Nation Building in Iraq Lagging; Administration Seeks More-Experienced U.S. Workers, Longer Stays

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 3, 2005 | Go to article overview

Nation Building in Iraq Lagging; Administration Seeks More-Experienced U.S. Workers, Longer Stays


Byline: Rowan Scarborough, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Low experience levels of federal employees sent to Iraq and their short deployments are hindering the U.S. government's efforts to quickly establish well-functioning government ministries there, say Bush administration officials.

The officials said rules from the Office of Personnel Management meant to safeguard deployed employees can result in sending less-qualified persons. Their expertise is needed to teach such basic government functions as banking, reconstruction, policing and farm policies.

As a result, the Pentagon, State Department and other agencies are brainstorming about proposals to create a permanent rapid-response corps of federal civilians who would deploy on call to rebuild a nation.

"A lot of the biggest challenges we face in Iraq are political and economic," said Larry Di Rita, spokesman for Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. "What we don't have in this country is a corps of qualified and capable civilians that are available for rapid deployment to places like Iraq."

The process is now done on a more-or-less volunteer basis. The State Department assesses what Iraq needs in terms of American advisers and puts in requests to various agencies. At this point, the system sputters.

Under rules by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), any person who volunteers for duty in Iraq is guaranteed their same job in the federal government when they return. This means a seasoned worker may be held back because the agency cannot permanently replace their best workers.

The length of deployments is typically 120 days. …

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