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CA Symposium in San Antonio, Texas

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

SAN ANTONIO, TX – In his keynote address at this year’s Civil Affairs Symposium, TRADOC Deputy Commanding General of Futures LTG H.R. McMaster remarked that the Civil Affairs (CA) community of practice “must help the broader Army think, learn, analyze, and implement solutions to the Army’s Warfighting Challenges that help the Army and the Joint Force consolidate gains and achieve sustainable outcomes in future conflict.”

Recognized in Time Magazine's list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2014, LTG McMaster reminded the 100 plus symposium attendees that the nature of war is immutable, is essentially a human endeavor, and spans the range of conflict. Accordingly, he underscored some irrevocable truths: war is an extension of politics; war is not confined to winning battles but rather is the consolidation of operations leading to a sustainable and lasting political outcome; war is a contest of wills and is fundamentally as much psychologically taxing as it is physically demanding; and war involves uncertainty, thus requiring adaptability, endurance, and a willingness to learn. Because of the political, human, and uncertain dimensions of conflict, LTG McMaster viewed CA as a critical component of the Joint Force to address enduring challenges and expectations in conflicts. He concluded by saying that “Civil Affairs does not need to do everything, but it does need to be involved and able to help everyone else do things better.”

Setting the tone for this year’s theme, LTG McMaster’s thoughts invoked the need for a deeper understanding of Civil Affairs’ broader role: engaging partners, shaping and influencing the environment, consolidating gains, and contributing to conflict analysis—before, during, and after full-scale war. As Civil Affairs Association President Colonel (ret.) Joe Kirlin explained, "By developing a deeper understanding of the strategic context for their work, the Civil Affairs community can provide comprehensive support to commanders at all levels by striving to identify the sources, distribution, and use of political and informal power in order to mitigate the drivers of conflict and instability and not just the threats. This helps CA further its longtime role as a major national strategic capability to win wars and to prevent them.”

As the luncheon guest speaker, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stability and Humanitarian Affairs Anne Witkowsky, observed that CA “remains more capable and relevant than it was on 9/11, a key capability in comprehensive, whole-of-government transition management.” Despite recent Department of Defense force cuts in Civil Affairs units, particularly in the U.S. Navy, Witkowsky believes Civil Affairs remains a necessary specialty, ideally suited for 21st century war and peace.

Civil Affairs’ mission to “secure the victory” in consolidating political as well as military objectives was forged from nearly two centuries of engagement in military government, in which it engaged with local leaders, as well as interagency, multinational, non-government, and civil society partners. Despite a reduction in numbers from Iraq and Afghanistan, the demand for CA has continued to rise. As Brigadier General Austin Renforth (USMC), Commanding General, Training Command noted, Marine CA has nearly doubled in size, bucking the DoD trend. A growing number of military leaders, among them geographic combatant commanders who manage U.S. theater security cooperation strategies, recognize the need for CA engagement in the early planning phases to help frame political-military problems in terms of understanding the enemy and the local environment.

At the annual dinner, Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) Director Col. Daniel Pinnell received the Association’s Colonel Ralph Temple Award for his contributions to Civil Affairs. A career artillery officer with extensive time in both civil-military and military information operations, Pinnell stressed that “peace and stability operations are a core Civil Affairs competency.” Expressing the views of many at the Symposium, he urged that Civil Affairs—among the least understood military capabilities—must do more to be an integral part of all planning and operational activities. This requires aggressive education and training of commanders and staffs on CA missions and capabilities. Further, it requires a special effort to overcome legal, budgetary, programmatic, and policy impediments to leverage the Reserve Component CA, whose background and talents are ideally suited to such missions under the Army Engagement Concept. This includes the use of functional specialists currently being revitalized by the Institute for Military Support to Governance at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina.

The symposium occasioned the recognition of the top five Civil Affairs Issue papers of 2015-16. Selected from among two dozen submissions, the audience awarded the following presentation: •

First Place: "Renewed Relevance: CA Develop Human Networks for Effective Engagement," by Maj. Arnel P. David. • Second Place: "From Green to Blue: U.S. Army Civil Affairs and International Police Engagement," by Capt. Rob Kobol, and "Civil Engagement as a Tool for Conflict Prevention: A Case Study," by Capt. Tammy Sloulin and Lt. Col. Steve Lewis. • Third Place: "The Role of Civil Affairs in Counter-Unconventional Warfare," by Maj. Shafi Saiduddin. • Fourth Place: "Civil Affairs Forces, U.S. Army Reserve, National Guard, and State Partnership Program: Is There Room for Engagement?" by Maj. David E. Leiva and Maj. John Nonnemaker.

