Will Afghan War be over before Defense has a plan to deploy civilians?


Julia Schoenfeld looks at the results after firing an M9 pistol during Civilian Expeditionary Workforce training at Muscatatuck Center for Complex Operations at Camp Atterbury, Ind., in February 2010. (Army)

Three years ago, the Defense Department set up a Civilian Expeditionary Workforce policy to help manage how it deploys civilians to war zones such as Iraq and Afghanistan. But the Government Accountability Office said today that the CEW concept is still a long way from what the Pentagon envisioned.

CEW was meant to create a cadre of Defense civilians with crucial skills that are willing, ready and trained to go to war and help support combat troops — quickly. CEW has had some success, GAO said, most notably by creating a database of thousands of resumes from volunteers and filling 10 percent to 15 percent of the 2,929 Defense civilians now in Afghanistan.

But it hasn’t been fully implemented yet, GAO said. Defense components haven’t identified and designated the numbers and types of positions that will make up the emergency-essential, non-combat essential and capability-based volunteer segments of CEW. That’s important because, for example, emergency-essential employees directly support combat operations or make sure combat-essential systems are available (such as, fix helicopters or weapons).

Why haven’t Defense components taken that crucial step? Because the Office of the Secretary of Defense hasn’t issued critical guidance for making those decisions, GAO said. OSD swears it will get around to it one of these days, once it finalizes “key assumptions regarding the size and composition of the CEW.” The Pentagon wasn’t able to tell GAO when the guidance will be issued.

But in the meantime, the Iraq War is over, and the Obama administration plans to pull combat troops out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014. So by the time those key assumptions are finalized, that critical guidance is issued, and those civilians are identified and designated … will there even be a war requiring a CEW?


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