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Symposium Harnesses Integrators and Influencers

Updated: Feb 8, 2020

Over 120 civil affairs (CA) community and partner members gathered last month in Tampa, FL for the annual Civil Affairs Symposium, first to look at determining ways and means for “Integrating Civil Affairs.” While mainly among CA’s special operations and conventional, reserve and active, and Army and Marine forces in support of Army, Marine and Joint Force commands, it included U.S. interagency stabilization partners. As the event ensued, however, the highly diverse community of operators, leaders, entrepreneurs, and thinkers – including some from as far away as the United Kingdom, Germany, Canada, Hungary, Nigeria and the Pacific Basin – discovered much more.

The annual professional and force development event began with three well-attended workshops designed to identify improvements in civil affairs doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership & education, personnel, facilities and policy (DOTMLPF-P). Outcomes of these workshops will help Army or Marine commands prevail across the competition continuum, whether in Multi-Domain Operations (MDO) or in support of stabilization at joint, inter-organizational, and multinational (JIM) levels – two imperatives, many realized, that are not necessarily contradictory.

In addition to the familiar force and doctrinal development workshop led by the CA Branch Proponent at the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center & School (USAJFKSWCS) was a new U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations (Airborne) [USACAPOC(A)] run workshop looking more closely at the challenge of operational integration of CA and PSYOP forces in a converging environment for civil-military and information operations (IO), as well as ways to revitalizing the 38G functional specialist program. Among panelists were representatives from the 77th Brigade (U.K.) to share their own experiences in integrating civil-military and information operations capabilities under one command. A third workshop, for junior leaders and run by Army non-commissioned officers and Marine staff NCOs, took on the more fundamental issues of CA readiness and tactical CA team integration in Army and Marine commands for today’s complex missions.

Marine Corps CA Strategic Planner Aaron Weiss leads NCOs and other junior leaders in Workshop III.

Together, these three workshops, while providing greater voice to critical CA elements, gathered a rich harvest of insights for civil affairs development. USAJFKSWCS Director for CA Force Modernization retired Col. Dennis J. Cahill will capture these in a consolidated and detailed Workshops Report, to appear on the Association website in the coming weeks as well as in the sixth volume of the Civil Affairs Issue Papers early next year. Given their immediate success, the new workshops will feature at future Symposia.

While re-validating base CA activities like civil reconnaissance and civil engagement at the tactical levels as well as more operationally integrative tasks like civil information management (CIM) and civil-military operations (CMO) planning for what Marines call “civil preparation of the battlespace,” the workshops also reaffirmed CA’s roles in civil-military transition management and consolidation for improved decision-making and a learning network beyond CA and other military commands. CA must modernize its mission capacities to meet and adapt to changing Army and Marine requirements. As the dialogue lapsed into the next day, it became clear that CA also needs to do a better job of building collaborative, steady-state strategic relationships for convergent mission environments.

At Workshop I, Maj. Csaba Szabo from the NATO CIMIC Center of Excellence noted how there were many points for CA-CIMIC and JIM collaboration in MDO and IO, including targeting. Capabilities like CA, PSYOP, and CIMIC, as Workshop II noted, are crucial to irregular and hybrid warfare and in gray zone conflicts by facilitating local governance to undermine and erode an adversary’s power and influence in its ability to control populations and key leaders. CA, they concluded, becomes more effective when working by, with, and through interorganizational partners. The implied task is thus for CA education and training programs to improve knowledge of and interoperability with these partners, as CA experience in Syria Transition Assistance Response Team – Forward operations has also most recently reaffirmed.

Among other top challenges was the integration of CA and other civil information capabilities under a unified CIM system along similar lines – two of this year’s issue papers took on this topic. Another implied task was for CA professionals to educate institutions like the new Army Futures Command that CA is much more than either an information or stability force. A third finding was to have supported commands consider support as well as command-and-control relationships with assigned or apportioned CA forces.

