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Old 02-03-2009   #1
MikeF
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Default Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience

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The Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) has just posted their new publication - "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience." It can be bought from GPO or downloaded from http://www.sigir.mil/hardlessons/default.aspx

"Since the March 2003 invasion, the Congress appropriated about $50 billion in taxpayer dollars for Iraq's relief and reconstruction. This generous provision funded a continuously evolving rebuilding program that sought, among other things, to restore Iraq's essential services, establish new security forces, create a free-market economy, and put the country on the path to achieving an effective democracy. Some of the initiatives succeeded but others did not. Hard Lessons, the first comprehensive account of the Iraq reconstruction effort, reviews in detail the United States' rebuilding program, shedding light on why certain programs worked while others fell short of goals."
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Old 02-03-2009   #2
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Default When is the right time to invest money into a COIN environment?

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Iraq reconstruction history details waste, failures Joe Sterling, CNN

Iraqis in Diyala province sarcastically call it "the whale."

The "skeletal, half-built" shell of a maximum-security prison in Khan Bani Saad "will probably never house an inmate" even though the United States spent $40 million on the now-halted $73 million project.

Marred by "poor security and weak subcontractor performance," the project is among several examples of Iraqi rebuilding problems cited in a just-published history by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Titled "Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience," the report says the massive reconstruction initiative was marked by waste and failures caused by "blinkered and disjointed" pre-war planning -- and was pursued amid deteriorating security.
As I've been sorting through the SIGIR report and media commentary, I've kept trying to consider when the timing is correct to use money. Obviously, METT-C is the answer, but there's gotta be something more to it.

GEN Patraeus is fond of saying that money is a weapon in COIN. While true, it works both ways. A loaded weapon in the hands of a child is a very dangerous prospect. Outside of all the great things our boys have done in Iraq, Return on Investment (ROI) is not one of them.

One approach that my last commander taught me worked well in a denied area- coercive civil affairs. Outside of Essential goods and services like food, water, etc..., projects were limited to a "you help me, and I'll help you basis." We made it absolutely clear that we had a lot of money to spend, we wanted to help, but we would not waste the US taxpayer dollars until the violence fell to a minimal level. Some thought the approach to harsh, but it worked. For example, what is the point in paving a road if three months later it will have thirty IED holes that require major repair?

Anyways, I think this discussion is important as we transition from COIN to SSTR in Iraq and try to rethink our strategy in Afghanistan particularly given the financial crisis at home.

So, when do you use our money in a COIN environment?

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Old 02-03-2009   #3
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Default

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Originally Posted by MikeF View Post

GEN Patraeus is fond of saying that money is a weapon in COIN.
Well if anyone said that, it needs to be held to rigour! Seems grossly simplistic and misleading to me.
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Old 02-03-2009   #4
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Default MNC-I COMMANDER'S COIN GUIDANCE- June 2008

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MNC-I CDR'S COIN GUIDANCE
21 JUNE 2008
Employ money as a weapon system. Use a targeting board process to ensure the greatest effect for each “round” expended, and to ensure that each engagement using money contributes to the achievement of the unit’s overall objectives. Ensure contracting activities support the security effort, employing locals wherever possible. Employ a “matching fund” concept when feasible in order to ensure Iraqi involvement and commitment.
I wanted to make sure that I got my sourcing right on that one. I am not suggesting GEN Patraeus has a simplistic view on how to use money. On the contrary, I think he probably understands it ten times better than me.

On the other hand, I think that his advice can be misinterpreted at times to be "if I give out money, then I will win the support of the populace." It goes back to the much-abused "soccer ball" jokes about civil affairs.

I'm just trying to garner a discussion about timing and conditions for effectively employing funds in a COIN environment tempered with accountability, discretion, and discernment.

IMO, we simply did not do this well in Iraq.

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Old 02-03-2009   #5
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Default Good questions...

