WASHINGTON - The Obama administration is having trouble finding the hundreds of civilians it needs to bolster its troop buildup in Afghanistan, so military reservists might be asked to do many of the jobs.

In announcing its new strategy for the war last month, the administration said it would send several hundred civilians - such as agronomists, economists and legal experts - to work on reconstruction and development issues as part of the military's counterinsurgency campaign.

But there's a lack of quickly available workers with the right skills, and Defense Department press secretary Geoff Morrell said yesterday that the military was looking for ways to fill the gap. That would likely be with reservists, who often have the necessary skills because of the experience they have in their civilian lives, officials said.

"It's just a realization that they are not going to be able to provide the 'civilian surge' in the near future, and the need is now," Morrell said. "We're looking at ways to step into the breach and figure out how we can get additional personnel there to help out on the civilian side."

The Pentagon has been asked to see if it can find 200 to 300 reservists, and officials are canvassing the force to find the needed experts - educators, engineers, lawyers and others, said Bryan Whitman, a Defense Department spokesman.

A professional group set up by Congress to represent reservists' issues before the government was quick to push back on the idea yesterday.

"No doubt, the dedicated men and women in our Reserve and Guard would meet this new challenge, just as they have always done," said Lt. Gen. Dennis McCarthy, head of the Reserve Officers Association, which has 68,000 members. But the group is worried that such a plan would harm unit readiness and integrity, and concerned about how volunteering for such jobs would affect reservists' regular service time.

Reservists used in this way should have their time in civilian jobs counted as though they were mobilized into active duty by the military, McCarthy said.

The phenomenon of looking to the military is far from new and was a sore point in Iraq after the Pentagon was asked to do tasks the State Department lacked the staff to do. The military, among government departments, has long had more money to train and hire people and a greater ability to order its employees to war zones and other hardship posts.

In an attempt to address this, the State Department in 2006 created a Civilian Response Corps with the aim of building a cadre of hundreds of civilian government workers with expertise in different areas of post-conflict reconstruction. But funding for the project was slow to come from Congress. It currently has only 35 of its planned 250 active members from various government departments.

With $75 million more just allocated to the corps, officials said yesterday that they were ramping up staffing and hoping to have hired, trained, and equipped at least 100 personnel by the end of the year.

The corps also has a 300-strong standby unit for short-term emergency deployments that officials want to boost to 500 by the end of the year, with an eventual goal of 2,000. Officials could not say how many of these would go to Afghanistan.