At the CA Corps Banquet, former Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Army retired Lt. Gen. Karen E. Dyson, reminded of the many ways military forces can have far-reaching strategic impact in unexpected places in foreign societies. In a fascinating story, she recalled how she and a civil affairs financial functional specialist helped push transition of the Iraqi economy to a new monetary system by convincing the Army to provide cash payments to local contractors and employees in new Iraqi dinar instead of U.S. dollars. She added how this also helped the population gain confidence in the new government.

For her own services in furtherance of civil affairs, Association president Col. (Ret.) Joe Kirlin presented her the John H. Hilldring Award. He also presented Association awards to: Junior Officer of the Year Capt. Paul Mower, U.S. Marine Reserve; NCO of the Year Sgt. 1st Class Sean Acosta, U.S. Army; Soldier of the Year Spec. Shayne M. Lindquist, U.S. Army Reserve; the Winfield Scott Medallion to Col. Alan McKewan, U.S. Army; the Ralph R. Temple Award to retired Cmd. Sgt. Maj. William A. Grocott, Jr., U.S. Army; the Eli E. Nobleman Award to recently retired Maj. Gen. Daniel R. Ammerman, U.S. Army; and a Special Association Award to Col. Tony L. Thacker, U.S. Army, for his outstanding work with CA forces in Syria.

Cols. Tony Thacker and Alan McKewan pose with Cmd. Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Bill Grocott and Association president Col. (Ret.) Joe Kirlin after receiving their awards.

The dialogue shifted rapidly the next morning when State Department Special Envoy and Global Engagement Center (GEC) Coordinator Lea Gabrielle gave her keynote presentation on “Civil Affairs and America’s Global Influence through Local Engagement.” The former DIA and CIA Human Intelligence Operations Officer and Navy F/A-18C combat missions pilot expressed her deepened appreciation of civil affairs and how it can help the GEC “direct, lead, synchronize, integrate, and coordinate efforts of the Federal Government to recognize, understand, expose, and counter foreign state and foreign non-state propaganda and disinformation efforts aimed at undermining or influencing the policies, security, or stability of the United States and its allies and partner nations,” as its mission states.

“With our global missions, it’s natural that the GEC and civil affairs become closer partners, the former Defense Foreign Liaison Officer concluded up-front. “In fact, the very reason the GEC was created falls right in line with the need to better integrate civil and military capabilities in the Army and in the military, generally.”

CA’s role as the military's primary civil engagement capability for well over a century has gained new importance as an instrument of “expeditionary diplomacy,” as has its ability to work by, with, and through other military and interorganizational partners to help win in the global competition for influence where the likelihood of traditional state-on-state warfare remains relatively low but gray zone, irregular, and hybrid threats abound.

Special Envoy Lea Gabrielle fields a question from Brig. Gen. Glenn Goddard.

For one, it proves the value of civil reconnaissance. “The United States has often struggled to understand the local social-political context of conflict. CA forces extend the reach of U.S. embassy country teams in remote and contested areas. As our warrior-diplomats, [they] provide us with the physical access to those regions, and the on-the-ground experience that comes with it, which then helps us fine-tune information operations.”

It also proves the value of civil engagement and CA as a force for influence and not just information. “Civil affairs teams don’t just tell a good story. They ARE a good story. Their work product is tangible evidence that the U.S. and its allies bring real value to places and peoples that need it. And that makes a powerful counter-argument against disinformation, she explained.

“The human networks fostered by CA teams put them in a strong position to help identify, expose, and counter disinformation narratives, both locally and regionally. By working closely with local populations and influencers, CA teams quickly learn about local themes and narratives. That knowledge is key to effectively understand and combat disinformation, because doing so requires knowing which counter narrative or alternative narrative to promote.”

The GEC’s mission, in turn, has a very real connection to and value for the work of civil affairs. “Disinformation can pose a serious challenge when you are a CA team on the ground and trying to create a common operating picture and deploy information tools in a local environment.” Ms. Gabrielle noted her personal interest in seeing how the GEC can provide good information and guidance to make civil affairs operations even more effective.

