Wednesday, July 12, 2006

GAO report doubts Bush's Iraq "victory" plan

Recommended at Booman Tribune

Well well well. How about that? I guess the GAO hates America too. According to a report released to Congress yesterday titled (most appropriately) Rebuilding Iraq - More Comprehensive Strategy Needed to Help Achieve U.S. Goals and Overcome Challenges, the "victory strategy" released by "Team America's" National Security Council in November 2005 is, shall we say, severely lacking in "all the details of an effective national strategy".

While the GAO report does give props to the "purpose and scope" of the National Strategy for Victory in Iraq (but isn't this administration always good at putting together a pretty ribbon on an empty box?), the 20+ page report is quite critical of the lack of a clear plan as well as a lack of substance to the NSVI.

As expected, the report was dismissed by the State Department because it "rests on a flawed understanding of the strategic architecture guiding United States policy in Iraq." Of course, the State Department's understanding of Iraq has been spot on...

The one page "highlights" of the GAO report can be found here, while the entire report is linked above. According to the yahoo news release on this report:

The findings by the Government Accountability Office mark the first time a non-partisan US government agency publicly doubted whether the geo-strategic undertaking that Bush made the defining element of his presidency, could be successful.

"It is unclear how the United States will achieve its desired end-state in Iraq given the significant changes in the assumptions underlying the US strategy," the GAO wrote in its report unveiled Tuesday at a hearing in the House of Representatives.

As far as some of the basic criticisms of the "Victory Plan", the report concludes the following:

However, the discussion of outcome-related performance measures to assess progress in achieving these goals and objectives is limited. Moreover, the strategy falls short in at least three areas. First, it only partially identifies the agencies responsible for implementing key aspects of the strategy. Second, it does not fully address how the U.S. will integrate its goals with those of the Iraqis and the international community, and it does not detail Iraq's anticipated contribution to its future needs. Third, it only partially identifies the current and future costs of U.S. involvement in Iraq, including maintaining U.S. military operations, building Iraqi government capacity, and rebuilding critical infrastructure. Furthermore, the June 2006 Camp David fact sheet provides additional detail but does not address these key shortfalls.

Hmmmmm.....a big glossy plan unveiled with little substance. Limited consideration given to actual and measurable performance goals. Not assigning specific responsibility to the applicable agencies that would need to be involved. A lack of understanding on how the US would work with the rest of the world in implementing a plan. A lack of detail about costs, Iraq's need and responsibilities. Now, I am in the business world, and I know that if I submitted a business plan that was this poor, I would be out of a job two times quick.

So, the conventional wisdom is that the Democrats don't have a plan in Iraq. Pretty funny when the Republicans and the neocon war criminals in this administration shoved this illegal war down the world's throat and, three plus years in the BIPARTISAN General Accounting Office blasts their "victory strategy" as severely lacking in substance.

Real nice.

The report discusses "challenges" that are being faced in Iraq and how there is no real consideration given as to how best address those challenges - which are the very unimportant things such as security and corruption, among others.

As far as the lack of addressing the key characteristics of an effective national strategy, this is not a vague term that the GAO has used in the report. In previous studies by the GAO, they have six characteristics that should be present in any strategy to be considered an effective strategy. They, along with how well the NVSI addresses these areas, are:

(1) Clear purpose, scope and methodology (generally addressed);

(2) Detailed discussion of problems, risks and threats (generally addressed);

(3) Desired goals, objectives, activities and performance measures (generally addressed);

(4) Delineation of US goals and responsibilities (partially addressed);

(5) Description of strategy's integration among and with other entities (partially addressed);

(6) Description of future costs and resources needed (partially addressed).

So it isn't ALL a complete disaster...but of course the "good areas" are the general high level areas and the "less desirable areas" are the areas that are "hard work"...But I guess little things such as how much this will cost and how well we will work with others aren't really that important. However, with respect to costs, the GAO nearly accused the DoD of making up numbers and came pretty close to indicating that the numbers were not to be trusted:

U.S. government agencies have reported significant costs associated with the global war on terror (GWOT), which includes military operations in Iraq. However, we have serious concerns about the reliability of DOD's reported cost data. GAO's prior work5 found numerous problems with DOD's processes for recording and reporting GWOT costs, including long-standing deficiencies in DOD's financial management systems and businesses processes, the use of estimates instead of actual cost data, and the lack of supporting documentation. As a result, neither DOD nor Congress knows how much the war on terror is costing or how appropriated funds are being used.

There are a number of charts and other conclusions in the report, ranging from the troubles posed by the "sectarian violence" (or more accurately, civil war) to the Iraqi government's trouble in forming a national reconciliation to the increased amount of attacks to the slow rebuilding of infrastructure (specifically oil and electricity) to security issues to the rampant corruption.

The yahoo article had some good highlights as well, including this summary from the report:

The bedrock foundation of the president's strategy -- a permissive security environment -- "never materialized," said the authors of the report, describing the Iraqi insurgency as "active and increasingly lethal."

The overall number of attacks increased by 23 percent from 2004 to 2005 and rose to the highest ever level of intensity last April, the investigators pointed out.

In the absence of security, the document continued, efforts to rebuild the war-ravaged country or even to return key segments of its economy to their pre-war level have hit a roadblock.

If before the 2003 US-led invasion, crude oil production averaged in Iraq 2.6 million barrels a day, it stood at only two million barrels a day this past March, according to the report.

A combination of insurgent attacks on pipelines, dilapidated infrastructure and poor maintenance have hindered domestic refining and turned Iraq into an importer of liquefied gas, gasoline, kerosene and diesel fuel, the document said.

Water and sanitation projects, on which the United States spent about 52 million dollars, were inoperable or operating below capacity.

Lastly, the one page "highlights" released with the report concludes with the following sobering reality of the lack of a plan, along with some helpful suggestions:

The formation of a permanent Iraqi government gives the U.S. an opportunity to re-examine its strategy for Iraq and align its efforts with Iraq and the international community. As a first step, NSC should complete the strategy by defining and disseminating performance metrics, articulating clear roles and responsibilities, specifying future contributions, and identifying current costs and future resources. In addition, the United States, Iraq, and the international community should (1) enhance support capabilities of the Iraqi security forces, (2) improve the capabilities of the national and provincial governments, and (3) develop a comprehensive anti-corruption strategy.

Now here is a "road map" to at least addressing the major issues in Iraq. It certainly isn't a detailed plan of what needs to be done, but it is a bipartisan assessment of the lack of a current plan, and gives some good detail as to what areas need to be addressed further.

The question is whether anything will be done with these recommendations, although it doesn't look too promising if they are already being dismissed by the State Department.

Just declaring victory doesn't mean that you can ignore the little things like actually making sure that there is a plan in place and that it gets implemented - even at a high level.

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