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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 implementation of the AUPP. For example, the commander of the 173rd BCT in Vicenza, Italy, was dependent on the Texas National Guard to fund the 1/143rd Infantry battalion to participate in an integrated training exercise which sufficient funds were not allocated. Thus, negatively impacting training and the commander’s responsibility to validate the unit.8

Another example was the division level multi-component pilot unit which partnered the 25th Infantry Division (ID) with the Hawaii National Guard. However, the Guard could not support the Main Command Post Operational Detachment (MCP-OD) associated with the 25th ID headquarters. Subsequently, the responsibility was passed to the reserve component which U.S Army Indo-Pacific was hesitant to support due to its ability to fill billets on account of geographic limitations. Distance between units is a critical factor with the integration of RC units with AC. Moreover, location will impact everything from funding for travel to increased training days for RC to meet mission requirements.

Additionally, readiness differences between AC and RC units can impact the implementation of CATFP. Generally, RC is constrained by funding and training days compared to their AC counterparts. During LTG Charles D. Luckey’s, 33rd Chief of the Army Reserve and 8th Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command, hearing to the Senate Appropriation Committee in 2018, he stated “if sequestration budget caps return in FY 2020, the Army Reserve will incur significant risk in training, facility restoration and modernization, and equipping and modernization programs vital to winning the Nation’s wars.”9 Hence, personnel and equipment may not be fully prepared or compatible when integrating with AC units.

The Army’s shift toward lethality and great power competition may also negatively impact CA readiness. According to a RAND study, current processes for resourcing and training tend to focus on BCTs and lethality. Hence, putting RC units at a disadvantage because they are mostly made up of sustainment units.10 However, the integration of both components can provide RC CA forces access to modernized equipment and contribute to a long-term effort to achieve a more sustainable readiness of the total CA force.

Another major challenge is the enduring identity and cultural differences between AC and RC CA forces. Major Shafi Saiduddin and Sergeant First Class (Retired) Robert Schafer suggested that the difference in capabilities and training under one career field is central to CA’s identity issue.11 Additionally, they stated that identity within CA forces is based on component and command relationship; for example, “AC vs. RC” and “SOF vs. Conventional.”12 While these identity issues are not exclusively a CA problem, it can impact any attempt to AC and RC CA integration.

Knowing the cultural differences between AC and RC forces, in 1997, then–Secretary of Defense William Cohen issued a memorandum reinforcing the need for component integration to address cultural barriers to the total force:

“I ask each of you to create an environment that eliminates all residual barriers—structural and cultural—for effective integration within our Total Force. By integration, I mean the conditions of readiness and trust needed for the leadership at all levels to have well-justified confidence that Reserve Component units are trained and equipped to serve as an effective part of the joint and combined force within whatever timelines are ser [sic] for the unit—in peace and war . . . Our goal, as we move into the 21st century, must be a seamless Total Force that provides the National Command Authorities the flexibility and interoperability necessary for the full range of military operations. We cannot achieve this as separate components.”

(Office of the Secretary of Defense, Public Affairs, 1997, p. 3).13

However, two decades later, the U.S. Army continues to address the cultural issues between components. The 2016 NCFA stated that the biases among components continue to work against the total force initiative.14 These cultural differences drastically impact the effectiveness of the total force to meet emerging requirements. Therefore, the CATFP should focus on how to optimize the CA capability while putting these cultural biases into consideration for future integration efforts.


Now is the time to change the organizational structure for CA to increase effectiveness, efficiency, and strengthen the Regiment by bringing all the tribes together. The 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) states that “department leaders will adapt their organizational structures to best support the Joint Force. If current structures hinder substantial increases in lethality or performance, it is expected that Service Secretaries and Agency heads will consolidate, eliminate, or restructure as needed.”15 Thus, the NDS, the NCFA, and the ATFP provide leaders the organizational frameworks to put a Civil Affairs Total Force into action. The integration of AC and RC CA forces will not only support the NDS and ATFP but also increase performance and illuminate many of the unique capabilities found only within Civil Affairs forces. This section includes recommendations in each of the DOTMLP-F factors and other potential areas.

