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The New Intelligence on Civil Considerations

LTC Donald E. Frier

Coordination between Civil Affairs (CA) and the other warfighting functions is necessary to encourage a robust understanding of the civil environment by the commander.  To do this, CA Soldiers must be present to facilitate these conversations.  If our Soldiers don’t have a presence, CA relegates its responsibility to other staff sections.

The new Field Manual (FM) 2-0, Intelligence, published in October of 2023, brings about a marked shift in the document’s relationship with civil considerations.  The previous iteration of the document, published in July of 2018, discussed this topic, but generally in the context of the importance of terrain, weather, and civil considerations as a catch-all for other outside influencers.  The new doctrine does much more than that, but it subtly asks this question: what does this change in Intelligence doctrine mean for the CA profession?

To answer that question, I need to tell a bit of a story.  Within the last few years, I worked at a four-star headquarters in the INDO-PACIFIC AOR.  I was working for a robust and growing G9 Civil Military Operations (CMO) shop, where there was always more work to do than people to do it.  I was tasked with following up and building our Civil Information Management capabilities - this was before Civil Knowledge Integration (CKI) became the nom de plume for managing civil information.  As part of this work, I coordinated heavily with our counterparts in the 2-shop.  I went to multiple meetings a week, worked on their systems to look at reports, and discussed the civil situation with members of their staff.  By doing this, I came to realize three things:

1.     Military Intelligence has its own lexicon, thus has its own rules.  I put my foot in my mouth multiple times because I didn’t talk the right way or asked for things which weren’t acceptable to ask about in the way I asked for them.

2.     The 2-shop sees itself as the owner of civil considerations, as they developed the products that got briefed to the general on that topic.

3.     The 2-shop has more bandwidth than our 9-shop.  The 2-shop was huge, with tremendous reach-back potential and a variety of agencies to draw on to support the work they do.

All of this means that these members of the intelligence community could put together civil considerations and do the analysis that I only dreamed of being able to do, because they had a staff of dozens compared to a team of two.  However, this is a double-edged sword.  The 2-shop had a staff of dozens because they had more work to do: looking at the enemy threat, weather, and coordinating ISR assets.  The amount of labor that went into analyzing civil considerations paled in comparison to these other priorities.  But that didn’t change the fact that they still analyzed those considerations and briefed them. 

If CA is going to exist and be effective as a branch that has an impact on the conventional force, then as a branch we need to be ready to speak the language of the intelligence community and be ready to work hand-in-hand with them on the development of civil considerations.  There is a myriad of challenges associated with this goal, not least of which is the position that Reserve CA units hold in relation to military intelligence units or 2-shops in Active-Duty headquarters.  This starts with a close analysis of the new Intelligence Field Manual and a look at what is the new perspective on civil considerations.

The New FM 2-0

There is a lot of useful information in the new FM 2-0, which uses the same title as its predecessor.  The differences are the things that are the most telling, of course.  The following paragraphs will look at both the similarities and the changes in the document.

First, a similarity.  Both documents have a paragraph - or two - dedicated to the role of CMO and Civil Affairs Operations.[1]  These paragraphs are largely the same from the 2018 version of the document to the 2023 version.  Not so big of a deal here, though this lack of a change is interesting because of how CA is referenced and used throughout the rest of the document.

The first big change is the identification of Civil Affairs Teams (CATs) as a collection asset.  Civil reconnaissance appears in multiple places throughout the document but is explicitly listed as a focused collection effort.[2]  CATs also appear as an ancillary collection asset, a unit “tasked to perform information collection while also performing another mission during operations.”[3] This is a marked change for many who have always strived to keep the work of civil affairs separate from the act of intelligence gathering.  The argument there is simple: if local populations think you are collecting intelligence on them, then they are less likely to want to talk to you.  Arguably, the civil information CATs collect has always had the capacity to turn into intelligence, just like any information available on the battlefield.  Even more, the new manual calls out how the G/S-9 supports the collection management activities of the intelligence warfighting function by conducting civil network development and engagement.[4]  This makes that connection between CA and intelligence explicit, but this isn’t the only change.

