The Future of Civil Affairs

James Dobbins noted in “Retaining the Lessons of Nation-Building” that

“by 2003, there was no army in the world more experienced in nation-building than the American, and no Western army with more modern experience operating within a Muslim society How, one might ask, could the United States perform this mission so frequently, yet do it so poorly? The answer is that neither the American military nor any of the relevant civilian agencies had regarded post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction as a core function, to be adequately funded, regularly practiced, and routinely executed.”


Assessments such as this helped lead to NSPD 44  (interagency reconstruction and stabilization operations) and DODD 3000.05 (DOD makes stability operations a core operation, as important as defensive and offensive operations) and caused Congress to press OSD for answers to how the United States could improve its ability to conduct stability operation. A key enabler for stability operations is civil affairs, and last summer OSD contracted the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) to prepare a study on the future of U.S. Civil Affairs Forces. (See link at right.) OSD commissioned this study in response to a Congressional tasker in the Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act for FY09. Congress realized that Civil Affairs was the force of choice for many stability operations activities and was key in the conduct of counterinsurgency operations as well. CSIS, in its report which it published this February, quoted Secretary of Defense Gates:


“The recent past vividly demonstrated the consequences of failing to address adequately the dangers posed by insurgencies and failing states. . . The kinds of capabilities needed to deal with these scenarios cannot be considered exotic distractions or temporary diversions. The United States does not have the luxury of  opting out because these scenarios do not conform to preferred notions of the American way of war.”


The CSIS report made several recommendations on how to strengthen U.S. Civil Affairs capabilities. The very first recommendation was “Reintegrate all Army civil affairs forces under U.S. Army Special Operations Command and create within United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) a 1 or 2 star active civil affairs general officer to oversee and advocate for all Army civil affairs forces.”


The purpose of this recommendation was to reunite RC and AC Civil Affairs after the messy “divorce” under Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. The divorce resulted from a Rumsfeld “snowflake” where Rumsfeld asked why RC CA and PSYOP were under SOCOM when from his view they overwhelming supported general purpose forces.  Under Rumsfeld, RC Civil Affairs (CA) and Psychological Operations (PSYOP) and the United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC) were taken from USASOC/SOCOM and placed under Forces Command. RC CA and PSYOP officers and Soldiers continued to be deployed with much greater frequency than other RC troops, but they lost the additional training days and moneys that they enjoyed under USASOC/SOCOM, making it hard for them to maintain readiness.  For example, RC CA (and PSYOP) units are often unable to participate in pre-deployment training, to include mission readiness exercises, with brigade combat teams (BCTs) that they will support in OEF or OIF because of the limited number of training days afforded to FORSCOM RC units.


Other recommendations include “additional training for civil affairs personnel in strategic and operational civil affairs competencies” and a requirement for “civil affairs personnel with identified functional specialties to take appropriate civil sector competency tests to validate and classify the achieved level of functional skills.”   Taken in context of the report, the “additional training” reads like more professional military education for civil affairs officers. However, I feel additional training is more important for those “civil affairs personnel with identified functional specialties” that CSIS want to test.


Who are these personnel with identified functional specialties? Within USACAPOC and its CA units there are 624 billets for experts in fourteen civilian skill sets: Public Administration, Environmental Management, Public Safety, Economic Development, Food and Agriculture, Civil Supply, Public Works and Utilities, Public Transportation, Public Communications, Public Health, Cultural Relations, Public Education, Civil Information and International Law.  Many of these billets are filled by officers whom do not have the requisite civilian training or experience. However, these officers have shown a willingness to deploy repeatedly into harm’s way. The Army would do well to provide these officers with the requisite training before testing them.  As USACAPOC recruits, it should be able to offer direct commissions at the field grade level to highly qualified civilians with the right credentials who are otherwise deployable. USACAPOC should also be able to fund contracts to officers who have deployed to OEF and OIF that would send them to graduate school to acquire the required skills in exchange for an additional service obligation.


Another CSIS recommendation is to “Create active component civil affairs structure to integrate at all echelons (division/equivalent and below) in Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.”  The Marines still rely on the 3rd and 4th USMCR Civil Affairs Groups, about 300 RC Marines for CA support and is detailing AC Marine artillery batteries to serve as CA. The Navy has developed a multi-compo Maritime Civil Affairs Group of about 330 officers and Sailors. The Army has built the 95thCA Brigade to support special operation forces (SOF) and plans to build, beginning in 2011, a second AC CA brigade of five battalions and thirty 32-man companies to support BCT rotations.


