Friday, September 7, 2012

July 2004, The American Effort In Iraq Comes Under New Management, But Still Facing The Same Problems

At the end of June 2004, Paul Bremer handed over sovereignty to a new interim Iraqi government, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) ended, and Ambassador John Negroponte took over the responsibility for America’s diplomatic relations with Baghdad. At the same time, General George Casey replaced General Ricardo Sanchez. Those two changes marked the beginning of an entire new set of senior U.S. leaders in Iraq. Ambassador Negroponte and General Casey wanted to reorganize American priorities in the country, namely focusing upon security, which they believed was tantamount to rebuilding the country. As part of this process three separate reviews were carried out of the reconstruction effort, and new organizations were created to manage it. This added more bureaucracy, increased the divided lines of authority, and led to long delays and cancellations of on-going projects. While the change in emphasis was needed, it was executed badly as too many things in Iraq ended up being.
Amb. Negroponte came to Iraq at the end of June 2004 and wanted to focus upon securing the country (AP)
The end of the CPA brought about new American leadership in Iraq. At the end of June, Ambassador John Negroponte took over the diplomatic mission in Baghdad, while at the beginning of July General George Casey replaced General Ricardo Sanchez. Negroponte and Casey had a shared vision of what needed to be done in Iraq, and were generally upset with the previous state of affairs. They both felt that without security nothing could be accomplished. They wanted to reprioritize the rebuilding effort to put more money into Iraq’s security forces, and then governance and the upcoming 2005 elections. At the same time, the White House was hoping to reorganize the reconstruction effort. National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 36 created the Iraq Reconstruction and Management Office (IRMO) and the Project and Contracting Office (PCO). The IRMO was to come up with strategy, while the PCO covered acquisition and management. All the new leaders and organizations were supposed to streamline reconstruction, and give new purpose to the endeavor. What ended up happening was that it added more bureaucracy, and a series of reviews, which only slowed and complicated the process.

A perfect example of the new difficulties was the effect of NSPD 36. The Iraq Reconstruction and Management Office (IRMO) and the Project and Contracting Office (PSO) were supposed to centralize control over reconstruction projects, which had often happened in an ad hoc manner under the CPA. Instead, the two new agencies created more, and often overlapping chains of command. The IRMO for instance, was run by the State Department, while the PCO was under the Pentagon. On top of that, there was already the Multi-National Security Transition Command-Iraq and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), both of which continued to be independent. The head of the PCO Charlie Hess reported to General Casey, the secretary of the Army, and Ambassador Negroponte. He didn’t think he had any responsibility to IRMO, and his organization didn’t get along with USAID. Instead of simplifying things, there were just more delays, infighting, and a fractured management system with officials having to report to a variety of different agencies, few of which shared the same priorities or visions of what was supposed to be happening in Iraq.

Those problems were amplified when three separate reviews were conducted of the reconstruction program in Iraq. First, Ambassador Negroponte called on the IRMO to go over all the existing rebuilding projects and plans, to come up with a new strategy that met his demand for increased security and stability. IRMO worked with USAID, PCO, and the military in the summer of 2004, and came up with new plans to reallocate money already in the pipeline to new projects. In the end, $3.46 billion was mostly taken from water and electricity projects, and moved to the security forces, economic development, democracy building, and preparations for elections. Congress approved this in September 2004. Then the State Department started its own independent review. PCO head Hess objected, because while the first review was going on, all work in Iraq was put on hold, while the companies were still being paid for their costs. Hess pushed for the new plans to be put into effect, rather than waste time and money on another assessment. His objections were ignored. That second review was not finished until December 2004. It recommended a further $457 mill be moved to electricity, and services, and away from water. State wasn’t done, because in the spring of 2005, it ordered a third review, which PCO Hess again complained about. That was finished in March, and suggested another $832 million be re-appropriated to services and maintenance. After all the reviews were finished, water and electricity projects were cut 49% and 21% respectively. The budget for water and sanitation was slashed from $4,247 million in June 2004 to $2,146 million in June 2005. That meant the cancellation of some major projects, and the curtailment of others. The security forces and justice system in comparison saw large increases of 55% and 47%, with the latter having its funds go from $3,235 million to $5,017 million. The change in emphasis of the reconstruction effort was needed with the insurgency taking off in Iraq. The number of reviews however was excessive, and led to huge delays. Companies were paid millions to stand idle for months until the U.S. was done with its evaluations. Ambassador Negroponte was hoping to fix some of the major problems that the U.S. had encountered with the CPA, because it was understaffed, lacked an overall strategy, and often mismanaged events. The new administration proved equally problematic, and hamstrung by an unwieldy bureaucracy.

Ambassador Negroponte and General Casey wanted dramatic changes in the U.S. effort in Iraq. They rightly pointed to security as being the overriding priority in the country. Without that, the government couldn’t function, the economy could not grow, elections might be undermined, and the average citizen could not live their life. They pushed for an immediate re-evaluation of reconstruction in Iraq. The problem was that this led to two more reviews by the State Department, and new organizations created by the White House just added to the number of agencies that projects had to go through before they were approved. The two new American leaders ended up being bogged down in many of the same issues that had beset Paul Bremer and the CPA. There might be a new vision for the future of Iraq, but it was going to take a long time to ever be implemented, and those delays were going to take a heavy toll on both Americans and Iraqis.


Burns, John, “If It’s Civil War, Do We Know It?” New York Times, 7/24/05

Klein, Joe, “Saddam’s Revenge,” Time, 9/26/05

Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, “Hard Lessons,” 1/22/09

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