By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 15, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed ongoing collaboration between their agencies as part of counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee here today. The war on global terrorism, Gates told the panel, has demonstrated the need for cultural change and teamwork among all federal agencies, not just the Defense and State departments.
"I think the more that we have seen military personnel pressed into service to carry out tasks that they recognize are better performed by civilian experts, even though our folks do a good job of it, they would be the first to admit that when the real experts come in, it is a huge force multiplier," Gates observed.
U.S. national security requirements of the 21st century, Gates said, have brought long-term civil-military challenges such as the stabilization, reconstruction and humanitarian missions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Real progress has been achieved in those countries, Gates said, thanks in part to recent congressional legislation that provides the Defense and State departments with budgetary and operational leeway to develop political and economic stability, Gates said.
"The requirements of developments in Iraq and Afghanistan have, to a considerable measure, had a huge impact on the culture of the Department of Defense in terms of recognition of the need to seek help elsewhere, that we have neither the personnel nor the expertise to be able to do all that is needed in these areas," Gates said.
Rice echoed Gates' sentiments, noting that many State Department officers today often are deployed overseas and serving alongside U.S. military members.
Provincial reconstruction teams operating in Iraq and Afghanistan are representative of such close collaboration efforts, Rice pointed out.
When State Department employees return from PRT duty, they "do have a different view of a different culture about what it is that we do as diplomats in civilian support in counterinsurgency operations" in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rice said.
Similar interdepartmental team work, Rice added, also is evident during the successful campaign against the Abu Sayyaf Islamic terrorist group operating in the Philippines.
Rice said she wants to incorporate the knowledge gained from such cooperative efforts.
"We're learning a lot on the ground, but we need to take those lessons, capture them, and leave them for future Department of State members," Rice said.