- Receipt from the contractor
- DD/DA form signed by the contractor
- Memorandum signed by the commander (usually O-5) stating that the funds were disbursed in accordance with the reasons stated in the request.

Once finance accepts the paperwork above, they issue the PA an updated receipt showing that his account is cleared.

The CERP manager for his unit forwards this, along with the receipts mentioned above, all of the request forms, and "the stack" to the higher CERP manager, who reviews it and sends it to the echelon-above-reality CERP folks who handle such stuff.

Keep in mind that I have not been involved in this for nearly a year, so SOPs may have changed, approval authorities for types of projects and dollar amounts may have changed, and I am sure that there are numerous unit-specific rules that exist in addition to those noted above. For a good overview, I recommend that you talk to Civil Affairs personnel who have actually deployed on a Civil Affairs team (CAT-A team), a finance unit that has worked in northern Iraq (specifically Tal Afar or Diyala province) and in Anbar province, and a staff officer who has handled the paperwork bundle mentioned above (I think it is the S-7 or S-9). For even more fun, ask them about the joys of passing around this paperwork trail when the unit operates over a large area and the PA, CERP manager, and staff officer are all in different locations.

The paperwork is often more painful and time consuming than the project. However, the paperwork is handled by disgruntled staff officers, not by the "boots on the ground" Soldiers. So, in that regard, the system works. The pain and paperwork are handled by over-caffeinated staff officers who are stuck behind a desk. The guys on the ground just identify the project, request the cash, obtain the cash, account for it as they would account for a weapon or piece of night vision, make the payment, and then clear their hand receipt. And then the Iraqi people get to enjoy a new school, a new well, a new police station, et cetera, the media ignores it, even if our Public Affairs Office writes them a press release, with photos. And the news back home reiterates the number of American Soldiers killed. Repeat as necessary.

05-26-2008, 12:55 PM
The 450th CA Battalion's based out of Riverdale Park. You should check them out. Since there's only one Regular Army CA brigade, the reserve units have really carried the lion's share of the work.

I'm guessing the angle of your piece is to either:

1) give an overview of CERP and what it's doing downrange in local communities in-country, or

2) standard WaPo piece implying gross mismanagement and lack of accountability of taxpayer funds, how terrible everything is, ad nauseum

I can tell you a little how the money's accounted for and tracked, but you're better off finding a resource management guy with deployment time, rather than a non-RM like myself. Contrary to what you might think, the money's almost overaccounted for. Schmedlap did an awesome job of documenting the pain involved with using funds like these.

Whichever way you're going, just please, pretty please with sugar on top: talk to some actual people involved in day-to-day use of this program. As a former journalist, I'd like to assume you haven't already formed your thesis (likely COA2, given your editor's track record), but I know that writing about something that isn't hopelessly jacked-up or criminal doesn't sell papers. PM me directly if you're looking for a contact. I know someone who will be able to talk to you.

07-05-2008, 07:51 PM
Attached is a general overview of construction options in Iraq. It is theater specific and I think the funding limits have changed. It will give you some information on CERP as well as other programs to tie your CERP dollars into to get a bigger bang for your buck.

Have to e-mail it to you. Too big.

07-07-2008, 04:21 PM
Thank you. Any other suggestions welcome.