The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction’s “Hard Lessons” review of the American rebuilding effort in Iraq covers the reconstruction funds available to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) and the staffing problems it faced in its Chapter 7. In the fourteen months that the CPA was operating it spent around $20 billion, but the lack of qualified personnel greatly hindered this effort.
The CPA had four sources of funds available to it during its tenure. First an executive order gave it control of $1.7 billion in frozen Iraqi assets. Second, U.S. forces found $900 million during the invasion, mostly in Saddam’s palaces. Third, the CPA was given command of the Development Fund for Iraq, which was created in May 2003 by the United Nations to receive all of Iraq’s oil and gas revenues as part of international sanctions. Finally, in April 2003 Congress approved $2.4 billion for the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund. The seized assets mostly went to pay for Iraqi government salaries and pensions, while the other money went to reconstruction. 70% of the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund was appropriated to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) that had already started rebuilding projects immediately after the invasion. Paul Bremer and the CPA had little control over the USAID, but tried to control their job orders, which set off bureaucratic battles between the two. That left the Development Fund for Iraq as Bremer’s primary source of cash for the CPA’s rebuilding plans.
The CPA’s reconstruction effort turned out to be ad hoc at best. Bremer said that Iraqis were supposed to be involved in the process, but were only given token positions. The CPA was also to come up with a comprehensive funding plan, but never did. There was little oversight over spending either, which auditors criticized during and after the CPA’s existence.
Another major drawback to the CPA’s plans was the lack of adequate staff. During its entire fourteen months it’s estimated that it never had more than 66% of the people it needed. Originally, the CPA inherited 600 staffers from the Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs (ORHA), the original civilian agency tasked with post-war Iraq. The Pentagon ordered the Army to fill military positions that the CPA needed, but other government agencies were never able to fill the remaining slots due to their own lack of staff. There were various recruitment programs set up within the Bush administration, but these never proved effective enough. There was also a very high turnover rate, which robbed the CPA of an institutional memory, and many people sent lacked experience in the Middle East, conflict situations, or reconstruction. The growing insurgency in Iraq also was a strong deterrent from more Americans going to work in the country.
Overall, the Special Inspector General thought that the CPA’s reconstruction effort was poorly planned and staffed, and inadequately managed. The Bush administration went to war thinking little about the post-war situation, and lacking any coordination in its plans. It believed that the U.S. would be greeted as liberators, Iraqi bureaucrats would be back to work the day after Saddam fell, and a new government instantly installed with little American involvement. Instead, the state collapsed, chaos reigned, and the White House was left unprepared. The CPA itself was a panic move after the administration decided that the ORHA couldn’t handle the situation, and went about running Iraq for fourteen months in the same ad hoc style that it was put together. Its lack of staff and especially consulting of Iraqis over what they wanted would make much of its effort to rebuild Iraq a failure.
Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09
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