Doctrine. The first draft of the CATFP could start by implementing a pilot program to integrate AC and RC CA forces. However, CA proponent should continue to monitor updates as the Army continues to change doctrine to meet ATFP requirements. For example, the ATFP recommended changes with Army Regulation (AR) 500-5, Army Mobilization, to streamline the mobilization process for RC forces to meet mission requirements.16 The recommended ATFP changes for Army Regulations is intended to move the Army towards a total force that would support the implementation of a CATFP. Additionally, CA proponent should conduct an independent assessment of Army Regulations and Policies to determine recommended changes and request exceptions to expedite the integration of AC and RC CA forces.

Organization. The current CA force structure is spread across two commands, United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) and Forces Command (FORSCOM), and two components (AC/RC). To better capitalize on the CA capabilities across both components and commands, the CA proponent should implement a combination of associated units, multi-component, and fully integrated units’ approaches. For example, associate (or pair) a RC CA Battalion (Airborne) with the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Special Operations) (Airborne). This partnership would allow the 95th to approve training and assess the readiness of a RC battalion. Additionally, provide the associated RC battalion an opportunity to train with AC partners with SOF and participate in integrated training exercises. Over time, this integration would evolve to improved readiness for that RC battalion and the cross-leveling of deployments to increase AC dwell times.

Another example can be the development of a multi-component Civil Affairs Command, commanded by a reserve CA Brigadier General. This command would include a staff mixture of AC and RC personnel at all echelons. Additionally, moving administrative control of the 83rd CA Battalion (AC) from FORSCOM to this multi-component command. This structure would be one step forward to fully integrating AC and RC units under a single command with the goal of cross-leveling experiences and validating the compatibility of AC and RC units.

For all the other RC CA units, CA should follow the Marine’s Inspectors-Instructors (I&I) duty model by assigning AC Soldiers to RC units as mentors to assist with their unit training.17 This AC staff would be a mixture of officers and enlisted, and work alongside the unit leadership focused on training and readiness. These AC forces would also deploy with their assigned unit to continue to support the command team by advising and assisting RC units.

Training. CA forces, dependent on component, have different levels of training and experience. Moreover, RC has different levels of training within their ranks as several individuals are unqualified, attended a 30-day expedited training (equivalent to AC), or transitioned from AC with the almost year-long active duty training pipe-line. To close the gap with training and readiness between components, CA should assign AC instructors to USCAPOC’s 1st Training Brigade. The assignment of AC instructors could assist RC with developing and implementing a continuous training program to level the training between components. Over time, this could increase progress towards qualification and closing the gap of qualified personnel between AC and RC. This program would not include specific SOF training and language qualifications.

Regarding collective training, the cross-pollination of AC and RC across multi-component units can increase unit readiness. Either associated or a fully integrated multi-component command, the partnership will force AC and RC to identify areas to train together. Just like the units participating in the AUPP, the controlling headquarters (either AC or RC) would be responsible for:

  • Approving the training program of the associated unit.

  • Reviewing readiness reports.

  • Assessing resource requirements.

  • Validating compatibility; this is the authority that moves farthest from the established concept of AC commanders simply assessing readiness and resourcing, as it specifies that compatibility will be assessed using “integrated training exercises” (Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy’s 2016 memorandum).18

Therefore, the higher CA unit, either AC or RC, is overall responsible for the training and readiness for the other component’s units.

For CA units not associated with another component, there are opportunities for AC and RC units to train together as opposing forces. For example, in 2015, First Army designed an exercise that included a Virginia Army National Guard (ANG) BCT, a Vermont ANG BCT, and the New York ANG 42 Infantry Division Headquarters as the training unit, while 1st BCT, 10th Mountain Division served as the opposing force.19 An exercise at this scale would provide both components to train together and to increase interoperability between components. Additionally, this type of multi-component exercise would be another way to meet the ATFP requirements.