The CA Association and PKSOI shall publish the electronic versions of these papers in March 2016. However, the print version complete with an executive summary and panel report shall be available at the 8 April Civil Affairs Roundtable, tentatively scheduled for the National Defense University’s Center for Complex Operations (NDU-CCO) in Washington, D.C. Copies of the symposium presentations and related documents are available on the Civil Affairs Association website and Facebook page.

For prospective authors, discussion on next year’s CA Issue paper themes is planned for the annual CA Roundtable Symposium, hosted by the Association and associate partners: PKSOI, NDU-CCO, the Center for the Study of Civil-Military Operations at West Point, the Foreign Area Officer Association, the Reserve Officers Association (ROA), and the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

Colonel (ret.) Christopher Holshek, the symposium organizer and Issue Paper co-editor, explained that the intent of the annual Symposium combined with the Issue Papers series and Roundtable discussion, is to “provide a platform for the most operationally experienced community of Civil Affairs practitioners since World War II to have more direct and visible input on the discussion of the future of Civil Affairs at the command and policy levels. The series is also intended to capture the practitioners’ insights and lessons for future posterity and research. This bottom up approach, rather than the more customary topdown discussion from policy analysts and academics, employs a crowdsourcing methodology to enable the next generation of upcoming leaders an opportunity to have a voice in the future of a CA force, in which they have arguably the greatest interest.”

Accordingly, Kirlin remarked, “This year’s discussion was a real breakthrough, but it left us all with some heavy implied tasks,” evoking LTG McMaster’s call for the CA community to “think, learn, analyze, and implement. . . . General McMaster provided the CA community with a powerful vehicle to think clearly about future conflict, and invited the Civil Affairs community to help the Army learn by providing input to the Army Warfighting Challenges [AWFC]. The AWFC is a shaping discussion and an analysis of doctrine, organizations, training, materiel, leader development and education, and personnel interim solutions for the future force.” The AWFCs can be accessed at TRADOC’s Army Capabilities Integration Center website:

“In addition to the Issue Papers, the Association’s newsletter, and the publications of our partners, such as PKSOI’s Peace & Stability Operations Journal, NDU’s Joint Forces Quarterly and Prism, and ROA’s The Officer, there are plenty of opportunities to think and share knowledge and experiences. We need to seize them,” Kirlin noted. The Army would benefit from the Civil Affairs community’s input and collaboration on the Army Operating Concept, Army’s Functional Concept for Engagement, and the Joint Concepts for Integrated Campaigning and the Human Aspects of Military Operations.

From an implementation stand-point, there are three key tasks the Civil Affairs community must undertake immediately. First, the CA community must dialogue with others in the military, government, civilian partners, political leaders, and the public at large about Civil Affairs capabilities and capacities. “We have some strategic communication products that we hang on our website and will continue to update and improve,” Kirlin pointed out. “But anyone experienced in CA can come up with their own ‘elevator speech’ based on the audience and situation. Targets of opportunity are everywhere—we need to engage them.”

Second, CA operators must become conversant with the concepts and operational languages of the larger force—including basics like the military decision-making process and campaign planning, along with policies, directives, and doctrine on peace, stability, and civil-military operations—as well as the operational frameworks of interagency, multinational, and non-governmental partners. “It’s still more effective for Civil Affairs to learn how to better integrate with those they support, enable and enhance, rather than rely on partners to learn how to better integrate Civil Affairs into their operations,” Pinnell stressed.

The third task is about advocacy. “Citizenship in this community is more than just showing up at these events and then going home,” Holshek exhorted in his summary of the Symposium. “For especially those in Civil Affairs, if you are not an active member of the Association or any of these other organizations representing your interests, then you are letting someone else decide the fate of a force you care so much about and invested so much in. You are on the sidelines and not a player. This event and everything discussed at it has been a call for leadership. The question you must ask yourself is whether you’re up to the task.”

Thi article was also published in the Peace & Stability Journal by PKSOI, click here to download.

Photos from the event below:

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