Along with his plan to send 20,000 additional U.S. troops to Iraq, President Bush also is proposing to make changes that would result in a more modest, decentralized approach to continue rebuilding the country's economy. The scope of the effort, including how much infrastructure work it would include, wasn't immediately clear. But most, if not all, of the new contracts appear likely to go to Iraqi companies.


The administration plans to ask Congress for additional funding for the new program, though much less than the $20 billion committed so far. And it has appointed retired Foreign Service officer Timothy M. Carney to be the new, Baghdad-based point man for the economic development effort, with the title of "coordinator for Iraq Transitional Assistance."

In his Jan. 10 speech, Bush said that the U.S. "will change our approach to help the Iraqi government" in achieving goals in reconstruction and in civil government. That will include increasing the number of "provincial reconstruction teams" (PRTs), which he said, "bring together military and civilian experts to help local Iraqi communities pursue reconciliation, strengthen the moderates, and speed the transition to Iraqi self-reliance."

In addition, Bush said that Iraq "will spend $10 billion of its own money on reconstruction and infrastructure projects that will create new jobs."


Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice fleshed out Bush's comments in testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the following morning. Although she didn't discuss it in her oral remarks, Rice's prepared testimony noted that since 2004, the U.S. has worked to rebuild infrastructure and assist the central government in Iraq, a task that she said has been "substantially and successfully completed." Going forward, she said, "we will narrow our focus in how we help their central government."

Rice said the major emphasis will be to help the Iraqi government extend its efforts "beyond the Green Zone" in Baghdad. "Our economic efforts will be more targeted on specific local needs with proven records of success, like micro-credit programs," she added. "And we will engage with leading private sector enterprises and other local businesses, including the more promising state-owned firms, to break the obstacles to growth."

The new plan is more decentralized than the earlier approach, and focuses on the PRTs, which were launched last spring. Rice said the plan is to boost the number of PRTs to at least 18, from 10 now. She added that "we seek to deploy hundreds of additional civilians across Iraq to help Iraqis rebuild their nation."

Rice said the administration's upcoming supplemental spending request will include "significant new operating funds for our PRTs" and "hundreds of millions of dollars to fund their programs."

The reconstruction program that began in 2004 totaled about 3,800 projects, about 3,000 of which have been completed so far, says Steve Wright, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers' Gulf Region Division.

Details of how the revised plan will work remain to be seen. Corps spokesman Wright says, "What we expect to do is complete our program, which is another 800 projects. And we also would be expecting to assist military commanders as we are now, in executing funds given to them for local, smaller projects." That is largely through the Commander's Emergency Response Program.

It appears that whatever physical reconstruction is done under the new program will be carried out by Iraqi firms. Initially, U.S. Companies got the rebuilding contracts, though much of the work was done by local subcontractors. But Iraqi firms have been receiving a larger share of the contracts. Wright says about 70% of recent contract awards have gone to Iraqi companies and adds that those firms have performed well.