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Study urges bigger role for State Dept.

Military seen as unprepared for nation-building

WASHINGTON -- A senior advisory board to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld is recommending a significant expansion of the State Department to cope with the diplomatic challenges of nation-building efforts that cannot be met by the Pentagon.

The new study by the Defense Science Board also takes indirect aim at the Bush administration's preparations for postwar Iraq, saying that achieving political success following military victory requires ''effective planning and preparation in the years before the outbreak of hostilities."

It also declares that nation-building efforts in unstable environments, such as in Iraq, require about 20 occupation troops for every 1,000 people. In Iraq that would mean a US stabilization force of 500,000 troops, vastly more than the 150,000 US troops now battling the insurgency.

The report was commissioned a year ago by Rumsfeld to explore the lessons of the military's lack of preparedness for the insurgency in Iraq, and to recommend ways to better prepare for similar missions in the future.

But in addition to calling for better planning within the military for postwar operations, the report, now being circulated among top Pentagon brass, calls for dramatically greater involvement by the State Department, whose planning for the aftermath of the Iraq war was largely ignored by Rumsfeld and his senior aides.

''The Department of State will need substantially more resources, both people and funds, to fulfill its proper role in stabilization and reconstruction operations," the report states, saying that State Department diplomats can help rebuild civic institutions and win over local populations in ways the military cannot.

It also says nation-building efforts depend upon a ''stronger partnership and working relationship" between Defense and State, which have had a rocky interaction while headed by Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.

The study, prepared under the aegis of scores of military and foreign policy specialists, concludes that US forces remain ill-prepared to take on nation-building efforts despite the fact that such missions -- both large and small -- have been undertaken at least once every 18 to 24 months since the end of the Cold War. Each of the six missions, according to the report, was ''more ambitious than the last."

Instead of treating postwar rebuilding as a key tenet of defense planning, the Defense Department does not regard it as a core mission, according to the 170-page report.

The Defense Department ''has not yet embraced stabilization and reconstruction operations as an explicit mission with same seriousness as combat operations," according to the study. ''This mind-set must be changed."

Nation-building capabilities ''should become a major driver for the future force," according to the report, including training soldiers to interact with a local population and achieving a working understanding of foreign cultures.

''We need to treat learning knowledge of culture and developing language skills as seriously as we treat learning combat skills: both are needed for success in achieving US political and military objectives," the report states.

The Defense Department was initially responsible for the rebuilding effort in Iraq, a mission that was transferred to the State Department more than a year after the invasion.

The report states that the Pentagon has to be willing to share more of its plans with the State Department, something it has been reluctant to do, while State has to develop a greater capacity to conduct nation-building activities.

The US government ''needs a strong and adequately resourced Department of State to lead nonmilitary aspects of stabilization and reconstruction and partner with the Defense Department to plan and execute these operations," the report says. This ''will require extraordinarily close working relationships to successfully accomplish these crucial tasks -- relationships that do not currently exist."

The report urges passage of the so-called Lugar-Biden bill, sponsored by Republican Senator Richard Lugar of Indiana and Democratic Senator Joseph Biden of Delaware, the chairman and ranking member of the Foreign Relations Committee. The bill calls for establishing a new office in the State Department to coordinate nation-building efforts, a civilian Readiness Response Corps, and a $100 million contingency fund to provide a quicker response in the aftermath of future conflicts.

''The United States cannot succeed at the last minute," it said. ''Shortchanging fundamental capabilities and preparation actually raises costs -- significantly."

Bryan Bender can be reached at bender@globe.com.

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