DoD civilians help Afghan rebuilding effort

Thursday - 2/10/2011, 10:31am EST

By Suzanne Kubota
Senior Internet Editor
FederalNewsRadio.com

The Ministry of Defense Advisors Program is designed to help the Afghan government build civilian capacity within the Defense Ministry. The goal is to send as many as a hundred DOD civilian advisors to train Ministry employees on everything from acquisition to logistics.

"It's a terrific program," said James Schear, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Partnership Strategy and Stability Operations.

"They already bring with them substantial expertise. We're looking at GS 13s and above. They bring with them everything from human resource management and financial administration to logistics expertise and we give them a seven week training program which helps them to understand the realities of the Afghan culture, what it's like to work in the Ministry of Defense or Interior. And after seven weeks, we deploy them out to Kabul."

Schear told Federal News Radio as enthusiastic as the advisors are about the program, they have an even more welcoming audience.

"The Afghans are remarkably pragmatic. They're very eager for this type of assistance. They're received this program extremely well and ultimately it's about them, it's not about us. It's about how they are going to lead their recovery and what we can do to assist them and I would say the initial returns on this program so far are very positive."

It's not easy teaching the Afghans about procurement, said Schear, but it's not impossible.

"I think they have an intuitive sense of it, but the processes and systems that support that are very underdeveloped. It's one of the things we're working on." The advisors are trying to help the Afghans build their own systems, Schear told the Federal Drive, "to introduce transparency and accountability into everything from logistics support, acquisition process, personnel resources...and that's a challenge! And we have to do it in a way that the Afghans can absorb it."

Response to both recruitment efforts and ads on USAjobs.gov has been positive, said Schear.

"We are looking to hire across a broad range of skills from human resources to engineering and health policy, logistics, information technology. Typically we're looking at GS 13s and above, so they will have some considerable experience already and we're helping their parent organizations with backfills. So the sending organization won't be down while the advisor is deployed in Afghanistan."

There are "additional benefits" associated with the program and special training to enable the advisors to work mainly in and around Kabul. The tour of duty is one year, with an option to extend. However, said Schear, the program is not open to spouses "so there are sacrifices associated with these deployments."