A Medical Enlisted Military Web Community,
For all Military Services.
Past, Present, Future and Relatives of,
All are Welcome.

Friday, June 21, 2024

Reservists eyed for unfilled Afghanistan posts

From AP on Navytimes.com

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is having trouble finding the hundreds of civilians it wants to bolster its troop buildup in Afghanistan, so military reservists might be asked to do many of the jobs.

In announcing the new strategy for the war last month, the administration said it would send several hundred civilians — such as agronomists, economists and legal experts — to work on reconstruction and development issues as part of the military’s counterinsurgency campaign.

Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell said Thursday that the military is trying to find ways to fill the gap. That would likely be with reservists, who often have the necessary skills because of the experience they have in their civilian lives, officials said.

“It’s just a realization that they are not going to be able to provide the ‘civilian surge’ in the near future and the need is now,” Morrell said. “We’re looking at ways to step into the breach and figure out how we can get additional personnel there to help out on the civilian side.”

The Pentagon has been asked to see if it can find 200 to 300 reservists, and officials are canvassing the force to find the needed experts — educators, engineers, lawyers and others, said Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman.

The phenomenon of looking to the military is far from new and was a sore point in Iraq after the Pentagon was asked to do tasks the State Department lacked staff to do. The military, among government departments, has long had more money to train and hire people and a greater ability to order its employees to war zones and other hardship posts.

In an attempt to address this, the State Department in 2006 created a Civilian Response Corps with the aim of building a cadre of hundreds of civilian government workers with expertise in different areas of post-conflict reconstruction.

But funding for the project, led by veteran diplomat John Herbst, was slow to come from Congress. It currently has only 35 of its planned 250 active members from various government departments.

With $75 million more just allocated to the corps, officials said Thursday they are now ramping up staffing and hope to have hired, trained and equipped at least 100 personnel by the end of the year.

In addition to the active component, the corps has a 300-strong standby unit for short-term emergency deployments that officials want to boost to 500 by the end of the year with an eventual goal of 2,000.

At the State Department on Thursday, spokesman Robert A. Wood said he could not specify how many additional civilian personnel the department is planning to send to Afghanistan. He said some Defense Department civilians may be needed to fill some of those slots, but he said he would not consider that a disappointment.

“We plan to fill all the civilian positions on schedule. We will be working closely with other government agencies, including the military, to make sure we have the right mix of both military and civilian staffing,” Wood said.

The administration over the coming months is sending about 17,000 additional combat troops and 4,000 more trainers to mentor Afghan security forces — a buildup long delayed by the war in Iraq as the Afghan campaign became more and more violent in recent years.

Officials haven’t released the number of civilians they want to bolster the new effort and have said there is no firm number yet. But two officials said the number of 500 to 600 was being considered at one point as the new war strategy was being developed in recent months.

In addition to the nation’s 1.4 million-strong active duty armed forces, there are some 850,000 “citizen soldier” reservists across the services. It was unclear whether reservists with needed skills would be activated to fill the Afghanistan positions. It is also possible that they could instead be hired as private contractors rather than going in uniform, one official said Thursday on condition of anonymity because plans are still sketchy.

“We are going to be looking beyond the government resources, we’re going to be looking to our reserve components, where we can tap individuals based on their civilian skill set,” Michele Flournoy, under secretary for defense policy, said in a speech Tuesday.

Comments are closed.