The Army is taking the lead in growing AC CA capabilities. However, will its additional AC CA brigade be the best way to integrate CA at all echelons? Some have argued the best way to integrate CA into the Army BCTs is to make a CA company organic to each AC and ARNG BCT.  BCTs have organic signal, engineer, military police, logistics and fire support. By making CA organic to the BCT, CA will be there for all pre-deployment training.  Some have argued that AC CA should remain outside of the BCT construct to allow it to concentrate on regional expertise. There is a lot to this argument. Still, I think that it is safe to argue that all BCTs will be rotating through Afghanistan and other parts of the Muslim world for years to come. AC CA companies organic BCTs can share their regional and cultural expertise with the rest of the Soldiers in their BCT, making them more effective in COIN and stability operations. Under this proposal, United States Army Reserve CA units would serve at echelons above the BCT and help staff provincial reconstruction teams and ministerial advisor teams.


The growth in Army CA, both AC and RC, is a move in the right direction that will help address concerns raised by James Dobbins and Secretary Gates. In addition to thirty AC CA companies for GPF support and another RC CA brigade, additional civilian training for RC CA officers serving in functional specialist billets will go even further.


10 Responses to “The Future of Civil Affairs”

  1. LTC Jeff Madison Says:

    The CA Company should be organic to the BCT so they can train together and be on the same deployment rotation schedule. They need to be part of the team. What is not addressed in the article is how should we be manning the CA Companies that are currently part of the PRTs, and what is the impact of all these MOS reclassifications from other MOSs to CA. There is an expectation that CA Soldiers, particularly those from the RC, bring certain civilian skills to the team along with the CA training they receive. Involuntary reclassification of Soldiers from other MOS with CA training right before they are sent into theater means these expectations probably will not be met. What, if anything, is being done in this area?

  2. civilaffairspksoi Says:

    Jeff, I notice that in our current doctrine that reserve component CA companies, though they are identical in structure to AC CA companies, are expected to bring some generl “functional specialty” skills. As you point out, with reclass of many Soldiers returning from the war to CA, this is not always the case. The 624 billets I spoke of are mostly at the RC CA brigade and command level and represent skills acquired through graduate level education and years of experience in private sector and civilian government. By current design, the nine week RC course trains reservists to be CA generalists. It would be good if RC and AC CA companies could have some CA functional specialists, but our doctrine doesn’t see that as a possiblity for the AC. I would think ROTC scholarships could be targeted to officers acquiring degrees that are especially pertinent to CA – public administration, civil/environmental engineering, public health. etc. Languages are always useful too, but I think we will have to always use interpreters, even if we do master some key greetings and phrases.

  3. LTC Cesar "Effi" Padilla Says:

    I saw one incorrect item on the article that referred to SecDef Rumseld’s snowflake. The question posed was “Let’s talk about whether or not all the Civil Affairs ought to be in SOF. I am inclined to think not.” The question did not mention RC specifically just CA as a whole. USSOCOM and USASOC decided not to lose their AC capability and push out the RC to the Army Reserve Command due to the difficulties they had in deploying RC CA personnel. The SecDef’s question was not answered. Is CA really a SOF capability? No. All the functions and duties of CA personnel are conventional and the Secretary understood this. CA is a unique Army capability that does not fit into any other branch neatly and thus SOF absorbed CA units and called them SOF. Further Title 10 Section 107 classified Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations as Special Operations activities which means that special operations forces can conduct theses activities. The law does not classify CA and PSYOP units as SOF only the SecDef has that authority. So the SecDef had all the authority under the law to split the force as he saw fit.
    The CSIS study’s recommendation to solve the problem is to reintegrate CA back into USSOCOM. Why? Did CSIS consider the primary reason why RC CA was pushed out? If RC CA returned to USSOCOM and USASOC have these commands considered the difficulties they will have again in deploying reservists to theater? The best way for CA to progress is to place all AC and RC units under USAFORSCOM since their functions are conventional that support stability operations.
    Another myth is that RC CA and PSYOP units have lost additional training days and funding for predeployment training. This is simply not true. The Army Reserve has a robust predeployment training program to ensure all Soldiers receive the necessary training they require for the theater they are deploying. What is not available is additional days to do an MRE with the BCT due to a restriction in the number of days troops are trained per year by law. This restriction is taken into account to ensure that CA and PSYOP Soldiers have the abiltiy to obtain all required pre and post mobilization training. Further, the Army Reserve has fully equipped USACAPOC with equipment it desperately needed and did not receive under the command of USASOC.
    A critical functional specialty not on the 14 shown in the article is the Arts, Monuments and Archives specialty that was on the original functional specialties that have been the standard for CA since World War II. Why USASOC removed this functional specialty is unknown; however, its removal had grave strategic consequences as shown by the sacking of the Iraqi museum and the damages to historical archaeological sites throughout Iraq. The sacking of the museum could have been avoided had USASOC, the CA proponent, considered the long term implications of this decision it would have thought of another way to recruit and train for this functional specialty (among others).

