Thanks to a little sleuthing on my spouse's part, more has come to light about the Civilian Reserve Corps that Bush alluded to in his SOTU address (warning: pdf), and about which I've already written.
Bush's first mention of expanding the use of civilian volunteers that I can find was on May 18, 2005 according to the pdf link above:
We will also work to expand our use of civilian volunteers from outside our government, who have the right skills and are willing to serve in these missions.
And according to the State Department's Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, Bush has requested $25 million to establish a Civilian Reserve Corps.
In the comments of my last post on this topic, Hannah points to a Democracy Now interview with Jeremy Scahill of The Nation in which Scahill speculates that the Civilian Reserve Corps is a way to expand the use of private contractors like Blackwell, Halliburton, and KBR. That thought occurred to me as well, and I have no doubt that that is exactly the direction BushCo wants to take us in. They want to privatize everything else, after all; why not the military as well? See this article by Scahill, on the vast size of our mercenary army, which, as Scahill points out, has brought about largely done without the knowledge or input of American citizens--or the oversight of Congress.
In fact, the government document I linked to above does mention contractors, but as one of three components of civilian volunteers:
- First Responders, direct hires that would include both active and standby response corps
- Civilian Reserve Corps, which would "become Federal R & S [Reconstruction and Stiblization] hires when mobilized" and which would deploy for one year and serve in such capacities as "police, rule of law, public services, civil administration, etc."
- "Global Skills Network," which would be private contractors and NGOs; contracts would be pre-existing and personnel might be used for years.
The document goes on to ask "Why a Civilian Reserve?" and gives us some answers:
- the reserve would complement the government's civilian agency capacity
- it would have " 'just in time' surge capability" and would thus be more cost effective than adding permanent staff
- "strong US capacity will leverage parallel international and multilateral capacity," whatever that means
- "contracting networks pose reliability and command/control issues"
- civilian personnel would allow the military to phase down
Elsewhere the document suggests that the short-term use of the Civilian Reservists would be followed by the use of contract personnel.
The Civilian Reserve Corps would guarantee a volunteer the right to return to his or her job after being called up. And here's a plus (for the government): there would be an "enforceable obligation" to train and be deployed.
There is also an implication that contractors would be hired to oversee and direct such a program. Contractors, you see, can't do that with US Government employees, and thus the "need" for civilian volunteers.
The document lists the challenges of implementing the Civilian Reserve Corps, including:
- concerns from Iraq experience--personnel, contracts
- "reserve" name and functions problematic--creation of civilian capacity suggests plan to use it [ed. ya think??]--fear of pre-emptive planning and long occupation
- unlikely to garner sympathy for civilian reserves--business lobby unlikely to support re-employment rights
So what are we to make of this?
One thing that comes to mind is that the government would have in place the infrastructure and logistics to institute a skills draft. There isn't much support for a draft of any kind right now, so this would be one way to get everything in place without actually conscripting people.
But the Civilian Reserve Corps is just one piece of the puzzle. The other thing to look at here is the role of contractors in future military engagements, how that relates to a Civilian Reserve Corps, and how these different civilian branches support each other. It sounds like what the government is aiming for is a "surge capacity" for short-notice, short-term civilian personnel who would be overseen by private contractors and eventually replaced by contracted personnel.
In any case, the increasing use of companies like Blackwater should worry us all. From the Scahill article:
From Iraq and Afghanistan to the hurricane-ravaged streets of New Orleans to meetings with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger about responding to disasters in California, Blackwater now envisions itself as the FedEx of defense and homeland security operations. Such power in the hands of one company, run by a neo-crusader bankroller of the president, embodies the "military-industrial complex" President Eisenhower warned against in 1961.
It's something that should scare the living hell out of all of us.