Symposium Reaches for a New Narrative on “Leveraging Civil Affairs”

Updated: Feb 9, 2020


For two days in Mountain View, California, members and guests of the Civil Affairs Association came together to augur a universal narrative on what Civil Affairs’ most important customers should reasonably expect CA to contribute to their mission and thus what CA, in turn, should be ready to deliver, regardless of component, service, or level of action.

For much of the 17-18 November Symposium on “Leveraging Civil Affairs,” this exploration took place in a two-part workshop on “Identifying Core Civil Affairs Competencies for Full-Range Operations by Theater and Functional Commands in the Joint, Interorganizational, and Multinational Environment.”

Facilitated by the International Peace & Security Institute (IPSI), the workshop surveyed policy and doctrine, lessons, professional research, and professional testimonials from an active group of nearly 80 participants to identify the comparative advantages sought by the Joint and Service commands that implement national security strategy, day to day and in crises, in various regions around the world.

“Our task was to enable and capture this rich discussion, based on review and exploration of current research, best practices, and doctrinal thinking to-date on CA and the future of warfare,” noted IPSI Senior Advisor Kevin Melton, who steered the conversation with IPSI President Cameron Chisholm and with the added expertise of Dr. Karen Guttieri, Professor of National Security Studies at the Air University, among the top CA scholars, and Col. (ret.) Dennis, Deputy Director, Civil Affairs Force Modernization at the Army Special Warfare Center School at Ft. Bragg, NC.

After considering these comparative advantages, both within the military and with respect to “Civilian Unified Action Partners,” the group looked to identify key challenge areas related to building and leveraging CA competencies as well as potential solutions.

Rounding out what Guttieri called a “super constructive” discussion were lunchtime remarks from Maj. Gen. Daniel Ammerman. The Commander, U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne) stressed the importance of a strong working relationship between CA Commands and their service component command with the Geographic Combatant Command structure. For both Marine and Army CA, these commands will have more to do with requesting, funding, and employing CA at any point along the range of operations than the Joint structure.

Gen. Vincent K. Brooks, Commander, United States Forces Korea, made a similar point in his keynote remarks at the banquet dinner. This year’s recipient of the Association’s Eli Nobleman Award, the United Nations and ROK-U.S. Combined Forces Commander added that it is the service commands in-theater that execute theater missions, further urging CA commands to more creatively apply legal and policy frameworks to enable a more robust presence of especially Reserve CA to enhance planning, interoperability and training of both CA and general purpose forces.

Among the gaps identified was the low number of Civil Affairs planners at theater and operational commands as well as the paucity of civil-military operations directorates among the Army and Joint staff in the Pentagon (G9/J9). While the tactical capability of the CA force is robust, well established and understood, and well supported in policy, training, and doctrine, the same could not be said for CA at the operational and strategic levels.

Reinforcing many points of the workshop and panel discussions were the issue papers briefed that afternoon, with the winning papers being:

  • “There are More than