  4. civilaffairspksoi Says:

    Thanks for the correction. I “mis-remembered” the snow-flake based on the resulting divorce between RC and AC CA and PSYOP, which, like so many other things has so often been blamed on Secretary Rumsfeld. Thanks for catching this.
    I have heard from other reservists that man days and training funds were affected by the transfer of CAPOC from USASOC to FORSCOM. If this is not true, that is good news, but there is still the issue of BCTs going through mission readiness exercises prior to deployment without a very key member of the team, their CA company. It may be that extra training days still maintained by FORSCOM are going towards a nine week CA course (which is vital) leaving no time to participate in train up with AC and ARNG BCTs in preparing for deployment.
    I don’t know why the Arts and Monument Officer was deleted from doctrine and structure. When I first came into CA we had 22 civilian functional specialties. I do know that the AC/CA divorce, which I erroneously blamed on Rumsfeld, still exists and I fear that the AC CA branch may be split along SOF and GPF support lines, something that again will not help the CA branch or the Army.

    • LTC Cesar "Effi" Padilla Says:


      Thanks. The reason why BCTs do not have the CA slice element to go
      with them to the MRE is due to limited funds for Active Duty Training
      (ADT). Fact is, the Army Reserve like all other organizations have
      limited funds to execute training. USACAPOC was tasked to prioritize
      supporting BCTs in the MREs with personnel that will deploy. That said,
      deploying reservists have to attend mandatory individual training at a
      Regional Training Center (RTC) that reduces post deployment time and
      increases boots on the ground. That coupled with the SecDef’s directive
      to reduce the deployment time for reservists to 12 months really
      constrains the Army Reserve’s ability to provide more training with the
      AC. This is the reality that the Army Reserve and the National Guard
      are faced with. What we need is to put AC CA non-SOF GPF generalists
      as members of the BCT and disregard the SOF community’s objections.
      The mission is first and they need to get on board or be left behind.

      • civilaffairspksoi Says:

        I agree with your suggestion of supporting BCTs with AC CA. The suggestion I like is one I heard from a Force Modernization/Structure expert at the Army War College, who suggested that each Active Component Brigade Combat Team (AC BCT) have an organic AC CA company, and each Army National Guard (ARNG) BCT have an organic ARNG CA company. His suggestion would keep USAR CA numbers the same and use them to support echelons above BCT, to include helping support provincial reconstruction teams (PRTs). The 624 functional expert billets would be in the USAR, mostly in the brigades and commands. His proposal would include a USARC CACOM for each geographic combatant command (GCC).
        For the AC CA companies organic to AC BCTs, these Soldiers would come through the CA training pipeline, to include language training. During reset, these CA Soldiers (and other BCT Soldiers) would receive additional language training.
        The CSIS report I referenced recommended that all CA, not just AC, fall under USASOC/SOCOM because JFKSWCS falls under USASOC and runs the CA school, and because SOCOM generally has more assets for this vital function. The reality is that most CA supports general purpose forces. All CA needs a single proponent that covers USAR, ARNG, and AC CA, to include AC CA that supports GPF and AC CA that supports SOF. Still, in reality, most CA will support GPF, be it AC or ARNG BCTs or echelons above BCT headquarters.

  5. Steve Henthorne Says:


    I’m just back from TDY OCONUS, so I am probably coming into this having seen only part of the dialogue. In the past the really gross error made with CA, and to some great extent by CA, was the way that they were assigned to BCTs. With one exception that I personally know of CA was assigned to BCTs from a pool set up in the AO. This created a great deal of friction and bonding problems between the BCT and attached CA.

    It would seem more reasonable, if CA is to be attached rather than be organic to the BCT, to have CA attached at the BCT as soon as possible prior to pre-deployment training. This would enable a bond to be built between the BCt and attached CA. Other wise that bond will continue to be created in the AO, with very short time, under stress, under fire, which is a receipe for less than optimum performance.

