RAND Issues New Report on Stabilization for DoD


"The preferred model for stabilization, according to the majority of our interviewees, is to rely on local capacity, with a relatively small footprint of outside implementers. USAID—and the Office of Transition Initiatives, in particular—works closely with civil affairs teams and other special operations forces in many conflict environments where military transport and force protection provide vital support to their activities."

Report Titled: Finding the Right BalanceDepartment of Defense Roles in Stabilization was recently published by RAND and has many implications for Civil Affairs.

by Linda Robinson, Sean Mann, Jeffrey Martini, Stephanie Pezard

Can be downloaded here

The pendulum regarding the level of U.S. military participation in stabilization efforts has swung dramatically since 2001, from a low level of preparation and participation in the early days of the Afghanistan and Iraq operations in 2003, to widespread stabilization activities costing billions of dollars in the ensuing years, to significantly scaled-back forces and resources devoted to stabilization in recent years. To remedy the initial lack of preparation, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) issued a directive with guidance on stabilization requirements in 2005 and then updated it with more expansive requirements in 2009. This report supports DoD efforts to update this guidance by assessing the accumulated experience of the past 17 years and evaluating the appropriate roles for the U.S. military and its ability to execute them in conjunction with interagency and other key partners.

Without stabilization, successful warfighting often does not produce desired political outcomes. Yet warfighters are not the most capable actors for many stabilization tasks. Therefore, the authors recommend shifting DoD guidance on stabilization away from requiring high levels of proficiency in a large number of tasks to emphasizing three key roles for DoD: prioritizing security tasks; providing support to other actors performing stability functions; and performing crosscutting informational, planning, coordination, and physical support roles.

Key Findings

Stabilization must be embraced as a U.S. policy priority

  • There is common pattern of forgetting that stabilization is a vital function that must be performed across the range of military operations.

  • The military has a vital role to play, particularly in security and in supporting the stabilization activities of others.

  • The roles that the military is expected to perform should be more clearly defined.

  • The coordination mechanisms for unified action and a comprehensive approach remain a work in progress, but civilian entities, allies, and others do possess substantial expertise and capacity, albeit with some gaps.

  • A more focused approach to stabilization overall avoids waste and counterproductive effects, such as fueling corruption and conflict.

U.S. civilian entities and the United Kingdom, Germany, and France have specific stabilization roles and capabilities

  • The United Kingdom, Germany, and France have been active in coalition stabilization operations since the Balkans conflict.

  • NATO and the UK, German, and French militaries focus on developing stabilization skills that are closely linked to civilian stabilization skills and funding.

  • USAID has core competencies in areas of democracy, conflict resolution, and bottom-up restoration of services.

  • The United Nations