Lessons Learned Resources

Lessons Learned. SureImage by Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com via Flickr

I have put together a compilation of lessons learned resources with some relevance to the State Department and the Foreign Service here. The web page is live in googlepages and will be updated as needed; a new link is added from Diplopundit’s Online Resources for easy access (see right side-bar). Any suggestion for additional materials would be deeply appreciated.

I also found this Mike Licht image of a lessons learned tombstone. He writes in his blog that “A “Lessons Learned” report is a ceremonial corporate mea culpa that will be swiftly embalmed, buried, entombed in archives, and unread by the next set of leaders, who will embark on similar misguided projects of their own.” I hope that is not the case here.

Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience

| Released by SIGIR in January 2009

Hard Lessons concludes with 13 lessons drawn from 6 difficult years of Iraq reconstruction. Virtually all the leadership interviewed for this report agreed that the US approach to contingency relief and reconstruction operation needs reform.

Oral Histories: Iraq Provincial Reconstruction Teams

| 2008-2009

The Iraq PRT program has highlighted the challenges that the U.S. government faces in conducting operations in conflicted environments. The Iraq PRT Project collected insights and lessons learned from government, military, and non-governmental officials. Interviews were conducted by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training under a contract with the Institute of Peace.

Includes interviews with 72 Government Officials from 2008-2009. There are also several interviews of military officers and NGO personnel.

Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq

| Special Report, March 2007

This report examines the U.S. experience with PRTs in Iraq, notes shortcomings, and suggests ways they could be more effective. The report is based on statements by panelists at a public forum held at the Institute on February 14, 2007, and on interviews conducted by the author with government agencies and commercial contract firms that participate in the PRT program. Report is by Robert M. Perito, senior program officer at the United States Institute of Peace.

Oral Histories: The Sudan Experience Project

| 2006-2007

Sudan’s North-South Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) is a unique example of an effort by the international community to negotiate and to implement a peace agreement. The Sudan Experience Project Oral History Library contains the transcripts of nearly 100 interviews with those who negotiated and who are implementing the CPA. These first person accounts and the lessons learned from their experience are a substantial contribution to our understanding of the challenges of negotiating and implementing complex peace agreements.

Includes interviews with 33 Negotiators and 57 Implementers taken from 2006-2007.

Oral Histories: Afghanistan Provincial Reconstruction Teams

| 2005

In November 2005, there were 22 PRTs in Afghanistan: nine were directed by the U.S. and countries belonging to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force directed the other 13. The Afghanistan Experience Project collected lessons learned by Provincial Reconstruction Teams by interviewing 52 government officials, military officers, and representatives of international and non-governmental organizations who had served in Afghanistan. Interviews were conducted by the Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training under a contract with the Institute of Peace.

Includes interviews with 52 Government Officials in 2004-2005. There are also several interviews of military officers (12) and IO/NGO personnel (4).

The U.S. Experience with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan: Lessons Identified

| Special Report, October 2005

This report is the product of the United States Institute of Peace’s Afghanistan Experience Project. It is based on extensive interviews conducted with American and foreign officials, soldiers, and representatives of nongovernmental organizations that worked directly with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Afghanistan. It also reflects interviews conducted with a broad range of contacts during the author’s visit to Afghanistan in June 2005. The report discusses lessons identified by those who served in Afghanistan. It is intended as a training aid for developing programs that prepare American personnel for service in peace and stability operations. Robert M. Perito, Coordinator of the Afghanistan Experience Project at the U.S. Institute of Peace, prepared this report.

The 9/11 Commission Report

Public report released on July 22, 2004

The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (also known as the 9-11 Commission), an independent, bipartisan commission created by congressional legislation and the signature of President George W. Bush in late 2002, is chartered to prepare a full and complete account of the circumstances surrounding the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, including preparedness for and the immediate response to the attacks. The Commission is also mandated to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks.

Joseph T. Cox: Second Tour

The night before Thanksgiving

my son told me he’s going back to Iraq,

again. The first cost him his two best friends

and his CO’s legs. He doesn’t talk about it much.