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Originally Posted by MikeF View Post

One approach that my last commander taught me worked well in a denied area- coercive civil affairs. Outside of Essential goods and services like food, water, etc..., projects were limited to a "you help me, and I'll help you basis." We made it absolutely clear that we had a lot of money to spend, we wanted to help, but we would not waste the US taxpayer dollars until the violence fell to a minimal level. Some thought the approach to harsh, but it worked. For example, what is the point in paving a road if three months later it will have thirty IED holes that require major repair?

Anyways, I think this discussion is important as we transition from COIN to SSTR in Iraq and try to rethink our strategy in Afghanistan particularly given the financial crisis at home.

So, when do you use our money in a COIN environment?
Mike,

These are meat and potatoes questions which would benefit from a quantitative study so that we could systematically target our training program on this subject both across the force and for our SME's.

Out in the field I provide guidance/make decisions using judgment, experience, and a quick rule of thumb: 1) Life threatening, 2) Life sustaining, 3) Life enhancing.

The FOG is handy for # 1 decisions.

Our SME's who work on #s 2 and 3 often have experience in cost estimating, cost-benefit analysis, technical project management, COTR training, etc..

The great majority of this background for reservists comes from our civilian work experience. IMHO It would be beneficial for the Army to formally consider who needs this type of training by ASI/MOS so that we can better synch the lethal/non-lethal mix.

Training days, money, and SME's are always in short supply...

Regards,

Steve
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Old 02-03-2009   #6
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Default Insights are appreciated...

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Originally Posted by William F. Owen View Post
Well if anyone said that, it needs to be held to rigour! Seems grossly simplistic and misleading to me.
William,

You are much closer to the short/mid-term effects of proposed/ongoing/completed reconstruction in Gaza and Lebanon than I and so I would appreciate your thoughts (and suggested references) on the following:

From Haaretz

Quote:
Egypt will host an international conference on March 2 to raise funds for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip recovering from the destruction caused by a 22-day Israeli offensive, Egypt's foreign ministry said Friday.
From the Independent and Robert Fisk

Quote:
Hizbollah has trumped both the UN army and the Lebanese government by pouring hundreds of millions of dollars - most of it almost certainly from Iran - into the wreckage of southern Lebanon and Beirut's destroyed southern suburbs. Its massive new reconstruction effort - free of charge to all those Lebanese whose homes were destroyed or damaged in Israel's ferocious five-week assault on the country - has won the loyalty of even the most disaffected members of the Shia community in Lebanon.
I am keeping my eye out for a comparison of the effects of reconstruction efforts; the RAND Studies are the best that I have found to date...

Best,

Steve
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Old 02-03-2009   #7
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Default comparative cases

In Gaza, there is considerable uncertainty as to how reconstruction funds might be spent, since donors don't want Hamas to be able to claim any of the credit, and the PA has no real administrative control on the ground (although, ironically, it continues to pay the salaries of Gaza civil servants). Moreover, unless 1) Israel opens the border to construction materials it is almost impossible to do any reconstruction (especially since most of the cement factories in the Strip were destroyed in the recent fighting), and 2) unless Israel opens the border to regular commerce the reconstruction makes little difference (since the economy was already sharp decline due to closure).

When one looks at polling data from the territories it is hard to see much correlation between aid and attitudes, or indeed between any socio-economic indicators and political attitudes. I suspect who controls Gaza reconstruction, and how much there is--however important in a humanitarian sense--will only have marginal effects on the political views of Gazans, or the balance of power between Fateh and Hamas.

In Lebanon, Hizbullah has certainly spent money faster (in its areas) than has the weak and often very ineffectual Lebanese government. The conventional view of this is that it purchased Hizbullah considerable good-will. I'm doubtful, to be frank: I think other factors account for most of its support among Shi'ites, and its reputation among southern Sunnis and Christians has probably never been worse.