A force of such far-reaching value needs to be adequately resourced, the recent presidential appointee stressed. “While CA teams are gaining even more strategic importance amidst this era of gray-zone conflict and people-centric warfare, we’ve been seeing cuts in CA forces. We need to ensure that civil affairs in our military are kept in balance so we can continue to leverage their experience and capabilities, both from my perch at the State Department and across the government. At the end of the day, our adversaries are pushing on all levers available to them to achieve their objectives and contest us. Our government needs to be pushing on all available levers in a coordinated fashion to achieve our strategic objectives.”

Special Envoy Gabrielle was impressed enough with the follow-on dialogue to stay for the panel discussion of “Science & Technology to Improve CA Integration and Strategic Performance in the 21st Century.” She noted a shared challenged in how “the same technology that has put an ever-growing crowd-sourced encyclopedia in the hands of anyone with an internet connection has also put a multimedia storyteller in almost everyone’s pocket, and it is not always clear who is controlling the narrative.”

Led by Lt. Col. Arnel P. David, U.S. Special Assistant to the Chief of the General Staff (U.K.) and co-author of Military Strategy in the 21st Century, the panel of young entrepreneurs looking to “operationalize the science of the human domain” through the integration of social sciences and cyber-cognitive tools as CA force multipliers. CA is a prime force for such socio-technical revolutions because: for one, it innovates more from the bottom-up than the top-down; and secondly, especially reserve CA can best leverage new ideas and best practices from the private sector – a major theme, in fact, of another issue paper.

CA science & technology panel moderator Lt. Col. Arnel David entertains comments from a PSYOP Captain from Special Operations Command - Central (SOCCENT).

A galvanizing moment arrived with USACAPOC(A) Commanding General Maj. Gen. Darrell Guthrie’s video presentation (watch below) to update the Symposium on command developments, strategy, and vision. In candid remarks on a command that provides nearly all the Army’s conventional CA, PSYOP, and IO capabilities, especially at the operational and strategic levels, he noted its challenges in learning to operate in an MDO/IO environment, maintain soldier, combat, and organizational readiness, and modernize “increasingly obsolete capabilities” for civil reconnaissance, engagement, and information management.

Nonetheless, he pointed out USACAPOC’s greatest strength in its human capital and his strategy to improve readiness by concentrating on finding “the best people for the best mission.” Capturing the zeitgeist and echoing the findings of both the Symposium and the issue papers, Maj. Gen. Guthrie offered a vision for a way forward by “harnessing collective influence” through more IO-focused CIM support to intelligence, better CA/PSYOP/IO operations integration to achieve greater cognitive impacts, and closer working relations with the Army Futures Command and leveraging the Army Research Lab’s work on megacities and cultural biases and USAJFKSWCS development of geospatial assets.

He also highlighted USACAPOC(A)’s renewed emphasis on growing CA’s 38G functional specialist capabilities through establishing partnerships with private sector and non-governmental organizations. A recently formalized program with the Smithsonian Institution to generate cultural preservation capabilities is a pilot for rebuilding all 18 functional specialties in a new and different way.

After a quick read-out from the previous day’s workshops, the issue paper presentations were anything but anticlimactic. “Civil Affairs as Function of Smart Power,” a well-researched and innovative argument for a standardized joint assessment framework to improve CA’s ability to counter “sharp” hybrid power with integrative “smart” power by a reserve-active team of Captains Kevin Chapla, James P. Micciche, and Kyle Staron, won the $1,000 first prize.

Second prize went to “Private Sector Developed Capabilities, Not Readiness, as the Key to Civil Affairs’ Future,” by Maj. Giancarlo Newsome, Col. Bradford Hughes, and Col. Douglas R. Hurst. This visionary treatise provided good intellectual background to USACAPOC(A)’s approach to rebuilding CA’s functional specialist capabilities.

Third prize went to Maj. Ian Duke, who briefed an interesting proposal for “A Civil Information Battalion and Effective Integration of Civil Knowledge,” which he argued would greatly enhance CA capacity and capabilities to support commands with continuously well-grounded knowledge and not just information on human network analysis and network engagement.

