Carving our Niche: A Modular Concept for Future Civil Affairs

Updated: Jun 29, 2020

"Increasing Civil Affairs technical expertise through advanced schooling will allow our Corps to better respond to evolving threats and to actually be what we tell others we are—masters of the human domain."

Problem Statement

How does a four-person Civil Affairs Team (CAT) conduct Human Network Analysis (HNA), Foreign Internal Defense (FID), Humanitarian Assistance (HA), and support to Unconventional Warfare (UW) over an entire Area of Responsibility (AOR) when statistically one person being non-mission capable reduces its the team’ capabilities by 25 percent? The current CAT structure restricts the ability to balance survivability with the accomplishment of a mission. Additionally, the nature of Civil Affairs missions requires a wider skill set to meet the supported commander’s intent.


The U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) is constantly evolving to counter future threats across the spectrum of conflict within the gray zone between peace and overt war. Civil Affairs forces must be included in this evolution to address future threats and adversaries. Multi-domain Civil Affairs Activities (CAA) require training, knowledge and manning that the current four-person team are not postured to support and moreover, the Cross-Functional Teams (CFT) often fail to achieve its purpose—the integration of SOF skill sets at the tactical level. The concept of the Civil Affairs Cognitive Operations Team (COT) as the premier HNA experts within Special Operations fulfills this role. The COT, consisting of nine CA Soldiers, would be better equipped to feed the targeting cycle, and influence indigenous populations and institutions (IPI). The addition of five additional CA Soldiers would enhance the COT’s ability to conduct effective Civil Reconnaissance (CR), Civil Engagements (CE), targeting, and HNA in emerging environments. Ultimately, the COT model increases overall freedom of action and survivability.

While this paper is largely aimed at Special Operations Civil Affairs forces, the need for advanced schooling applies across the Civil Affairs Corps. Many of the recommendations surrounding training and education should be adopted throughout the Civil Affairs Corps. Increasing Civil Affairs technical expertise through advanced schooling will allow our Corps to better respond to evolving threats and to actually be what we tell others we are—masters of the human domain.

Concept of a Deployed COT

The foundation of the COT is based off USASOC Campaign Plan (CAMPLAN) 2035’s SOF/IC3 Concept.[1] The COT would be led by a senior Captain and Master Sergeant. The expectation of COT leadership is that they are experts at enhancing or influencing the human domain to maximize battlefield effects for the supported commander. The Human Terrain Analyst allows the team to develop real-time information on potential targets, External State Actors and projects in the physical, human, and cyber domains.

An article in Special Warfare proposed a CA Warrant Officer concept. The Warrant Officer would be slotted into the Civil-Military Operations Center (CMOC) as the guardian of all institutional and operational knowledge.[2] The COT uses the 380A as the regional tactical subject-matter expert (SME) on the ground, who intimately understands cultural taboos, language, conflict history and grievances in the region. A dedicated communications expert maintains and operates cutting-edge nonstandard communication and technological equipment; this allows the Civil Affairs NCO (CANCO) to focus on analyzing information gathered, critical infrastructure and logistical requirements in the area of operations. Use of Psychological Operations (PSYOP) personnel and the 38X would allow for timely authorization and the potential to exploit adversaries by expanding counter-network and Information Operations capabilities on the battlefield.

Future Manning Concept

Delineating specific military occupational specialties (MOS) not only streamlines the efficiency of each member, it eliminates the need for each soldier to balance too many tasks and team duties imperfectly . Team cross training is currently insufficient to address this problem. The question may arise from Senior Leaders, “Why not just submit a request for support (RFS) and create a temporary Army Special Operations Forces Task Force or assemble a CFT of creating new Military Occupational Specialties?” Experience shows that the RFS process can be cumbersome, slow, and even denied. A hastily constructed CFT, which has never conducted mission analysis, trained or deployed together, would contribute to a host of new problems. In the context of a COT, creating an enduring capacity is optimal over the long run. As the ancient philosopher Lao Tzu stated millennia ago, “If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day; teach a man to fish, and you will feed him for a lifetime.”

COT Design