True Civil Affairs Integration: From Three Tribes to One

Updated: Jun 8, 2020

Assad A. Raza

This article was originally published on October 7, 2019 in the Small Wars Journal here

U.S. Army Civil Affairs Soldiers and Mauritanian Civil Affairs meet with local veterinarians and members of the Herders Association to discuss U.S. led veterinarian assistance for large animals during Flintlock 2020 in Kaedi, Maurtania, Feb.18, 2020.


In August of 1998, former Chief of Staff GEN Dennis Reimer published his white paper, "One Team, One Fight, One Future," describing the importance of achieving Total Army integration by merging the Army’s three components into one fully integrated service.1 In 2008, then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued DoD Directive 1200.17 establishing policies to integrate active component (AC) and reserve component (RC). These policies included cross-component assignments linking both components as a total force.2 Four years later in 2012, then-Secretary of the Army John McHugh issued Army Directive 2012-08 with additional policies for the integration of the Army’s AC and RC.3 By 2016, the Army implemented a pilot program, the Associated Units Pilot Program (AUPP), pairing units from all three components with a goal of a more integrated force.4 The program consisted of mostly brigade combat teams from the Army National Guard paired with active-duty divisions or vice versa. There are few sustainment units participating in the program. To date, there are no Civil Affairs (CA) units participating in the AUPP and perhaps this change can deliver better integration across the CA Regiment.

To meet the Department of Defense’s (DoD) total force concept and the Army Total Force Policy (ATFP), the CA proponent should develop a Civil Affairs Total Force Policy (CATFP). A CATFP would include organizational concepts to assist with the integration of AC and RC CA units to provide the Army a more interoperable and capable force. This policy would consist of different organizational structures that include a mixture of multi-component units, associate units, and fully integrated CA units across special operations forces (SOF) and conventional forces (CF). This effort could integrate the three tribes, AC (SOF/Conventional) and RC, to make the whole greater than the sum of its parts. In turn, it can help strengthen the Civil Affairs brand, narrative, and value for the Joint Force.

This paper used a literature review of relevant articles, doctrine, policies, and reports on military services’ organizational concepts for AC and RC integration for its findings. References include lessons learned by other services on organizational integration and how to best implement them for CA units. Findings will consist of case studies for each type of organizational structure to gain a better understanding of each: multi-component, associate units, and fully integrated units. Recommendations will address recommended changes across the doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, and facilities (DOTMLP-F) factors. Overall, this paper contends that the integration of CA forces would improve readiness and appropriate resources to meet future operational requirements.


All the military services within DoD have identified innovative ways to integrate active and reserve components. Each service combined AC and RC units differently to meet their unique challenges. For example, the Air Force established multi-component units to retain human capital and minimize overhead cost by shared use of aircraft between components. The Coast Guard fully integrated their reservist under one AC commander to provide active units an appropriate mix of personnel to meet real-world missions. The Marines assign AC Marines to reserve units as Inspectors-Instructors (I&I) to assist with their training. The Army has associated or paired reserve/guard units with active-duty forces. When done successfully, the integration of AC and RC forces can increase readiness, reduce costs, and retain human capital across components.5

In 2004, then Deputy Chief of Staff for Air Force Plans and Programs, LTG Duncan McNabb, presented three compelling reasons for AC and RC integration before the Armed Services Committee:

  • Integration allows balancing personnel tempo appropriately among the components.

  • Integration plays to the strengths of each component.

  • Integration provides a continuum of service, an expansion of institutional knowledge, and preservation of human capital.6

These compelling reasons can apply to the reorganization of CA forces. For example, the integration of AC and RC CA forces under a multi-component command would allow commanders to balance forces to meet operational requirements. Consequently, this would improve readiness, training, and share the burden of deployments among component members. Moreover, the integration would facilitate a continuum of service for CA forces and the development of a shared identity and culture among AC and RC components. An example of this model would be the 1st Special Forces Command (Airborne) organizational architecture that includes five AC Special Forces (SF) groups and two Army National Guard (ARNG) SF groups. Additionally, regardless of component, all SF soldiers attend the Special Forces Qualification Course at Fort Bragg, North Carolina to meet their common qualification standards.

In January 2016, The National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA) published its final report. The NCFA report provided 63 recommendations on how the Army can restructure the AC an RC to meet the ATFP. Although both documents focus more on combat units, for example, Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) and Combat Aviation Brigades (CAB), the recommended findings below could support the development of a Civil Affairs Total Force Policy:

  • Recommendation 27: The Secretary of the Army should review and assess officer and NCO positions from all components for potential designation as integrated positions that would allow individuals from all components to fill positions to foster an Army Total Force culture and expand knowledge about other components.

  • Recommendation 28: The Secretary of the Army should develop selection and promotion policies that incentivize Regular Army, Army National Guard, and Army Reserve assignments across components and within multi-component units.

  • Recommendation 32: The Army should continue using multicomponent units and training partnerships to improve Total Force integration and overall Army effectiveness.

  • Recommendation 36: The Army should develop and implement a pilot program to assign Regular Army officers and enlisted soldiers to Army Reserve full-time support positions within one year of publication of this report and evaluated in two years to determine the effectiveness of such a program.

  • Recommendation 38: Congress should authorize and direct the Secretary of the Army to establish a substantial multiyear pilot program in which recruiters from all three components are authorized to recruit individuals into any of the components and receive credit for an enlistee regardless of the component.7

Although published in 2016, these findings still provide CA a framework to develop its pilot program to meet the long-term goal of a Total Army. The greatest challenge with the implementation of this pilot program will be the deep organizational cultures and mistrust between both components. The only way for this program to be successful is to convince all stakeholders of the advantages to enhance readiness and provide the Army with a more capable CA force that maximizes the benefit and uniqueness of each component.

Potential Challenges

The integration of AC and RC CA forces will create challenges as seen with similar initiatives throughout DoD. Although most obstacles seem obvious, they will impact the total CA force across the DOTLMP-F framework. Therefore, the implementation of a pilot program must be monitored carefully to ensure these challenges do not hurt those units participating. Below are some recommended considerations:

  • Command relationship between components

  • Operational availability of RC forces

  • Component specific funding

  • Geographical location between AC and RC forces

  • Training availability of RC forces

  • Equipment compatibility

  • Property accountability

  • Promotion and command opportunities

  • Administration and evaluations

  • Organizational culture and identity

Both funding constraints and geographical locations will be a significant contributor to the challenges for integrating AC and RC CA forces. CA can learn from some of the difficulties associated with the initial implementatio