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

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 revealed in the PMESII-PT/ASCOPE crosswalk. As this is an analysis of the same enemy, a CATs COG analysis should be similar to their PF's.

Working through an operational approach with a partner force is where both parties begin to determine their shared objectives to achieve similar end states. It is best practice first to establish your current situation and desired end state. Connecting the current situation to the end state are Lines of Effort (LOEs). Setting LOEs is where a CAT and their PF determine how to categorically focus their efforts to achieve an end state. LOEs are similar to Lines of Operation (LOOs), which logically synchronize efforts in time and space.

However, LOEs are more conducive to CMO as they allow a CAT and their PF to focus multiple efforts based on their purpose instead of physical conditions. (JP 5-0 2011) Along the LOEs that you determine with the PF are objectives that must be accomplished to reach the end state. These objectives are derived from the enemy's critical vulnerabilities identified in the COG analysis that involve civil factors identified in the PMESII-PT/ASCOPE crosswalk. The addition of these objectives to the LOEs is the point in which the CAT and PF have established shared objectives to achieve a shared end state that satisfies the demands of both of their commands.

A major output from the MA process is the establishment of initial priority information requirements (PIRs). These questions are refined during the MA process when determining what information is required before an objective can be actioned. The PIRs established by the PF through the partnered planning should look similar to many of the PIRs of a CAT's higher HQ. Information sharing between the CAT and PF will answer the PIRs of both commands when conducting civil reconnaissance.

Nigerian Actions Civil-O-Militare (ACM) Soldiers answered shared PIRs through CR & CE

The remaining steps of MDMP are intuitive to most partner forces. However, the last step that is essential to achieving shared objectives is not included in the MDMP process. That is, information sharing during and after missions. This is especially important when conducting RAA missions where a CAT is not in the same physical location as their PF. Without this crucial final step, a CAT and its partners are not guaranteed to achieve shared objectives, whether answering PIRs or exploiting CE in the information space. This can be accomplished through shared reporting utilizing commercially available communications, mapping, and word processing software.

Mobile devices and desktop applications proved to be more practical for communicating with a PF when conducting operations in rural Niger than utilizing military-issued communications equipment. The PF's mobile devices were used to take photos and map out locations of importance. Geospatial apps such as that work without a network were useful when mobile device network coverage was not available. KMZ files can also be exported from and uploaded to either your PF's desktop with Google Earth or shared with the CAT through text and email. Reporting can be shared via Word document across particular email platforms such as GMAIL, as well. These systems are readily available and inexpensive for a CAT's PF. They also produce file types that are easily shareable and compatible with a CAT's software.

RAA serves as a viable option to conduct CMO when freedom of maneuver is limited or a CAT's presence is not advantageous. RAA requires both the CAT and their partner force to establish shared CMO objectives. Achieving shared CMO objectives with a partner force that is not co-located requires a thorough understanding of the operational environment. This is achieved through a comprehensive MA process that produces an operational approach based on the intersection of civil factors and enemy vulnerabilities. Often during FID (foreign internal defense) missions, where a CAT is working with an indigenous partner force, the two entities generally share similar end states.

However, objectives between the CAT and the host-nation counterpart need to be solidified through a thorough planning process. The success of partnered operations relies on communication between the two parties. This requires inventive ways of maintaining contact and sharing information with partners when a CAT cannot accompany them. It also requires persistent engagement by the CAT to facilitate a shared understanding between both entities. By establishing shared objectives based on a mutual understanding of the operating environment, a CAT will accomplish both the PF's and its objectives when working in different AORs with restricted freedom of maneuver.

End Notes

2019. "ADP 3-0." Operations. Washington D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army, July 31.

2012. ADRP 5-0. Washington D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army.

Daniel J. Smith, Kelley Jeter, and Odin Westgaard. 2015. National Defense University Press. July 1. Accessed May 17, 2020.

Dunn, Martin. 1996. Levels of War; Just a Set of Labels? October 10. Accessed May 25, 2020.

2011. "JP 5-0." Joint Operations Planning. August 11.

Moore, Brandy. 2019. The Quartermaster. August 5. Accessed May 17, 2020.

Rosen, Armin. 2014. Bu siness Insider. June 17. Accessed May 17, 2020.

n.d. "Training Command." Accessed July 10, 2020.

Wade, Norman M. 2005. Battle Staff Smart Book: Doctrinal Guide to Military decision Making and Tactical Operations. Lighting Press.

—. 2005. BSS5: The Battle Staff Smart Book, 5th Ed. Lightning Press.

About the Author

CPT Alan Goodman is currently pursuing a Master’s in Public Policy at American University. He has served with the 91st CA BN (SO) (A) as the Civil-Military Support Element (CMSE) Niger and CMSE Mogadishu commanders. Before CA, CPT Goodman served as an Armor Officer with the 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment.

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.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • YouTube
  • Instagram

CAA Members, do we have your most up to date contact info? Email us if you are not sure


Subscribe to Our Site