For 25 years, a small Army office known as the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute has played an outsize role in preparing military personnel and civilians to work in regions recovering from war. But with President Trump’s administration pushing back on such operations, the Army’s top civilian leader has proposed shutting the institute down.
The Army has yet to announce the institute’s fate, but according to sources inside and outside the service, as well as emails obtained by Yahoo News, even the most optimistic outcome will see the institute renamed, with its funding slashed and personnel strength cut by more than two thirds to help pay for higher priorities.
Inside the Pentagon, the Army’s move appeared to catch those in Mattis’s office by surprise. “The Office of the Secretary of Defense has relied on [the Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute] for many years for a host of stabilization and peace operations contributions that benefit the entire Department,” wrote Owen West, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, in a Sept. 26 letter to Esper obtained by Yahoo News. The letter asks Esper “to delay any decisions regarding” the institute until the defense secretary has approved a Defense Department-wide plan to institutionalize irregular warfare capabilities.
That plan is scheduled for completion in June 2019, according to West, whose office is developing the plan with the Joint Staff.