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Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee - Military Readiness: Implications For Our Strategic Posture

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Location: Washington, DC


REP. PATRICK MURPHY (D-PA): Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Thank you, panel, for testifying today.

And I know many of us were called to other hearings and other votes. I'd just like to mention that we all know that our servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing a fantastic job and in many of the cases they are doing actually civil affair jobs, so-called nation building, some of which they aren't really trained to do that. But they do their job without complaining.

When I visited Afghanistan last year, and asked some of the troops about their experiences, one said to me, and I quote, "Sir, we are here. Where the hell is everybody else?" End quote.

He wanted to know why soldiers were doing the civil and political jobs that are really the responsibility of USAID and the State Department.

Ms. Flournoy, one of your recommendations is that to increase, quote, "Increase the deployable operational capacity of civilian agencies to reduce the burden on the U.S. military and increase the chances of mission success." End quote. I agree. I think the question for this group is, how?

So I'll ask the panel quickly, the Army is at a breaking point because of repeated deployments to Iraq. So what could we do to get the rest of our government off the sidelines right now so our troops can focus on being the war-fighters and not the nation-builders?

Thank you.

MS. FLOURNOY: I would start by saying, I think there are three or four components. The first is billets. We have now -- we don't have enough civilian spaces, if you will, or we need more civilian personnel in government.

I think we need to create a civilian reserve, and I think we need to enhance our ability to contract civilian personnel with required specialties.

Secondly, incentives; right now, the incentive structure in our various agencies does not necessarily reward or promote operational experience, or preparation therefore. So I think creating incentive structures that say, if you want to make senior executive service, you've got to be, you know, doing things -- operational things et cetera.

And the final thing is the education and training. We don't invest in the professional development of our civilians the way we do in our military.

But we need to create a serious professional development program, if we are going to grow the kind of civilians that can do the integrating function for operations as complex as Afghanistan or Iraq.

MS. PICKUP: One other thing I would add to that, and we have some work going on, for example, on these Provincial Reconstruction Teams which are in some cases the shared responsibility between the military and State and AID.

And I think one of the things that we are looking at is whether there needs to be any policies and procedural changes from a personnel standpoint to incentivize and to, you know, to kind of change the rules of engagement for civilians overseas, in the foreign service et cetera, because the -- you know, the military obviously has an obligation to be mobilized and deployed, whereas the rules governing civilians in combat environments are not quite the same obligations. So --

REP. MURPHY: I think a follow-up that I would have is that under the incentives the system doesn't reward operational experiences. Can you expand on that, and -- well, can you expand on that?

MS. FLOURNOY: Well, if you look -- take, for example, within the State Department the kinds of embassy assignments that historically have gotten you promotions have been in major -- in the capitals of major allies et cetera, not necessarily in conflict zones, nor have we focused on the sort of operational skill sets.

A lot of our diplomats, their training has been focused on representing the United States and reporting back on what they see in whatever embassy they are as opposed to the sort of nitty-gritty negotiation, conflict resolution, political type of skills.

So I think that there is room for creating a cadre of people who are really focused on operational issues, and who are signing up for careers of going to multiple operations over time, and we should reward that and we should incentivize it appropriately. And we just don't do that today within the State Department or USAID or any other civilian agency.

REP. MURPHY: And is that -- that type of change had to be mandated by Congress, or does it have to be just to be -- it sounds like a different culture is needed, but how do we make that change a reality?

MS. FLOURNOY: I think the incentive changes could be done at the leadership level in the departments but the resources are needed -- and Congress needs to provide the necessary resources to support both the expansion of the number of people they are training in professional development and so forth.

I think if the agencies fail to change that incentive, you could -- you have the precedent of something like Goldwater-Nickels where you make a legislative change that fundamentally changes an incentive.


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