About the Author: Matthew Cordova is Deputy Director of Planning for Civil-Military Affairs in the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization.
Secretaries Clinton and Gates have spoken frequently and eloquently about the need to strengthen civilian instruments of national power to leverage the full potential of the U.S. Government (USG). Current U.S. national security challenges include violent extremist organizations, ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the global financial crisis, and weak and failing states. These challenges are highly dynamic and complex because of the number of actors involved and the speed at which the environment changes. Whole-of-government capabilities are necessary to manage national security issues that are by nature complex, dynamic and of international concern. There is no single agency or country solution and no single strategy that will endure over time to solve these challenges.
The U.S. civil-military approach to stability operations demonstrates the development of a dimension of smart power, using the right tool, or combination of tools, for each situation. Stability operations are diverse in nature and require flexible responses. The United States has been involved in 17 stability operations since the fall of the Berlin Wall -- ranging from present-day efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq to prior efforts in Bosnia, Kosovo and Haiti among others.
Now approaching its fifth year, the Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) is maturing into an operational component of U.S. smart power. S/CRS is charged with building and managing a civilian-military capability to plan, manage and conduct U.S. stabilization operations on behalf of the Secretary of State. Civilian-military coordination is a central feature of the whole-of-government capability S/CRS is building with domestic, foreign affairs and national security agencies of the federal government. This is consistent with our highest priority – keeping the American people safe – and based on the premise that homeland security goes hand in hand with national security.
S/CRS has led a range of interagency activities to coordinate civilian and military efforts to plan, train and operate together for overseas stability operations. Since 2005, the USG has developed an interagency planning and coordination framework for interagency stability operations – the Interagency Management System (IMS). The IMS has been robustly exercised at U.S. Southern Command and U.S. Joint Forces Command, and components of the framework have been employed in real-world situations, such as the fall 2008 crisis in Georgia. In April, we worked with U.S. European Command and U.S. Army Europe on our most sophisticated exercise to date – Austere Challenge 2009, which exercised planning mechanisms and the Civilian Response Corps with U.S. European Command. These efforts to operationalize smart power through the Civilian Response Corps and interagency planners reflect the USG’s new approach to planning and conducting stability operations: a civilian-led whole-of-government plan, properly resourced civilian capabilities and the U.S. military in a support role. The Department of Defense has been among the strongest champions of this new approach.
The civil-military approach we have developed is not hypothetical; it is being applied to U.S. national security priorities today. In Afghanistan, the new Interagency Civil-Military Action Group (ICMAG) within the U.S. Embassy is the lead body for policy implementation and problem solving. Already, ICMAG has facilitated integrated guidance and geographically-based plans for Regional Command-East and is now moving to Regional Command-South. It has supported development of functional sectoral efforts in areas such as health and focused district development and is increasingly coordinating with international actors such as the International Security Assistance Force (on metrics), the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (on district mapping) and with the United Kingdom (Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team). ICMAG is also working on developing an integrated metrics system in-country.
To ensure the changes described above endure, the State Department is leading a significant USG effort to institutionalize these new processes and capabilities in interagency doctrine, training and planning efforts. Along with other civilian agencies, the Department of State has contributed to emerging Department of Defense doctrine, concepts and capabilities related to irregular warfare, stability operations and counterinsurgency. S/CRS has made significant investments in building habitual relationships with the Geographic Combatant Commands, Joint Forces Command, Special Operations Command and professional military schools to ensure that these key military actors are integrated into the civilian-led Smart Power construct for Stability Operations. S/CRS played a significant role in assisting the U.S. Army in its development of an updated stability operations field manual that emphasizes military support to civilian-led efforts.
A key enabler to these efforts is the civilian resources called for by Secretaries Clinton and Gates. Civilian agencies and the Department of Defense are now planning, operating and training together in a more concerted manner. Congress is a crucial partner and has recognized the value of a whole-of-government capability by permanently establishing S/CRS in legislation and authorizing and funding the stand up of an initial Civilian Response Corps. While this capability is maturing, sustaining it will require a concerted civil-military effort to ensure a balance of resources that meets both the immediate and longer term international security needs of the nation.