One of the biggest differences in this new doctrine is its examination of the human dimension.  It discusses the operational considerations as a means of identifying relevant actors and using effects on them to achieve the commander’s objectives.[5]  This comes into play with identity intelligence, which gets a bit more explanation in FM 2-0.  “It results in intelligence from the human dimension, which encompasses the interaction among individuals and groups, how they understand information and events, make decisions, generate will and act within an operational environment (OE).”[6] Compare this with the definition of Civil Network Development and Engagement  in FM 3-57, Civil Affairs Operations, and we can see a close correlation between the actions and analysis that CA forces conduct and what intelligence assets are trying to do in understanding the human dimension.  This is part of the larger turn within Army doctrinal manuals to look at information within the human, informational, and physical domains published in the newest FM 3-0, Operations.[7] CA doctrinal manuals discuss CA work within these dimensions, but only in how it relates to interactions in the Information domain[8] and how they should be considered during civil reconnaissance.[9]  It might be understandable that we don’t frame our work within the confines of this construct, but it is unfortunate as it results in a lesser connection to the other doctrinal manuals being published.

As was already mentioned, the previous incarnation of FM 2-0 connected civil considerations with weather and terrain.  It lumped it in with other environmental considerations the intelligence analyst should consider.  In the new FM, it has decoupled civil considerations as part of this catch-all and emphasized it as a unique characteristic. Consider figure 1; it demonstrates the importance of PMESII-PT as part of understanding the OE.  That way of looking at the OE has civil considerations as one of the cogs that’s needed to distill down a refined situational understanding.  Throughout the document, it mentions the need to coordinate these efforts with the G/S-9 within the headquarters.  As the group that brings “subject matter expertise” to an understanding of CA, we become invaluable in the process of “providing civil considerations” in the OE.[10] 

Figure 1

How intelligence supports understanding an operational environment[11]

On the outside this is great news.  A renewed effort to incorporate civil considerations into the military decision making process demonstrates an awareness of the significance of the civil environment.  That should be good news – but as a branch CA still runs into the same problem.  This is only effective if there’s a G/S-9 for the G/S-2 to coordinate with.  If CA doesn’t bring our capabilities, knowledge, and expertise to the table, then it doesn’t matter how often a doctrinal manual references a CMO directorate.

Let me go on another brief digression.  I’ve gone on multiple training rotations with Active-Duty Brigade Combat Teams to the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California.  I’ve been a part of their planning conferences leading up to those exercises.  The S-2 for those commands has generally appreciated the expertise and knowledge I bring regarding the civil environment.  All you have to do is come prepared with some products analyzing the cultural breakdown of the various urban areas in the exercise and you demonstrate value.  However, it’s often the S-2 that briefs these considerations to the brigade commander.  We don’t have our own warfighting function, and so we need to work through the other staff sections like the S-2.  Some might let you brief those considerations for them, others might just discount the entire civil environment altogether because they know the commander isn’t interested in hearing about it.  In each of those situations, there was not an Active-Duty S-9 present during those planning conferences.  As the Reserve CA officer present, I had to fill that role, which is a challenge when I only see that staff when I arrive at the planning conference itself.

Core Competency and CKI

While there are obvious areas of overlap between the new Intelligence and Civil Affairs doctrine, there are obvious differences.  According to FM 3-57, one of the purposes behind our core competencies is to understand the civil component of the OE.  We do that through a variety of methodologies, including CKI. CKI is our method of providing these considerations to the Intelligence staff, but there’s a step missing here.  What about the coordination of effort in sharing information between the Intelligence warfighting function and CA elements?  There’s a lot of talk about CAO staff providing knowledge to the other staff sections, but little about us pulling information from them.[12]  There are so many shared commonalities between CKI and the Intelligence process that the interoperability between them seems obvious.  Compare figure 2 from FM 3-57 and figure 3 from FM 2-0. 