Material. One of the benefits with the integration of AC and RC CA forces is the access to modernized equipment. Historically there has always been a modernization gap between AC and RC forces. In the FY 2017 National Guard and Reserve Equipment Report (NGRER) it states: “Due to the impacts of the Budget Control Act of 2011, the Department is witnessing a decline in RC equipment procurement funding, in some cases falling back to pre-9-11 levels or even lower.”20 Therefore, the sharing of equipment between components can close the interoperability and training gap between AC and RC units.

For example, the Oshkosh-built Joint Light Tactical Vehicle will be fielded across the Army for over twenty years.21 Throughout the fielding period, the sharing of equipment for training between components would provide those units not yet fielded access to modernized equipment. Units participating in the AUPP have done it before, for example, “the 1st Cavalry Division loaned M1 tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles to the Mississippi National Guard for its Multi-Echelon Integrated Brigade Training exercise on Fort Hood.”22 Although the sharing of equipment will not expedite the fielding process, it will provide CA forces access to modernized equipment and ensure standardization in training across the CA regiment.

Leadership. The integration of AC and RC units would also increase opportunities for leaders to fill critical positions across components and potential promotions. The cross-pollination of leaders, both officers, and non-commission officers, will increase understanding and close the cultural gap between components. For example, the Marines place their AC Inspectors-Instructors (I&I) in key positions: “I&I personnel normally occupy key staff leadership positions, such as the training chief of a battalion or as the S-3/S-4. I&I staff provide leadership continuity when selected reservist (SELRES) leadership is not drilling, and they assist in planning training and unit development.”23 Additionally, AC can fill an agreed-upon percentage of hard to fill RC command and senior enlisted slots within the CACOMs. The placement of leaders across the CA force will not only contribute to unit readiness but close the cultural gap and provide CA a more unified voice with the Army.

Personnel. Cross component assignments are not new to the Army. The Army in the ‘90s assigned AC to RC as advisers and in FY17 started assigning AC, RC, and ARNG to multi-component units as part of the AUPP. However, according to a RAND report, AC officers assigned to reserve had lower promotion rates than those who stayed in a traditional AC career path.24 Hence, to properly implement a CATFP, CA proponent must work closely with the Army and Human Resources Command (HRC) to develop policies to incentivize cross-component assignments. Developing a policy would also fulfill the NCFA recommendation #28, stating: “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 multicomponent units.”25

Once fully functional, the Army’s new Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army (IPPS-A) will provide personnel and pay services across all three components.26 The IPPS-A will provide AC and RC personnel an opportunity to transition between components and preserve human capital. Moreover, this would give the CA regiment a way to retain experienced and trained forces. Another initiative would be to develop a program, where CA forces can move between components within the multi-component units they are associated with or assigned. According to an official Army article written in 2011:

“The basic concept of Continuum of Service, or COS, said an Army Reserve senior leader, is to allow Soldiers to move between different statuses while preserving the Army's investment in training and education. It also aims to preserve the Soldiers' accumulated benefits.”27

The ability to move between components will provide commanders the option to identify personnel across the force to take part in training or fill any other operational requirements. Additionally, this would provide soldiers the opportunity to temporarily get off active duty to continue education or pursue other personal goals with the options of continue service within the regiment.

Facilities. Facilities and locations can be a challenge for implementing a CATFP. The majority of the RC units are spread across the United States as compared to all of the AC units that are principally all located at Fort Bragg, NC. Therefore, more analysis of facilities and geographic locations must be researched to determine unit associations and minimize challenges with AC and RC integration. Collocating active duty CA at some of these RC locations could present opportunities for education or other career-enhancing activities. For instance, the 351st CACOM in Mountain View, California, is near large tech companies like Facebook and LinkedIn, and universities like Stanford. Key locations like this can provide the CA Regiment an excellent opportunity to increase community pairing and push towards more military-civilian integration with high-tech firms.


