• Does the U.S. Need an Office of Contingency Operations for Future Reconstruction Adventures?

    October 24, 2013

    Tags: , , , , ,
    Posted in: Afghanistan, Embassy/State, Iraq, Military

    The oft-repeated pop psychology definition of mental illness– doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results– pretty much sums up America’s limp efforts at reconstruction, nation building, hearts and minds, counterinsurgency, whatever tag you choose.

    Efforts failed spectacularly and expensively in Iraq and (ongoing) in Afghanistan, and just as significantly, though more quietly, in Libya. With Obama having morphing into McCain like an old werewolf movie scene and calling for more wrath in Syria or wherever, it is obvious that the U.S. intends to stay in the nation building business.

    The Return of the Jedi

    One guy with some experience in the trade thinks he has a better idea of how to do this. Stuart Bowen was the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) and produced a series of reports that year-by-year carefully documented America’s failure in Iraq to reconstruct much of anything. Whereas in my own book, We Meant WellI sought to document such failures on the local scale, Bowen’s assessments were Jedi-like, sweeping and Iraq-wide. Through the seemingly endless years of that war, Bowen shouted into the darkness about the waste, fraud and corruption in Iraq. His organization actively sought criminal prosecutions of those doing the wasting and the corrupting. This guy was born with both fists up, and good for him about that.

    In a working document Bowen’s office shared with me, the story is this:

    Who should be accountable for planning, managing, and executing stabilization and reconstruction operations (SROs)? The U.S. government’s existing approach provides no clear answer. Responsibilities for SROs are divided among several agencies, chiefly the Department of State, the Department of Defense, and the United States Agency for International Development. As a result, lines of responsibility and accountability are not well-defined.

    The lack of an established SRO management system forced the U.S. government to respond to challenges in Iraq through a series of ad hoc agencies that oversaw stabilization and reconstruction activities with—unsurprisingly—generally unsatisfactory outcomes.

    A New Hope

    Bowen suggest a new solution, comprising a collection of targeted operational reforms and the creation of an integrated management office— the U.S. Office for Contingency Operations (USOCO)— that would be accountable for planning and executing SROs. You can read more details about his proposed new agency.

    As almost an air-tight endorsement of the idea, both State and Defense oppose it. Bowen explained that both agencies believe that the existing management structure, which diffuses duties between and among varying agencies, is preferable to implementing a new, consolidated system. State believes that SRO problems chiefly arise from insufficient resources and not management weaknesses (Note: A lack of money, and not management problems, is State’s default answer to nearly everything from failure in Iraq to failure in Benghazi).

    The Empire Strikes Out

    While the reality is that just about nobody in Congress will support creation of a new government entity in the current political climate, the Obama Administration remains hell-bent to do some more nation building. If nothing new is tried (that mental illness definition again!) nothing new will happen. Failure is assured. Again. Bowen’s idea is worth looking into as a possible way to break the loop.

    At the same time, a new organization sitting around the table with no purpose other than to tuck into reconstruction may be more dangerous that you think. The bureaucratic rules of evolution that govern Washington say any organization, once spun up, will seek more resources and more reasons to continue to exist. Would having a new office for SRO work simply create another strong voice inside government in favor of more SRO operations?

    The jury is still out on how best to proceed. The best way to win at Fight Club is not to get into it in the first place. Is it too much to dream that maybe the U.S. will just stop invading and intervening abroad, and perhaps create an office designated to reconstructing America instead?

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  • Recent Comments

    • pitchfork said...


      quote:”Is it too much to dream that maybe the U.S. will just stop invading and intervening abroad, and perhaps create an office designated to reconstructing America instead?”unquote
      No, it’s not PVB. However..reconstructing America?? Surely you jest PVB. In fact, you just committed heresy simply by dreaming.
      Let’s stop pretending. The only “America”that exists today is in the minds of those who still think Apple pie and the American flag stand for something. In reality, “America” has been replaced by a Corporate takeover of personhood in the guise of a Supranational Sovereign which seeks to control the entire planet..if not the universe. After all, Capt. Alexander is on the bridge of the good ship USS NSA going where no man has gone before. sheeeezushcrist. What the fuck was this schmuck thinking?…oh..wait..we already know.

      As to A New Hope..ie..USOCO. To me.. this is like proposing a new Congressional oversight committee to oversee the existing Congressional Intelligence oversight committee.. DOH!..wait..didn’t Obomba just do that? Regardless, it just presumes Empire will continue to spread Fight Club across the entire planet, but it needs a new way to make sure we don’t waste money doing it. However..the ruling class just might like that idea. Profits and all that jazz you know. They like that. But reconstructing America?? Hahahahahahahaha! I’d submit they’d burn you at the stake. But keep on dreaming PVB. In the meantime..

      bartender..a round for the house on me. I propose a toast. Here’s to New Hope and dreams. May they continue to help suspend reality for another day. At least till a Swat team kicks your door in and murderers you…by accident of course. youbetcha. Hopes and dreams.