    As well, and this has been a chronic failure of CA operators, CA upon arriving at the BCT very rarely market themselves to the BCT Commander. They often wait to be approached to find out what CA adds to the mission. PSYOP, IO and INTELL attachments go straight to the BCT Commander, Staff, and anyone else that will listen, and make it very clear what their value added to the mission is, and even offer recommendations for how the BCT might best utilize their skills.

    Having said all that all of the above is really a moot point, because until Combatant Commanders on all levels clearly understand how to best utilize their non-kinetic enablers, inc. CA, then CA will continue to be minimized by the “War Fighters.”

    As CMO at JRTC in 2004 we tried an experiment with the soon to be deployed 256 BCT (La. NG). With the help of USACAPOC we were allowed to hand pick CA to be assigned to the BCT before pre-deployment training. elements of that CA pick were used in home station training, went with the BCT to NTC, and were deployed shortly ahead of the BCT into the AO to await the arrival of the BCT.

    When the BCT arrived they were assigned totally new CA from the pool, because the (AC) DIV to which the CA was assigned felt that “NG was not worthy of such special consideration.” So the experiment fell apart at that point.

    Bottomline, the root of the problem is best described at:

    There will be no solution to CA’s problems until it has a 4 star sugar daddy that will have the intestinal fortitude to fortify CA’s position and proper usage as a true mission enhancement tool. Kinetics wins fights, but Stability Operations are the other side of the COIN. Effectively used CA is the key to successful transition from Phase 3 to Phase 4-5-0 operations, and the door to coming home with honor.

  6. civilaffairspksoi Says:

    Thanks for the many incites on this topic. Hopefully the fact that BCTs now have branch qualified CA officers serving as S9s on the BCT staff will help with the issue of misuse of CA in the sandbox. This will not happen overnight, but stability operations has been raised in numerous US Army and Marine Corps experiments, though it has lost some impetous with the introduction of irregular warfare. The fact that General McChrystal is asking for his “civilian surge” indicates that even warfighters born and raised in a lethal/kinetic environment can learn to value non-lethal “smart” power.

    I think your experience in 2004 demonstrates why ARNG and AC BCTs should have organic CA companies. I know that there is some concern that CA Soldiers in companies assigned to BCTs will lose their regional cultural expertise. This will be a challenge. I think that most AC BCTs can count on participating in stability operations in Muslim countries for years to come, as Dobbins and others have pointed out. It would make sense for the Army to budget and schedule language and cultural immersions for AC and ARNG BCT CA companies for this reason. BCTs, in accordance with Army Force Generation model, could send some of their CA teams to support US Embassys abroad as part of the Civil Military Engagement program in order to keep CA officers and Soldiers current/fluent in the culture of the AOR that the Army expects the BCT to be most likely to serve in.

    I think there are many senior leaders in DOD and some in Congress that understand the importance of CA. However, you are correct, we need our AC CA 4-star GO to fight for all CA, be it in the USAR, the ARNG, the AC supporting SOF or the AC supporting GPF.