The Army published its Army Total Force Policy in 2012 to define steps and guidance to integrate all components to meet DoD’s goal for a total force. U.S. Army Civil Affairs should take the NCFA recommendations and the lessons learned by other services and from those Army units participating in the AUPP to develop a Civil Affairs Total Force Policy. Due to the ratio of AC vs. RC CA units, a CATFP would include different types of organizational structures to integrate components. For example, multi-component units led by either component or embedding fellow AC CA mentors and leaders to RC units who are not associated with an AC unit. However, more research is necessary to identify constraints within administrative and operational duties that could cause any unintended issues with AC and RC integration. Once implemented, the combination of AC and RC CA forces will create opportunities for CA force to train together and maintain the lines of communication between components. Over time, it will lessen the cultural differences, improve readiness, and retain human capital to meet future operational requirements.

End Notes

1 Reimer, Dennis J. GEN USA, One Team, One Fight, One Future, Total Army Integration, (DTIC-OCA, 21 Aug 1998).

2 Pint, Ellen; Schnaubelt, Christopher; Dalzell, Stephen; Hastings, Jaime; Speed, Penelope; Shanley, Michael, Review of Army Total Force Policy Implementation, (RAND Corporation 2017), pg 11.

3 Ibid., pg 11.

4 Ibid., pg 33.

5 Thie, Harry; Yardley, Roland; Schrimer, Peter, Ehrenberg, Rudolph; Speed, Penelope, Factors to Consider in Blending Active and Reserve Manpower Within Military Units, (RAND Corporation 2007), pg 6-7.

6 U.S. House of Representatives, Testimony of Lieutenant General Duncan J. Mcnabb Deputy Chief of Staff For Air Force Plans and Programs Before the United States House of Representatives Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Total Force Regarding Adequacy of The Total Force. 10 March 2001.

7 National Commission on the Future of the Army (NCFA): Report to the President and the Congress of the United States, January 28, 2016. pgs 65-73.

8 Pint et al., 2017, pg 36.

9 U.S. Senate Appropriation Committee, Defense Hearing of Lieutenant General Charles D. Luckey, 33d Chief of Army Reserve and 8th Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve Command, 17 April 2018.

10 Pint et al., pg 53.

11 Salduddin, Shafi; Schafer, Robert, Optimizing Civil Affairs through Branding and Narrative Strategies, Civil Affairs Issue Papers, Volume 5, 2018-19, The Civil Affairs Association/ Association of the United States Army, pg 27.

12 Ibid., pg 29.

13 Pint, et al., pg 8.

14 NCFA., pgs 59-60: A cultural divide exists between the components, as well: Some of that is good, healthy unit pride and esprit de corps; unfortunately, some of that is the result of a long-standing—and, the Commission contends, outdated— prejudice regarding the skills and dedication of one component over the others. These differences among the components continue to be manifested in a wide range of administrative policies and traditional practices, from promotion standards and training opportunities to personnel management and human resources stove piping. These work against developing one Army.

15 Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of The United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge, pg 10.

16 Pint, et al., pg 26.

17 Martens, Melissa, Working Together to Accomplish the Mission: Inspector-Instructor duty, Marines Official Website, 20 August 2019.

18 Ibid., pg 33.

19 Marlow, W. Wayne, First Army-Designed Exercise Replicates Combat Training Center Rotation, press release, Fort Drum, N.Y., 23 June 2015.

20 Pint, et al., pg 63.

21 Villasanta, Arthur J, New JLTV Combat Trucks to Enter U.S. Army Service in Jan. 2019, Wall Street News, 3 January 2019.

22 Pint, et al., pg66.

23 Thie, et a., pg68.

24 Pint, et al., pg79.

25 NCFA., pg 65.

27 McLLvaine, Rob, Army Planning 'Continuum of Service' Between Components, 15 November 2011, U.S Army,

About the Author

Assad Raza is an Active Duty Civil Affairs Officer in the United States Army. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from The University of Tampa, a M.A. in Diplomacy w/concentration in International Conflict Management from Norwich University, and is a graduate of The Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation Command and General Staff Officer Course at Fort Benning, Georgia. Follow him on Twitter: @assadraza12

The views expressed are the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of U.S. Army, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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