The Middle East Institute is pleased to welcome Stuart Bowen, the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, to discuss his proposals for how best to conduct Stability and Reconstruction Operations. Stability and Reconstruction Operations, or (SROs), entail governmental efforts to rebuild crucial infrastructure, implement rule of law, and esure security in developing countries before, during, and after armed conflict. As Mr. Bowen pointed out in his “Learning from Iraq” report issued in March 2013, the United States has no unified structure for conducting SROs. Because of that, a multitude of federal entities often duplicate efforts and work sometimes at cross purposes to each other. Both Iraq and Afghanistan have been glaring examples of money and effort gone to waste. Bowen has proposed that SROs be directed by a single entity he calls USOCO, the U.S. Office for Contingency Operations. By having this central point of command and coordination, not only can significant cost savings be achieved, but just as importantly, stabilization and reconstruction work can proceed with certainty of direction and purpose.
Stuart W. Bowen was appointed Inspector General for the Coalition Provisional Authority in January 2004, and since October 2004 has served as the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction. As the “taxpayer’s watchdog” in Iraq, Mr. Bowen oversees more than $63 billion in U.S. funds, including the Iraq Relief and Reconstruction Fund, the Iraq Security Forces Fund, the Economic Support Fund, the International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement funding, and the Commander’s Emergency Response Program. Mr. Bowen’s oversight work has produced financial benefits to the U.S. Government in excess of $1.1 billion and has yielded 56 convictions for fraud and other crimes. Inspector General Bowen’s public service career includes service to President George W. Bush as Deputy Assistant to the President, Deputy Staff Secretary, Special Assistant to the President, and Associate Counsel. Mr. Bowen is a military veteran, having served four years on active duty as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force, earning the rank of Captain and the Air Force Commendation Medal.
Marvin G. Weinbaum is a scholar-in-residence at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC. He is also professor emeritus of political science at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and served as analyst for Pakistan and Afghanistan in the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research from 1999 to 2003. At Illinois, Dr. Weinbaum served for fifteen years as the director of the Program in South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. His research, teaching, and consultancies have focused on the issues of national security, state building, democratization, and political economy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author or editor of six books and has written more than 100 journal articles and book chapters