Ambassador John Herbst serves as the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization at the U.S. Department of State.
My name is John Herbst. I’m the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization in the Office of Reconstruction and Stabilization at the State Department. This is a relatively new office. It was created not quite five years ago, and it was created in response to the problems we ran into in Afghanistan, and especially Iraq, providing civilian oversight for the activities needed to rebuild those societies.
S/CRS was created to do two things: one, to organize all assets on the civilian side of the U.S. Government for conducting successful stabilization operations to make sure we had the right plan, the right implementation group, the right strategy to reconstruct society; two, we were organized to establish a Corps of civilians with the right skills needed to deploy into a crisis. S/CRS has come a long way in the last almost five years, and we are in the process right now of building a Civilian Response Corps of 600 people. We have also created a system for organizing the U.S. Government – we call it the Interagency Management System – which has been thoroughly tested, and parts of which have been used in real-life crises.
S/CRS has an office now of over 100 people. And we have deployed our people to hot spots around the world. They have seen action in Darfur, in eastern Chad, in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Haiti, Kosovo, Lebanon, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Our people have gone to these different places to do different things. For example, in Haiti, we helped train police. We helped provide the equipment and the wherewithal for police to return to Cité de Soleil, which is the principal slum in the city of Port-au-Prince, a slum which had no policing until we helped put police back there. We sent an expert on the rule of law to Liberia to help develop the legal system there to run in a way which we all consider to be fair. We’ve had our most important deployments in Afghanistan. We have had as many as 12 people on the ground there. We’ve helped every American Provincial Reconstruction Team write a plan of civilian operations.
At our urging, the last couple of months, our Embassy in Kabul stood up an interagency group, called the Interagency Civilian-Military Action group – the Integrated Civilian-Military Action group – to help ensure that all American efforts in Afghanistan were fully coordinated – the efforts of the Defense Department, USAID, the State Department, Justice Department, and so on.
S/CRS is looking for people to staff the Civilian Response Corps. The Civilian Response Corps will have employees from eight different agencies. We will have a special component (inaudible). The inner core of this is what we call the active component. These will be people who have no jobs but to deploy to places in crisis. We are looking for people who have the skills needed in a country which has a very poorly functioning government, who have a sense of adventure to join the Civilian Response Corps. We’re looking for people who are able to provide oversight in areas like engineering, the people involved in the rule of law, policemen, judges, corrections officials, attorneys. We’re looking for public administrators, public health officials, for city planners, port operators, agronomists. We’re looking for people with these skills, a sense of adventure, and willing to contribute to American national security by helping countries where we have great national security interests at stake to stabilize. This is the future, I think, of the State Department – this expeditionary capacity to put people on the ground in dangerous situations where American interests are on the line.