Rice: Number of provincial construction teams in Iraq will be doubled
WASHINGTON — State Department officials will double the number of provincial reconstruction teams in Iraq and recruit more than 300 civilians to help man them in an effort to help stabilize that country, the secretary of state announced Tuesday.
“We are transitioning our role,” Condoleezza Rice told members of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “This is to help Iraqis build their own democratic institutions and lead their own economic development at the provincial and local levels.”
Currently, the State and Defense departments operate 10 PRTs in Iraq. Rice said she hopes to have another 10 in place by the end of March, and that team leaders have already been named and are preparing to head overseas.
In the short-term, the new teams will be staffed and launched by about 100 Defense Department employees, while civilian specialists are recruited. Rice said some of those will come from government agencies, but she expects many to come from the private sector as well.
“These are people like agronomists, veterinarians, city planners and others,” she said. “No diplomatic service in the world has these specialties.” State Department officials did not announce time lines for hiring or salaries for the civilian workers, but Rice told the committee the goal is to “send them out quickly to join the diplomats who are already in the field doing the political work that is so important.”
The teams will largely focus their work in Baghdad, although at least one team will be assigned solely to Anbar. Currently, only one of the 10 PRTs in Iraq serves Baghdad.
Staffing and equipping the teams will require about $720 million from the of the $93.4 billion 2007 supplemental funding request. Rice did not say if a delay in that funding approval will hamper efforts to launch the new teams. At the hearing, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates said if Congress does not approve the money by the end of April, military operations overseas, especially those conducted by the Army, could be adversely affected.