This time he has go to Fort Riley

for two or three months first.

I told him that after that shit hole,

Iraq might even look good.

His grandfather went to Germany,

got shot twice, came back an angry,

sullen man, still picking shrapnel out of his legs

as he fought the middle-aged battle of the bulge.

I had my time in Vietnam, never shot,

but came back different, or so my

first wife told me before she left.

very soldier’s war is unique, every minute,

every step, every square foot, even for those

in the same country at the very same time.

My only wish is that my son will find peace,

but I honestly don’t know how to tell him that,

and when I try, it sounds like just one more lie.

Reprinted from War, Literature & the Arts | Volume 20:1&2 | 296

A frequent contributor to WLA, Joseph T. Cox is headmaster of the Haverford School and author of the poetry collection Garden’s Close.

You have no rank, whatsoever …

Yeah, right.

I was reading Tom Wolfe’s The Right Stuff, first published in 1979 (and more recently published by Picador in 2008) about the test pilots and astronauts at the dawn of the space age. Wolfe wrote that his “book grew out of some ordinary curiosity” about what “makes a man willing to sit up on top of an enormous Roman candle… and wait for someone to light the fuse.”

Image of old U. S.Image via Wikipedia

The book is an engrossing read; frankly, reading Chuck Yeager flying the NF-104 is more exciting than watching any teenage-driven demographic movies that populate the cinema these days. The book is also about the wives and the unwritten rules and standards they lived by as they supported their husbands’ careers. This was out of the 40’s and 50’s, where wives generally stayed home, and where trailing husbands as a specie, were still unheard of except in the celestial wormholes of Jupiter.

I came to page 218 of the book and I had to pause to laugh out loud:

A commander designated to give the wives an orientation lecture says: “First, would you ladies please rearrange yourselves by rank, with the highest ranking wives sitting in the first row and so on the back to the rear: It takes about fifteen minutes for the women to sort themselves out and change their seats, since very few of them know one another. Once the process has been completed, the commander fixes a stern glare upon them and says: “Ladies, I want you to know that I have just witnessed the most ridiculous performance I have ever seen in my entire military career. Allow me to inform you that no matter who your husbands are, you have no rank whatsoever. You are all equals, and you should kindly remember to conduct yourselves as such in all dealings with one another.” That was not the end of the story, however. The wives stared back at their instructor with looks of utter bemusement and, as if with a single mind, said to themselves: “Who is this idiot and what planet has he been stationed on?” For the inexpressible provisions of the Military Wife’s Compact were well known to all. A military officer’s wife rose in rank with her husband and immediately took on all the honors and perquisites pertaining thereto, and only a fool or the sort of simple-minded jerk who was assigned to give orientation lectures to wives could fail to comprehend this.

Despite the absence of a similar Diplomatic Wife’s Compact, the Foreign Service is not altogether different from this. It’s not cultural, mind you. It’s just part of organizational life and the need for the neat ordering of the hierarchy. The next time you are tempted to give an orientation to incoming diplomatic spouses whether here or at post, remember this. And please, for the love of god and gin — don’t tell them “you have no rank, whatsoever.”

They will know the truth soon enough.

Snapshot: US Mission Nigeria

US Embassy Abuja via Facebook

Despite a robust package of incentives, staffing Lagos and Abuja was hard, with many officers in stretch assignments, working out-of-cone, on excursion tours, or on directed first assignments. These staffing woes, an operating budget that was lagging behind program funding, and aging facilities in Lagos reduced the efficiency of diplomatic operations. Both the consulate office building and many U.S. Government-owned residences in Lagos had suffered physical neglect, based partly on the view that operations in Lagos would get smaller when the Embassy moved to Abuja in 2000. This shrinkage is unlikely to happen.

Inspection of Embassy Abuja and Consulate General Lagos, Nigeria (ISP-I-08-25A)
Excerpted from Office of Inspector General Semiannual Report to the Congress, April 1, 2008 to September 30, 2008 | PDF