Figure 2

Civil Knowledge Integration Process[13]


Figure 3

The joint and Army intelligence process[14]

The processes are largely the same.  The integration between the staff sections is identified as a consideration for both doctrinal publications, but for CA doctrine it is a one-way street.  For those CA Soldiers who have worked in headquarters above the brigade level, we know it is a give-and-take.

My experience working at that 4-star headquarters gave me a lot of insight into how this give-and-take works.  By being the face of the 9-shop, I was able to discuss the things I was seeing with intelligence professionals.  I was only able to speak intelligently on the subject because I had access to information collected by our ISR capabilities.  After a couple months of this, I started to see the concerns I made in my one-on-one conversations brought into one and two-star level briefings.  While there was never an explicit attribution of those efforts, perhaps in a small way those conversations helped in sparking an interest in those civil considerations.  At the very least, those intelligence professionals felt comfortable enough to ask for my opinion on some products prior to briefing them.


As mentioned previously, the challenge in all of this is presence.  Unless CA has a staff position present in a headquarters to offer these recommendations to the Intelligence warfighting function, we won’t be able to coordinate these efforts.  As beneficial as this relationship has the possibility of being, it requires dedication and work to make it effective.  With so much of the CA branch in the Reserves, there is an inherent challenge in creating that presence and connection.

One potential solution, which has been used in the past and has been recommended again recently, are the CAPSTONE program or WARTRACING.  Both programs are similar in that they align Reserve component units under Active-Duty ones.  This allows for a closer understanding of the missions that these units would be expected to conduct in both cases.

Another possible solution is what the Army is conducting with Main Command Post – Operational Detachments.  These are Reserve component units which provide staffing to augment Active-Duty unit headquarters.  While filling staff vacancies with reserve troops doesn’t fully plug the gap, it does offer a chance for someone to build the needed relationships which will allow them to make this coordination.

If the new FM 2-0, Intelligence, is going to emphasize civil considerations and coordination efforts with 9-shops, then it behooves the CA branch to find a way to bring that expertise into the conversation.  This is a challenge for all of us to weigh in on and consider.  The first step is reading new doctrine – and not just our own.  Publications like FM 2-0 and Army Doctrine Publication 3-13, Information, show how the larger force is seeing the importance of looking at the civil environment.


About the Author

Donald Frier is an Army Reserve Civil Affairs Lieutenant Colonel with over 20 years in the military.  He has been a CA Company Commander, a plans officer at the CORPs level, and an operations officer at a 4-star HQ. 

Standard Disclaimer. The opinions, conclusions and recommendations expressed or implied above are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of any organization or any entity of the U.S. government.

[1] Headquarters Department of the Army, Field Manual 2-0 Intelligence. Washington, DC ( 1 October 2023), E-1.

[2] Ibid, 8-13.

[3] Ibid, 3-17.

[4] Ibid, 3-7.

[5] Ibid, 2-16.

[6] Ibid, B-20.

[7] Headquarters Department of the Army, Field Manual 3-0 Operations. Washington, DC (1 October 2022), 1-21.

[8] Headquarters Department of the Army, Field Manual 3-57 Civil Affairs Operations. Washington, DC (28 July 2021), 4-19.

[9] Ibid, 1-7.

[10] Headquarters Department of the Army, Field Manual 2-0 Intelligence. Washington, DC ( 1 October 2023), 3-7.

[11] Ibid, 2-20.

[12] Headquarters Department of the Army, Field Manual 3-57 Civil Affairs Operations. Washington, DC (28 July 2021), 4-4.

[13] Ibid, 2-18.

[14] Headquarters Department of the Army, Field Manual 2-0 Intelligence. Washington, DC ( 1 October 2023), 1-8.

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