State Department Gets Major Role in Peacekeeping

Article excerpt

Concluding that U.S. military forces need outside help in restoring peace after a war, the White House has assigned the role of coordinating civilian and coalition efforts in what is now called stability operations to the State Department.

It is a new and unfamiliar assignment for the department. To get the job done, it has created a small agency headed by an ambassadoriallevel coordinator for reconstruction and stabilization to work with all U.S. civilian agencies, United Nations, European Union, NATO, and other allies to help maintain and restore peace and stability.

Established in 2004, the office is just getting started, according to its deputy coordinator for resource management, Christopher Hoh. In early summer, it had a staff of only 39, which were "begged, borrowed and stolen from all over State," he told National Defense. "When you're created in the middle of the fiscal year, you have to do these improvised things."

By 2007, the office plans to have a staff of 80 and a "response corps" of 100 State Department officers trained to deploy to embattled embassies or into combat areas with U.S. military and multilateral peacekeeping forces, Hoh said.

The office intends to solicit temporary volunteers from all over the federal, state and local governments. In the federal sector, for example, volunteers will be sought from the U.S. Agency for International Development and the Departments of Defense, Justice, Treasury, Energy, and Health and Human Services, among others. State and local governments will be asked to contribute volunteers to a rapidly deployable reserve force of police officers and first responders.

The office's mission, he explained, is to lead the U.S. government's civilian efforts to prevent conflicts, when possible, and when it is not, to help stabilize and rebuild societies when the fighting stops. Specific objectives are to:

* Develop policy options for those nations and regions of greatest risk and importance.

* Coordinate the deployment of U.S. resources and implementation of programs in cooperation with international and local partners to accelerate the transition from conflict to peace.

* Establish an interagency capability to deploy personnel and resources an immediate surge response to sustain assistance until traditional support mechanisms can operate effectively.

* Improve performance by conducting regular training, planning and exercises similar to those held by military services. …