I don't doubt at all that money greases the wheels of politics, and that patronage can be an effective tool of stabilization and regime consolidation. However, this is not always the case: normative/ideological and other concerns are also important, and although some people, causes, and groups can be bought, others can't. People are also perfectly capable of taking aid and still disliking you! Social science has done a poor job of determining when patronage works, and when it backfires.

Donors also have a terrible tendency to throw around big offers of assistance, to the point of frankly making up pledging numbers for press releases that bear only passing resemblance to likely disbursements.
They then fail to deliver or deliver slowly, for both good and bad reasons). This can create a real crisis of unmet expectations among locals, who start to wonder why they aren't seeing any of the promised benefits.


Regards sources on all this, Shep Forman and Stewart Patrick, eds. Good Intentions: Pledges of Aid for Postconflict Recovery (2000) has a lot of useful comparative studies. I did considerable work on assistance to the Palestinian territories, pre-intifada. I'm not aware that anything systematic has been written about Lebanese reconstruction.
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Old 02-04-2009   #8
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Default Failure of Process

Thanks to all for the links and synopsis of relevant case studies. I'm still sorting through all the information. As COL Jones (Bob's World) stated in an earlier thread,

Quote:
The U.S. currently does not possess a Grand Strategy of any sort, let alone one designed for the post-Cold War world we live in today.
If we look at the overall problem from that perspective, then the issue of over-spending or inappropriate use of funds is one of process deriving from the absence of grand strategy. So, I suppose we need to begin with the elephant in the room (strategy), develop the proper big government task organization (structure), and derive the appropriate doctrine (processes) equipped with adequate funding and resources (means) from congress to meet the desired endstate.

Sounds simple.

In the short term, it is probably imperative for junior officers to get smart on USAID doctrine and comparative nation-building case studies to ensure that we are honest brokers and good stewards of the taxpayers' dollars.

v/r

Mike

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Old 02-12-2009   #9
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Default Looks like a busy weekend...

The Rand Technical Report TR 633: Guidebook for Supporting Economic Development in Stability Operations

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This guidebook is designed to help U.S. Army personnel more effectively use economic assistance to support economic and infrastructure development. The guidebook should help tactical commanders choose and implement more effective programs and projects in their areas of responsibility and better understand the economic context of their efforts. It describes key characteristics of the economic environment, the key players that soldiers are likely to encounter, and who may be involved in what sorts of assistance efforts. It also provides suggestions on what to and what not to do, with examples from current and past operations. Suggestions on providing assistance are grouped into the following areas: humanitarian assistance; infrastructure and essential services; agriculture; currencies, budgets, finance, and foreign trade; private sector development and employment generation; natural resource management; and the effects of the U.S. military on local economies. To write this guidebook, the authors visited commanders in Afghanistan, conducted interviews with returning U.S. military officers, drew on their own experiences in Iraq, Liberia, and the Balkans, and tapped the substantial literature about effective economic assistance.
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Old 02-13-2009   #10
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Default Fiscal Responsibility in SSTR

After we established a reasonable level of stability in Zag, we started working with the local leaders to re-establish essential services. We deliberately tried to do it as cheaply as possible for two reasons:

1. We were an economy of force mission so most resources and funding went to Baghdad and Baqubah.

2. I had a standing philosophy that we shouldn't waste US taxpayer's dollars.

I've observed several units using metrics of how much money they spent with no regard to Return on Investment (ROI) as if that was an indicator of success. To me that was absurd.

Anyways, instead of spending several hundred thousand dollars to build schools and medical clinics, we met with the local doctors and teachers and either reopened the old facilities or turned existing buildings into the new facility. We paid the professionals to go back to work, the IA to pull security, and we provided CL VIII supplies and school supplies.

At the time, we did it on the fly. Most of the ideas stemmed from some of my sharp Staff Sergeants. In retrospect, it was pretty successful. Below is a link to two of my boys coordinating the efforts.

http://www.realmilitaryflix.com/public/313.cfm

After all the death and violence we observed throughout the civil war and the surge, this transition was welcome for the boys. They felt like they were starting to see some fruits from their labor.

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