Partnered MDMP: Achieving Shared Objectives Through Remote Advise and Assist Operations

Updated: Mar 3, 2021

By Alan Goodman





As US military footprints worldwide are reduced, and the political will to assume risk on operations conducted by US service members is decreased, Civil Affairs Teams (CATs) may need to find ways to conduct operations with a reduced freedom of maneuver. One method is through Remote Advise and Assist (RAA) operations. RAA operations advise and assist a partner force (PF) without accompanying them on a mission by utilizing various communication platforms to share real-time information.


While RAA missions may be scoffed at due to US forces' reduced level of control, they do carry multiple benefits for CATs conducting Civil Affairs Operations and Civil-Military Operations (CAO/CMO). RAA operations allow CATs to work with more than one partner. They can be conducted simultaneously with Accompany, Advise, and Assist (AAA) operations. RAA can allow a CAT to maintain contact with Unified Action Partners (UAPs) who are limited in their ability to maneuver. At the same time, missions are being conducted, and they allow for the development of a wider information-sharing network increasing the CAT's scope of engagement. When a CAT is deployed as a CMSE (Civil-Military Support Element), RAA has the added benefit of encouraging the CMSE to continue work towards operational level objectives instead of getting bogged down in tactical-level problems partner forces could address.


When conducting RAA operations, a CAT relies on a partner force to conduct civil reconnaissance (CR) and civil engagement (CE) in place of the CAT. For a CAT to achieve its objectives by, with, and through an unaccompanied partner force, they will have to conduct planning and training alongside their partners. Working by, with, and through a military partner within their home country is referred to as Foreign Internal Defense (FID).


FID operations inherently share similar desired end states between the CAT and their partner, who are both working towards the partnered nation's prosperity. Because of the similarities, partnered planning should result in operations that achieve both party's CMO objectives. To achieve the best results, the CAT will need to assess their partner force's level of training on the planning process and initiate a training program that focuses on developing objectives and communicating their partner's operational results through reporting and information sharing. This essay will utilize examples from RAA operations in Niger, but the intent is to present a model that is adaptable across different areas of operations (AORs).


To ensure that a CAT and their partner are working towards shared objectives, they will have to plan together at the operational level. At the Operational level of war, campaigns are planned and executed, as opposed to the strategic level that focuses on leveraging national power or the tactical level that is concerned with the conduct of battles. (Dunn 1996) Planning together at the operational level ensures that both work towards similar Lines of Effort (LOEs), similar objectives, and determine similar Priority Information Requirements (PIRs). Planning CR and CE at an operational level has the added benefits of gaining mission concurrence from a partner's senior leadership and adding the capability to plan CR and CE to a partner that may not have a dedicated element that conducts civil affairs (CA) like activities.


During operations conducted in Niger, CATs found that a few company-grade partner force officers were somewhat familiar with the Military Decision-Making Process (MDMP) and were coached along by their senior leaders who had attended NATO planning courses. This provided a base of knowledge that the CATs built upon. Not all partner forces have the same capability. Not all host-nation counterparts exhibit the same ability; therefore, an assessment needs to be conducted on a partner force's capacity to identify their institutional shortfalls. While MDMP is commonly found across US partners, not all partners use the same process. The CAT's ability to adapt its MDMP process to its partner force is critical to achieving a unity of effort.


The foundation of partnered parallel planning is training with the partner force. Ensuring that they have a firm understanding of a decision-making process is necessary to ensure a unity of effort between the CAT and PF in determining shared objectives. Especially essential is ensuring that your partner force understands why to plan for CR and CE with MDMP. Teaching step two of the MDMP process, Mission Analysis (MA), proved to be the most critical training phase in Niger. Specifically, the analysis of civil considerations and creating an operational approach. Step two provides the partner force with the context of why they are planning for CR and CE. The establishment of PIRs (Priority Information Requirements) during this step is also a valuable output as it gives your partner force their reason to conduct CR.


The venerable CA analysis tool of the PMESII-PT (Political, Military, Economic, Social, Information, Infrastructure, Physical Environment, and Time) and ASCOPE (Area, Structure, Capability, Organizations, People, Events) crosswalk may sound cliché to seasoned CA Soldiers. Still, they are invaluable additions to the partner's mission analysis. Without analyzing civil considerations through PMESII-PT/ASCOPE, a partner may not fully understand the purpose behind conducting military operations around civilian-based objectives.


During a staff training exercise with the G5 Sahel, the staff members made connections between the civil considerations on their crosswalks and the military operations that they were already participating in, such as how market days (events variable of ASCOPE) facilitated information sharing among militant recruiters and consumers (information variable of PMESII-PT). The crosswalks provided the G5 staff with the initial context of what CR and CE could be used for. A PMESII-PT/ASCOPE crosswalk can be used as a civil reconnaissance tool for a partner force to document operational variables in an organized manner. The crosswalk can be utilized again later in a simplified targeting process as well.

An additional step to the MA process used for building context for the PF is conducting a COG (Center of Gravity) analysis. The COG is defined by Army Doctrine Publications (ADP) 3-0 as the enemy's source of all power that provides moral or physical strength, freedom of maneuver, or will to act. (ADP 3-0 2019) Combined with the PMESII-PT/ASCOPE crosswalk, the COG analysis shows your PF where civil considerations intersect with military objectives. The COG analysis is primarily used to determine critical vulnerabilities of the enemy that intersect with important civil factors are rev