Once again, Obama has called for a civilian component to work with the Pentagon.
Speaking at a town hall event in Racine, Wisconsin, on July 31 Obama said U.S. troops are carrying too much of the burden in Iraq and Afghanistan and doing too many things that are more appropriate for civilians, such as building schools and setting up justice systems, according to the Associated Press. He called for a civilian component as large as the military.
"We just got to be smart about using all the elements of American power, not just one element of American power," he said. "The problem is — is that we don’t have a civilian effort that has always matched up to the military effort. So the military goes in there, they clear out everything, they’re — they’re making everything secure, and now the question is, all right, can we get the civilians to come in to work with the local governments to improve the situation? And a lot of times that civilian side of it has been under-resourced."
On the campaign trail in 2008, Obama called for a civilian national security force double the size of the Peace Corps and nearly quadruple the size of AmeriCorps and the size of the nation’s military. “We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we’ve set. We’ve got to have a civilian national security force that’s just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded,” Obama said in Colorado Springs on July 2, 2008.
The idea of sending civilians to Iraq and Afghanistan is not new. In 2007, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said defeating terrorism will require the use of more "soft power," with civilians contributing more in communication, economic assistance, political development and other non-military areas. "Gates called for the creation of new government organizations, including a permanent group of civilian experts with a wide range of expertise who could be sent abroad on short notice as a supplement to U.S. military efforts. And he urged more involvement by university and other private experts," the Associated Press reported in late 2007.
In 2005, the Office of Personnel Management partnered with the Department of Homeland Security to create a "21st century human resources management system that fully supports the Department's vital mission," according to then Office of Personnel Management Associate Director for Strategic Human Resources Policy Ron Sanders.
At approximately the same time, the DoD issued a Defense Directive 1404.10 (read PDF) that establishes a "DoD Civilian Expeditionary Workforce" and rescinds a prior Clinton era directive dealing with the emergency use of civilian personnel. The Obama administration describes the Civilian Expeditionary Workforce as follows:
Members of the DoD Civilian Expeditionary Workforce shall be organized, trained, cleared, equipped, and ready to deploy in support of combat operations by the military; contingencies; emergency operations; humanitarian missions; disaster relief; restoration of order; drug interdiction; and stability operations of the Department of Defense in accordance with DoDD 3000.05
"This new directive is odd, coming as it does after campaign promises by Obama to establish a paramilitary 'civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded' as our military," writes Doug Ross.
Obama’s chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, has called for compulsory service for all Americans ages 18 to 25. “It's time for a real Patriot Act that brings out the patriot in all of us. We propose universal civilian service for every young American. Under this plan, All Americans between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five will be asked to serve their country by going through three months of basic training, civil defense preparation and community service,” Emanuel wrote in The Plan: Big Ideas for America.
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