  7. K. Sisk Says:

    Most agree that all Civil Affairs should be brought back in line with USASOC. I think there was one dissenter on this one and honestly, a newly created Army Competency is just not a good enough reason to do this. Civil Affairs has had a long-standing relationship with Special Operations dating back to the 1960’s and the branch languished under conventional control until it was officially made part of Special Operations in the 1980’s. It was not until this time that the career field saw any real usage and was still ignored by the Army as a whole. Now it could be argued that the Army has changed and that those days are long gone, but then were would these Stability and Support Operations take place in the long-term? Iraq and Afghanistan sure, but can anyone think of anywhere else?
    The Philippines was ready to reject a mere 200 and AFRICOM, consisting of approximately 1500 personnel cannot find a home in Africa because of fears it militarizes the effort. So outside of an invasion what country is going to allow a BCT, consisting of 3500 or so to conduct Stability and Support? Not saying it can’t happen but the odds are not in favor of this. The safe bet would be with SOF forces conducting Phase 0 operations. The skill sets from both Active and Reserve would find much more utility under USASOC in the long term, have better funding and once again, the branch would be whole.
    I think we all agree the BCTs both require and deserve proper habitual Civil Affairs support, the rub comes from just how to do that. Many have argued that the Active CA should pick up the ball on this, but that is just a band-aid. This solution will cause undue damage to the active side of the house and will not address the larger issues within the career field. For Active CA it is a matter of not only numbers, but also of skills and training. Splitting the Active force along SOF and GPF lines would have personnel floating back and forth between the two commands causing further erosion of regional and language skills. These problems are already present due to the repeated rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan. Without going into major detail, Active CA would essentially lose the skills that make them useful. A dual track could be created but then we are talking about creating entirely new training pipelines, and career paths. This then creates an “us and them” atmosphere within the same component. The solution needs to come from a combined effort between the Reserve and Active Civil Affairs forces.
    Civil Affairs has been structured as a two phased implementation since the early 1970’s so unless we want to dismantle the system and create a new one we need to work off that template. Only the Reserves have anything close to the force structure required to support the BCTs properly in a habitual fashion. Currently 112 vice 71 BCTs, with another additional 20 companies to be formed giving 132 Reserve CA companies. Create another 10 and you now have a 2:1 ratio to allow for needed dwell time. Align these companies to the BCTs and integrate AGR into the S9 positions. This will allow for horizontal planning from individuals from the actual supporting units. It never made sense to have the Active personnel there and with the Majors shortfall that’s about to hit the Active side these freed up personnel will have more than enough places to go.
    Even without the new brigade, Active CA is expecting shortfalls within this grade until 2014, with BCT positions 2016. Factor in the new brigade and it moves right to 2017. Not talking small numbers here either at least 50 personnel or more depending on the year. Granted the Reserves are also obligated to other missions outside of BCT support, so an in-depth study needs to take place to identify missions that can be taken over by another entity. For example, do we really still need 1500 or so in Kosovo?
    With the Reserves aligned, the Active Force once again becomes the bridging force for the Reserves. Working with any BCT as required until security is established regardless of how long that takes. This bridging force can also be used to fill the gap for MREs. If there are two Active CA brigades both under USASOC this creates a larger pool to draw from increasing the odds of the support actually having the correct language skills and regional experience for the BCT’s mission. Once we reduce or withdrawal from the current conflicts both the Reserves and Active CA can then be utilized by USASOC as before barring a request for forces from elsewhere. I don’t know it just seems to me if we just tweak the system that proved successful in the past, under an advocate that has proven to be more benefical than not, we might just be able to ensure better opportunities for both components in the future. After all, it’s not as if we’re doing anything new.

  8. S. Battle Says:

    Having read this deliberation, I cannot agree more with K. Sisk. As an AC CA officer that has served as a CAT-A TL in a JSOTF, a CMSE in 2 Embassies, and an S9 on a BCT staff I can confirm that AC CA under USASOC is the correct choice. A regionally aligned, language proficient force capable of Civil Reconnaissance, CIM and stability operations ISO COIN and unconventional warfare is aptly placed under the SOF footprint. COIN is the current flavor with GPF in the long war. However, will this be the case in the future? In my experience, regional specific knowledge, language proficiency, negotiation skills and CR are the skill sets that make AC CA exponentially valuable to any SOF element. When working as a combined team in areas outside the current conflicts of Iraq and Afghanistan, MISO, CA and SF create effects upon environments that GPF cannot unless they deploy with a sizeable force, and with a far larger budget – I have witnessed this first hand. This is not feasible, nor is it cost effective. Creating separate commands and GPF vs. SOF AC CA is going to create division in the force and as Sisk says, will degrade the abilities of AC CA that make us so useful in the first place. The reserves are organized and have the force structure to support GPF. As I understand the agreement in the “great divorce of 2006,” the 95th was to support USASOC mission sets and USACAPOC was to support GPF during their deployment cycle. However, it became apparent that USACAPOC could not, under their current organization and system, execute their contractual obligations. I saw no mistrust of RC CA from the active BCT’s during our OEF deployment as a BCT S9 – In fact the opposite is generally true. It is true, at least from what I saw during my deployment to OEF, that RC CA support to BCTs is drawn from a pool. However, even this can and is mitigated by offset deployment cycles, where a new BCT, falls in on a RC CA BN that has several months on the ground. The BCT then has experienced CA teams to draw real institutional knowledge from and the frustrations inherent in RIP/TOA are mitigated. It seems now that instead of fixing the broken reserve system, the answer is to expand AC CA and have them support GPF. It honestly makes me wonder what the RC CA component is going to do once the 85th CA BDE is stood up. Furthermore, it makes me wonder what the 85th is going to do once Iraq and Afghanistan draw down to manageable deployment cycles and GPF focus their attention on conventional battles instead of COIN.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: