by Major Jay Liddick and Dr. David A. Anderson
Like the post-9/11 Bush administration, the Obama administration must confront numerous security threats to U.S. national interests at home and abroad. The Obama administration, however, has the added challenge of a severe domestic economic recession. Amidst the economic quandary, President Obama and Congress must prudently go about the arduous task of determining how to best utilize U.S. resources to mitigate national security threats in a domestic environment demanding fiscal discipline.
Of the many existing threats to U.S. national security, weak and failed states are one of the gravest. In his book Wars, Guns, and Votes: Democracy in Dangerous Places, Paul Collier asserts that countries with an annual per capita income of less than $2,700 are more likely to incur political upheaval, insurgencies, civil war, and coups. Around the world, there are 53 countries whose average per capita gross domestic product is less than $2 per day. The sheer number of states that fall into this category and their caustic emanations make dealing with weak and fragile states both daunting and impossible to ignore.
In its 2010 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, the State Department admits the U.S. government suffers from a lack of diplomatic and development personnel and an inability to apply its existing departments and agencies in a unified, complementary, and coherent manner in response to such states. In the development- promoting realm alone, the U.S. has 33 different established goals, 75 priority areas, and 247 directives, stretched over 12 departments and 25 agencies, with no national strategy linking them together.
Two of the most notable Bush administration and congressional efforts to integrate U.S. capability in addressing weak or failed states were the establishment of the Office of the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) within the State Department to lead and coordinate conflict prevention and responses and making stability operations a core U.S. military operational task. While both actions seem appropriate, the following examination will indicate neither has resulted in an optimal level of capacity to stabilize weak, failing, or failed states. Additional measures are needed to develop fully the means necessary for this purpose. These measures include greater funding and staffing of S/CRS and establishing Congressional Reconstruction and Stabilization Oversight Committees in both houses of Congress.
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