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.