by Major Robert S. Widmann USAF
Money is Ammunition: Arming US Forces
“Money is ammunition…and that we didn’t have much,” MG Petraeus, Commander of the 101st Airborne Division, told CPA head, Ambassador Paul Bremer during the Ambassador’s first trip to Division HQ in the Northern Iraqi city of Mosul.[i] Today’s battlefield commanders from the combatant commander (COCOM) down to the company or squadron commander directly control miniscule amounts of discretionary funds supporting their organizations’ operational missions. DoD’s vast appropriations are managed outside of the combatant commands by the military services in their organize, train and equip role. The services manage major appropriations for weapon systems, military pay and logistics freeing the commander from many support issues to focus on achieving the operational mission. Commanders possess relatively small amounts of discretionary funds, typically operation and maintenance (O&M) funds, used to obtain minor, irregular requirements for their units. Historically, commanders enjoyed greater freedom to use O&M funds for civil military operations (CMO) until Congressional scrutiny resulted in severe limitations on the use of appropriated funds for humanitarian and civic assistance (HCA) activities not directly associated with supporting US forces.[ii] Lessons learned in Iraq suggest commanders need control of greater amounts of discretionary funds for CMO to help shape the battlefield when combating fourth generation opponents. While not employed extensively, the US military utilized O&M funds for HCA until 1983 without specific statutory authority. In 1984 the Comptroller General’s Alexander Decision found the Army’s use of O&M funds violated fiscal law because Congress had already appropriated funds for the Department of State (DoS) to conduct HCA under the Foreign Assistance Act (FAA).[iii] The DoS’s responsibility for HCA excluded the use of more general DoD appropriations for direct HCA activities until the DoD obtained specific legislative authorizations permitting the use of O&M funds for HCA activities.[iv] Historically, DoD receives limited annual appropriations under these authorities. For example, the Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid (OHDACA) appropriation provides less than $100M per year for three small DoD programs: 1. Humanitarian Assistance (HA), 2. Humanitarian Mine Action (HMA), and 3. Foreign Disaster Relief and Emergency Response (FDR/ER).[v] Federal law and DoD implementing directives govern planning, programming, budgeting and employing appropriated funds for HCA activities. This guidance establishes a limited, rigid, and highly centralized program requiring DoS approval for all HCA activities except for minimal activities incidental to normal military operations.[vi] Additionally, commanders particularly risk violating fiscal law’s, “Purpose Statute” when attempting to utilize non-OHDACA funds for HCA activities. Until OIF, regular operational US Forces did not possess large amounts of O&M funds for the purpose of HCA directly in support of mission objectives. In response to MG Petraeus’ requirement for more funding to influence the local population through HCA projects, the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) created the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) to expend seized Iraqi funds to supplement existing DoD HCA funds.[vii] The CERP enabled lower level US commanders to pursue local HCA efforts in contrast to CPA’s massive rebuilding projects. A significant criticism of CPA’s large-scale reconstruction projects is they have not offered short term, tangible improvements for most Iraqis; US delays present an advantage to its fourth generation adversaries in the battle for Iraqi hearts and minds.[viii] In contrast, CERP empowered commanders to quickly address the most pressing socioeconomic problems in their area of operations thereby directly affecting the local political situation. For example, the US Marines noted a direct correlation between implementing CERP funded projects and improved stability and security in their sector.[ix] Only US military forces possess the numbers and resources to establish a presence capable of affecting local politics throughout Iraq. Additionally, the synchronized control of both economic and military elements of power ensures unity of effort. Moreover, unity of effort creates the synergistic effect of building socioeconomic and political order while undermining local support for fourth generation adversaries. Separating fourth generation opponents from their local support base presents greater opportunities to focus military power on destroying the hardcore, unconvertible enemy.[x] The operational success of initial CERP projects caused the program to rapidly expand. Expansion quickly consumed available seized Iraqi funds, stalling the program until Congress provided emergency appropriated funds for its continuance.