“Changing the Business Model Part II: Integrating Civil Affairs as a Compass for Expeditionary Diplomacy,” by Mr. Robert Schafer and Lt. Col. Shafi Saiduddin, resonated very well with Special Envoy Gabrielle’s discussion of CA as a function of expeditionary diplomacy as well as with proposals in the workshops for more supporting model relationships with supported commands.

Maj. Brian J. Hancock, Timothy P. Darr, Riannon Hazell, and Peter Grazaitis, in contrast to the Duke proposal, took a more comprehensive and strategic look at CIM in their paper presentation. “Integrating Civil Affairs Through the Application of Battlefield Relevant Civil Information Management” also expounded on implications for IO and growing CA as a force for influence in MDO.

The five papers were among 23 submitted this year. “This was not an easy process,” noted Committee Chairman Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Bruce B. Bingham. “Many were very worthy of publication and just about every paper, however, contained insights and ideas worthy of seeing the light of day.”

Brig. Gen. (Ret.) Bruce B. Bingham and CAA President with paper finalists

Fortunately, the Association now offers two options to the authors of papers not selected. One is to have paper-based articles published in the Civil Affairs Journal on the Association website. To reach much wider audiences, they can also look to the professional journals cited by the Publication Advisory Board to see how a version of their paper can help mainstream CA into the larger discussions of the Army and Marines, the Joint Force, and national security issues. Board Chairman Brig. Gen. Glenn A. Goddard briefed that Board members are also available to provide advice and assistance for professional military education writing requirements as well as for articles.

While the papers will not appear in final form until the 2019-20 Civil Affairs Issue Papers are published next March, Association members can view the summaries and all Symposium presentations in the “2019 CA Symposium” folder of the Research Library on the Association website. Paper copies will be available at the Civil Affairs Roundtable in Washington, D.C. in late April.

The Association briefed many other initiatives beyond expanding its well- established platforms for collective learning and intellectual capitalization in support of the wider “learning organization” Maj. Gen. Guthrie proposed. And now through Workshops II and III, constituencies in the reserves and among junior leaders now have their own tables instead of just a seat at one.

Another development has been the growth of sponsors to help defray the cost of attendance at these events, including The Patriot Fund, Third Order Effects

and Valka Mir Human Security. The goal is to have donations and sponsors to keep attendance fees reasonable, as well as provide webcasts for those who can’t travel.

Among the many benefits that have come on line to better serve Association members, in addition to the education and training resources, will soon be a “CA Marketplace” to assist professional and personal networking. At the same time, a youth movement is taking place with new Association Directors announced at the Board meeting the day after the event. Scholarships for young CA leaders are also under consideration.

“It’s encouraging to see a lot of younger leadership joining our ranks, bringing in new ideas, and enabling us to do much more,” observed Association president Col. (Ret.) Joe Kirlin at the meeting. “There’s more value-added to membership in the Association now than ever, and not only for civil affairs but those organizations we interact with in support of our nation's defense. The Association will continue to provide needed advocacy as well as professional education and development forums. It will also continue to work in a more integral way with the Association of the United States Army, the Reserve Officers Association, the Foreign Area Officers Association, the Military Officers Association of America, and other influencers of national defense policy with input into strategic initiatives for our nation's future and for the growth of the civil affairs mission and branch.”

The energized consensus from the Symposium was that it achieved much in identifying ways ahead for civil affairs – not just about better integration within and well beyond the Civil Affairs Corps. The emerging realization was that CA can find better integration, more than as a mere force multiplier, as a force for influence and collaboration in a world of convergent threats and challenges – as one participant noted – to the value systems the U.S. shares with its allies. In his warning, the USACAPOC(A) Commanding General may have been talking about much more than his command or even civil affairs.

“We must become an adaptable, agile learning organization or we will be replaced by one that is.” - Major General Darrell J. Guthrie, U.S. Army

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