      10/24/13 1:31 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      quote:”Bowen suggest a new solution, comprising a collection of targeted operational reforms and the creation of an integrated management office— the U.S. Office for Contingency Operations (USOCO)— that would be accountable for planning and executing SROs.”unquote

      I think Chris Hedges has a better idea…


      10/24/13 5:55 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Contingency Operations would be nice BUT i’m not going to hold my breath when epic catastrophes are repeated, like what happened to New Orleans after Katrina and simultaneously Iraq, or when human resources offices in the government deliberately hold back job applications for qualified Americans, while putting forward the resume of someone with connections but no basic understanding of the facts on the ground.

      How can such people be expected to devise contingencies when they don’t even know where is point A and where is point B? Katrina itself was about 20 years in the making, trumped and tripped up by political and selfish interests run amuck.

      Contingency Operations should also be accompanied by (yes i’m really dreaming here) what the private sectors does — efficiency reviews, or maybe the private sector in New York does. Companies there hire efficiency experts who then provide advice after thorough reviews on ways to improve operations.

      I’m trying not to laugh as I write this since I can imagine how well that would be taken to in our bureaucracies, where efficiency is sacrificed too often for personal gain or because of political interests that oppose something. If our contractors can’t manage a health website, how are they going to perform for ground zero matters? Contracting companies need to be held accountable too; especially higher up (more dreaming here)

      Jobs with important or potential responsibility are too often secured by people through a broken hiring process that brings in people who have no understanding of the situation on the ground, but hey, isnt it good for the resume?

      10/24/13 9:31 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      The website worked. Who knew so many people would use it?

      10/24/13 10:35 PM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      If there was any doubt, this is “The Dumbest Country on the Planet.”

      10/24/13 10:52 PM | Comment Link

    • Kyzl Orda said...


      Dear Rich, that’s true. I take that back. It says alot so many people do support this healthcare program. It needs more truly affordable options and here’s hoping.

      On the subject of saying something and taking it back, or in this case — wishing they could take it back lol:


      Michael Hayden may finally get in the soup this time. Escaping joking about assassinating Edward Snowden, Hayden is overheard talking disparagingly about the administration while trying to be off the record. If Nate the Security Wonk got the boot, could Hayden who i think is with the Chertoff group see repurcussions of some kind?

      Guess this wasn’t the quiet car

      10/24/13 11:02 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      OMG! Michael Hayden. Priceless. Will wonders ever cease. I couldn’t have wished for a better comeuppance. Actually, I could but I won’t hold my breath for a War crime conviction.

      However, quoting a commenter:

      “This may be the best news story in the history of journalism.”

      Indeed. But tomorrow’s gonna be even better. I can’t wait.

      Bartender.. I’ll have the best beer you’ve got and a shot of Irish whiskey. youbetcha.

      10/25/13 2:15 AM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      ps..Thanks for the link Kyzl.

      hmmm, that is the most unusual name I’ve ever seen. Very nice.

      10/25/13 2:17 AM | Comment Link

    • jim hruska said...


      Do the American people get a say in this discussion?
      I believe the last we voted on the topic of Nation Building we elected(or not) the candidate opposed to the concept. This was 2000 and the candidate GWB.
      If we voted on the subject i believe the people would vote against nation building, especially when ours is devolving into something unrecognizable.
      There’s plenty of nation building required for America.
      Just out of curiosity where is the funding to come from to do this nation building?

      10/25/13 1:07 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      quote:”Just out of curiosity where is the funding to come from to do this nation building?”unquote

      Good question. I suppose the generation born in 2055. With interest of course.

      10/25/13 3:52 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      On a side note…



      damn I needed that.

      10/25/13 11:54 PM | Comment Link

    • pitchfork said...


      PVB. I come here because you are a living definition of a whistle blower. Since coming here, you have help me expand my understanding of the relationship of whistle blowers to virtually every facet of government and corporate corruption, malfeasance, and vindictive abuse of powers.
      Your own story notwithstanding, over time I’ve witnessed all the well known whistle blower debacles from Daniel Ellsberg to Chelsea Manning to Edward Snowden and most in between. But every now and then, I discover a whistle blower’s story that is so sad, so disgustingly wretched, so heartbreaking, and so sickening, it literally makes me outraged. Crazy outraged. Want to tear a USG motherfuckers eyes out crazy. So please..I beg your forgiveness. I have to share this…somewhere.


      Kyzl…excuse me. You know what I’m about to do.

      Oh, and btw…Dear NSA….eat me.

      10/26/13 1:20 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      The US needs an Office of Contingency Operations for Future Fuck-up Misadventures for the Presi-dense to get his- story straight: this weekend we learned Barack Sgt. Shultz Obama never knew the NSA spied on the Germans or other countries not on the Fav Five list, and he never knew the HealthCare.gov website had any programming bugs, and he never knew the Country Team in Libya was told that the US facility in Benghazi was about to be attacked.

      Sleep well, America.

      10/28/13 12:07 AM | Comment Link

    • Rich Bauer said...


      10/28/13 12:14 AM | Comment Link

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