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Civil Affairs: Making More than the Papers

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

Concurrent to the expansion of platforms beginning last year, beyond the Civil Affairs Issue Papers, to help members of the Regiment tell the civil affairs story, a virtual barrage of articles and podcasts on CA-related topics has opened up.

Going only as far back to two capstone articles last fall, on the civil affairs role in U.S. stabilization in the Small Wars Journal and on CA’s longstanding value-added as a critical Army war-winning capability in Army magazine, more and more civil affairs professionals are contributing to what U.S. Army JFK Special Warfare Center & School (USAJFKSWCS) Commander Maj. Gen. Kurt L. Sonntag has called the “intellectual capitalization” of the civil affairs enterprise to educate itself, the Army, and others.

Beyond the Civil Affairs Issue Papers, now in its sixth annual call for papers on “integrating civil affairs” (due August 30th), members of the Regiment have been able to source the CA Centennial edition of Special Warfare Magazine, USAJFKSWCS quarterly CA newsletters (posted on the Association website), and SOF News articles on civil affairs, as well as the civil affairs working group report from the annual Peace & Stability Operations Training & Education Workshop and the CA Roundtable Report.

CPT Peter Hendrickson PhD

(CPT Peter Hendrickson, PhD in Liberia, Courtesy of LTC (ret) Ross F. Lightsey, Sr.)

Then there have been articles in the online Civil Affairs Journal to extend the discussions in the Issue Papers by contributors who re-wrote papers submitted but not published. This includes an article by Capt. David Harrell on mapping social media followed up by Sgt. 1st Class Matthew Peterson’s on how CA may support a major combat contingency in Korea and another by Maj. Nicholas Ashley on how CA can harness the power of civil society in its operations.

At the same time, however, CA professionals have been busy expanding the discussion beyond professional military journals to open-source publications with wider reach. Among these is the Small Wars Journal, which has become home for detailed discussions of the CA operational art. Among these is Army Strategist and CA officer Lt. Col. Arnel David and Dr. W.A. Rivera’s strategic explanation of how CA supports the Army’s current focus on lethality, complemented by CA Commandant Col. Jay Liddick and others’ more institutional treatment of CA and lethality.

Military Strategy in the 21st Century

David, who also co-authored the book, Military Strategy in the 21st Century, contributed further with an examination of operationalizing the human domain in greater power competition, this time with Joint Special Operations University’s Dr. Aleksandra Nesic. Along similar lines, Maj. Assad Raza contributes with his own take on CA’s irregular warfare role in the competition continuum among weak states. Raza also posted in SWJ a review of how CA remains even more relevant as a force for engagement, whereas MAJ Mike Karlson gives a similar doctrinally relevant look at civil affairs in the human geography.

Civil affairs has been making more than the Issue Papers. In addition to publications by CA professionals, a number of pieces on topics directly or indirectly related to civil affairs written by others have appeared. Along with the above-mentioned articles, these are posted in the Association’s new online Research Library as a service to members conducting research for papers and other publications. This past spring, the Association simultaneously launched the Publication Advisory Board, including a list of links to the editorial pages of numerous publications, to assist in that effort.

The OneCA podcast platform has similarly taken off. At 31 and counting, the podcasts cover topics from cultural heritage preservation, NGO life, Russia, and Nepal, to information operations. Guests to date include Kevin Melton, Diana Parzik, and Ryan MCannell of the U.S. Agency for International Development, USACAPOC(A) Commander Maj. Gen. Darrell Guthrie and Col. Jay Liddick, Lt. Col. Scott Dickerson, and 2017 Issue Paper winner and 2018 Army NCO of the Year Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta from USAJFKSWCS, as well as Col. Valerie Jackson of the USMC’s 4th CA Group, and a sample of Issue Paper authors. The next podcast will feature retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, who was the keynote speaker at the last Roundtable.

“It’s really great to see younger members of our Regiment engaging to advocate, mainstream, and build our intellectual capital to educate the Army and other Joint Services, USAID, State Department, and non-governmental organizations,” noted Association President retired Colonel Joe Kirlin. “These new platforms, professional education and force development venues, and OneCA podcasts have served to raise the level of awareness about civil affairs, qualitatively as well as quantitatively.”

To learn more, go to the Association website. For inquiries or suggestions, send an email to


Christopher Holshek, Col., U.S. Army Civil Affairs (Ret.) is Association Vice President for Military Affairs, Issue Papers editor, and Distinguished Member of the Civil Affairs Regiment


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