The Civilian Expeditionary Force: Obama Says ‘Burden’ Can’t be All on the Military

By Alex Pepper

Jun 30, 2010 4:49pm

From Sunlen Miller

During his town hall in Racine, Wisconsin today President Obama spoke about the civilian expeditionary force within his National Security Strategy.

“We just got to be smart about using all the elements of American power, not just one element of American power,” he said.

The president pointed to Iraq and Afghanistan where military personnel are having to engage in work that he said really should be civilian work– like building schools and bridges — because of under-resourcing on the civilian side

“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.”

Mr. Obama said the burden should not be all on the military.

“Make sure that we've got a civilian expeditionary force that, when we go out into some village somewhere and the military makes it secure, let's have that agricultural specialist right there, let’s have that person who knows how to train a police force right  there, let's — let's have all those personnel and let's make sure  that we are giving them the support that they need in order for us to  be successful on our mission.”

The president warned that if the civilian side is shortchanged it could lead to another “very dangerous situation”  if the diplomatic work is not done and  “the only solution is a  military solution that might cost us five times as much.”

Within the administration’s National Security Strategy – released at the end of May – one of the components is a civilian expeditionary force which the White House says is  “fundamental” to national security.

“Our diplomatic personnel and missions must be expanded at home and abroad to support the increasingly transnational nature of 21st century security challenges,” the NSS writes, “And we must provide the appropriate authorities and mechanisms to implement and coordinate assistance programs and grow the civilian expeditionary capacity required to assist governments on a diverse array of issues.”

-Sunlen Miller

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