By Ian Graham
Special to American Forces Press Service
July 2, 2009 - Iraqi officials are learning to accept modern inspectors general in their government, and the coalition-backed investigative program is ready to stand on its own, a senior leader in that effort said. Marine Corps Col. Robert Schroeder, inspector general special staff assistant to the commander of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq, spoke with bloggers and online journalists during a June 30 "DoDLive" bloggers roundtable about the support his office provides.
The command has dedicated IG advisors to Iraq's ministries of Defense and Interior, Joint Headquarters Staff and Counter-terrorism Bureau, Schroeder said. "Each of the advisors and our Iraqi counterparts have experienced different successes and faced different, but similar, challenges," he said.
Schroeder explained the development of a modern, professional IG capability in Iraq, with noted successes and challenges. Three factors determine an advisor's success, he said.
"One would be the degree with which the Iraqi counterpart strives to achieve professionalization of his office policies and practices," Schroeder explained. "The second would be the degree to which the Iraqi inspector general has influence within the ministry. And the third would be ... the extent of the integrity in the office place."
The acceptance of the modern inspector general, he said, is one of the overall determining factors in evaluating an advisor's success. In his work with the command, Schroeder said, he's confident the program is working, especially considering the removal of U.S. combat troops from Iraqi cities and villages June 30.
"I would say that there's a high degree of confidence that the time is right and that the ... Iraqi forces, both on the military side and on the police side, are prepared to meet any foreseeable threats," he said.
But that confidence doesn't come without potential hardships. Because of the immaturity of some Iraqi ministries, Schroeder said, certain processes aren't reined in. Handling logistics for Iraq's security forces, for example, is one of the primary areas of focus for security transition command advisors.
"These are ongoing, and there's not going to be any quick fix," he said. "It's already been foreseen that the logistics capability and capacity is the long pole in the tent."
In that same vein, procurement is a major issue inspectors general in Iraq are going to tackle. As they build a military, they'll need to obtain a lot of equipment to arm and protect their troops.
But while the ministries still are in the early stages of existence, there's no place yet for decentralized decision-making, Schroeder said, and the decision-making process isn't transparent. Ideally, the inspector general will create procurement and logistics policies and programs, but as yet they aren't able to do that, he acknowledged.
"Effectively ... there's no mechanism by which IGs can insert themselves in [the decision-making] process," he said.
Schroeder explained, though, that command programs are in place that will help Iraqi ministries expand their capabilities for personnel and processes so inspectors general can perform their duties. Included are the Military Training Development Center in Iraq's Defense Ministry, which trains civilians, Iraqi troops and joint headquarters Iraqi officers. Schroeder said the school has course work "as broad and as wide as you can envision for a full-scale ministry." The ministry took over the operation several months ago, he said.
The Interior Ministry has two campuses of the Baghdad Police Academy, which trains both uniformed officers and civilian officials. A large problem is the lack of qualified professionals, Schroeder said.
This is the third generation of Iraqis who have been affected by the policies of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party, Schroeder said, and that's left a gap in credible and professional government officials. Filling the 31 Iraqi ministries with qualified candidates has proven difficult.
"Since Saddam took power in 1958, there has been not just a brain-drain, but also a professional bureaucrat drain," Schroeder said. "They do have hiring criteria for these bureaucrat positions, but they're way ... behind in terms of manning with competent, professional bureaucrats.
"The success story is we've actually turned over the education and professionalization process to the Iraqis," he added.
The continuing mission of Multinational Security Transition Command Iraq advisors isn't easy to define, Schroeder noted, because each office and each official is so different. One can't broadly describe the advisor's role, he said.
"It almost will proceed on a case-by-case basis," he said. "As key offices are further identified, ... you can't just paint it with a broad brush. That is one of the things we continually evaluate: ... the continuing requirement and the changing requirement."
(Ian Graham works in the Defense Media Activity's emerging media directorate.)