Civil Affairs: A Force for Consolidating Gains

Updated: Feb 9, 2020

Last year’s Symposium resulted in a rich discussion captured in the Symposium and Roundtable reports and 2016-17 Civil Affairs Issue Papers. The Symposium report begins: “Civil Affairs” (CA), is increasingly understood as a na­tional strategic capability to consolidate military into political gains during the transition from war to peace, from military to civilian lead, while engaging partners and other players in the ‘human geography’ to effectively con­tribute to national interests and policy objectives.” This is largely through civil-military operations (CMO).

As CA’s strategic importance continues to grow, more in Washington realize the importance of the Regiment’s comparative capabilities – if not of CA itself. As new National Security staff member, Nadia Schadlow explained in War & the Art of Governance, “to wage war effectively, civilian and military leaders must operate as successfully on political battlegrounds as they do on the physical.

As the challenges in Iraq and Afghanistan revealed, integrating those efforts across those battlegrounds is essential to success in war.” “Being the best warfighter in the world is not enough,” added Center for Strategic & International Studies Strategy Chair Anthony H. Cordesman in the March Military Review, “Neither is treating stability operations and civil-military affairs as a sideshow.” In addition to greater focus on “successful civil-military operations as being as important for success as combat,” he even calls for a “revolution in civil-military affairs if [the U.S.] is to be successful in fighting failed-state wars that involve major counterinsurgency campaigns and reliance on host-country forces.”

CA’s overall value, however, goes beyond its role in the consolidation of political-military gains for post-conflict stabilization. When appropriately leveraged by Joint commanders at especially regional levels, it can help enable and enhance national and international efforts to: plan and conduct CMO and peace & stability operations; support humanitarian assistance & disaster relief operations; counter violent extremism and dark networks; and, perform security cooperation and assistance to support political-military objectives per Army and Joint Operations doctrines and the Joint Concept of Military Engagement, in closer coordination with international, regional, and civilian partners in the Joint, Interorganizational and Multinational Environment.

How, then, is Civil Affairs a force for consolidating gains in a way that helps the larger Joint Force and the Army (as the Service lead for peace & stability operations) take on the political-military challenges the current and future Joint Operating Environments present? How can the CA Regiment better leverage its diverse force – including Active and Reserve Component and Special Operations and General Purpose Force CA units and personnel in the Army and Marines – to help plan and conduct CMO, Military Engagement and other activities in support of political-military strategies for post-conflict stabilization, decisive action, and conflict prevention?

To help address some or all of these questions, the Civil Affairs Association and its partners are inviting experienced civil-military operators to send an originally written Issue Paper (10 pages not including endnotes, Cambria 12, 1.5/double-spaced, with short author bios) with an issue summary, analysis and discussion, and further recommendations in consideration of the Doctrine, Organization, Training, Materiel, Leadership, Personnel, Facilities and Policy (DOTMLPF-P) findings and recommendations of the 2016-17 work.

The top five Issue Papers will appear in the 2017-18 Civil Affairs Issue Papers at the spring 2018 Roundtable in Washington, D.C.., based on response to the call above, originality of thought, clarity of presentation, and feasibility of recommendations at especially the Joint level. Authors will present their papers at the Symposium in Chicago, IL on November 3rd, to compete for a first prize cash award of $500, second prize of $250, and third prize of $100 per author. Papers prepared jointly by civil and military professionals are most welcome. The deadline is Friday, 22 September 2017. Send inquiries and papers to Colonel (ret.) Christopher Holshek, Civil Affairs Issue Papers Editor, at