Former St. Louisan to assist Iraq’s rebuilding efforts

Robert A. Cohn

BY Robert A. Cohn, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus

St. Louis native and former member of the Missouri House of Representatives Jack J. Schramm, who has been residing in Alexandria, Va. for the past several years, has accepted a new and very challenging assignment from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Schramm, who has a distinguished record as an attorney, former Missouri legislator and Environmental Protection Agency official, has been invited by USAID, an arm of the U.S. State Department, to join the Local Government Governance Project in Iraq.

USAID could not have invited a more qualified person to take on this daunting task in the immediate aftermath of the drawdown of U.S. troops to below 50,000, down from the 94,000 who were there in January 2009. According to the terms of a bilateral security pact between Iraq and the U.S., all U.S. troops are to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011.

Schramm is tasked with training the 15 elected Provincial Councils of Iraq in legislative procedures, including drafting legislation, committee and floor debate and amendment, rules of order, legislative strategies, and the relationship of the Councils with the Parliament. He’ll also be formulating legislation, consistent with the Iraqi Constitution and laws, to devolve certain national responsibilities to these provincial bodies in order to reconcile the roles of the national and provincial governments.

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While serving in the Missouri General Assembly Schramm, a Democrat, won praise from both sides of the aisle for precisely the kinds of skills and temperament which make him the perfect person to take on such a daunting task in a nation which endured three decades of the brutal dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

Of course the situation in Iraq following the withdrawal of combat forces is far from stable, as evidenced by the series of brutal terrorist bombing attacks aimed at Iraqi security and police personnel which have taken place in the past week. The presidential elections remain stalemated, with neither of the contending candidates being able to go forward with an effective coalition.

As Winston Churchill once famously observed, “Democracy is the worst form of government in the world – except in comparison to any other form of government.” The “stability” of an absolute dictatorship suffocates freedom and the human spirit. Democratic processes are inherently sometimes “messy” and unpredictable, but the very fact that the Iraqis are attempting to create enduring democratic structures and processes at the local, provincial and national levels is encouraging, especially in the war-torn Middle East.

Schramm, an old friend from his St. Louis days, told me that his new task is “professionally delicious for me, and perhaps my last chance to make some small contribution to a more stable Middle East.” He left Aug. 31 for three months and will be headquartered in Baghdad, although he will make field visits to the project’s regional hubs in Basrah, Hillah and Karada.

In addition to having served in the Missouri House, Schramm has spent the last 20 years working in some 25 countries on five continents on rule-of-law strategies. Most of his work has been in developing governance programs, formulating legislation to implement them, and strengthening the institutions that are to administer them. He has worked on numerous projects from USAID, and for the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and OECD. Previously, he had spent four years as regional administrator of the Philadelphia office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In 1981, he moved with his family to Alexandria, Va.

I join with all of Jack Schramm’s many friends in St. Louis and Alexandria in wishing him much success as he brings his considerable skills to bear on the huge challenges facing the government of Iraq as it attempts into transition into full control of its governmental affairs at all levels. Jack has promised me that he will check back with us when he returns to share his experiences with our readers.

In the meantime, we wish him a safe and successful journey.