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Until recently, governments and militaries have preferred to focus attention and resources on conventional military operations rather than stabilization and reconstruction missions. Thus, skills and capacities for the latter set of missions have remained underdeveloped or have been allowed to atrophy. U.S. experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan have demonstrated, however, that improving U.S. capacity for stabilization and reconstruction operations is critical to national security. To help craft a way ahead, the authors provide an overview of the requirements posed by stabilization and reconstruction operations and recommend ways to improve U.S. capacity to meet these needs. Among other findings, the authors suggest that the United States

  • emphasize building civilian rather than military capacity
  • realign and reform existing agencies rather than creating new organizations
  • fund and implement the Civilian Stabilization Initiative
  • improve deployable police capacity
  • develop stronger crisis-management processes
  • ensure coherent guidance and funding.

The research described in this report was conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND monograph series. RAND monographs present major research findings that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND monographs undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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