A Whole of Government Approach to Stability

Posted by Matthew Cordova
June 10, 2009
Provincial Reconstruction Team in Afghanistan

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.



Blossom V.
New Jersey, USA
June 10, 2009

Blossom V. in New Jersey writes:

This is such a refreshing article to read, there is an enormous amount of positive energy here, As a single mother of a 17 year old with a dream to contribute to his country this certainly is reassuring.

June 11, 2009

Hala in Iraq writes:

On ground, the civil military brought a different face of the coalition forces to the people of Iraq. An aspect that contributed to peace and stability in many areas that were thought to be hot zones.
More important than the services they rendered is their contribution to a lasting peace and understanding between the peoples of Iraq and U.S.A. once all troops pull out.

New Mexico, USA
June 11, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Matthew, I'm curious as to whether what the US is doing in developing capacity on an interagency level to provide the neccessary civilian component as part of the overall efforts could serve as a basic model for nations such as Afghanistan and Iraq in structuring their own efforts of stabilization and reconstruction?

Let me go a little further afield and offer a thought that the person who came up with the idea for PRT's is well deserving of a bump up in pay grade.

Does anyone at State think maybe UN peacekeeping could be vastly improved by structuring its efforts on the PRT model of civilian engagement in conflict zones to meet shared interests and goals in the common effort to better the human condition?

Leaving the politics of such a restructuring aside, would the PRT blueprint serve to turn the UN into a lean blue peacekeeping machine able to succesfully acomplish its missions in a more efficiant and effective manner?

If folks haven't considered this, I'll just offer some food for thought as incentive.

To end a war that had cost 50 million lives, we dropped two atomic bombs that cost roughly a quarter million. Saving a million US lives and about 5 million Japanese by US Army estimates at the time of the cost of invading Japan, which was imminent.

Had we known that the great African war in Congo would take some six million lives over the years, and if we'd had reasonable expectation that dropping a couple nukes would have ended the conflict when it began, we'd have saved some 5.75 million lives if such a radical peace keeping policy been adopted.

I'm not suggesting that that's what we should have done as a nation especially since we've tried very hard all these years to make sure another nuke never again gets used by anyone, but I hope it helps put the UN peacekeeping mission there in some proper focus as to what has been effective and what has not, in the most bluntly publishable terms possible.

Let's be real about this, the UN peacekeepers cannot "clear" or "hold" to save their lives or anyone else's regardless of mandate, but they do a great job in civil affairs and NGO coordination of humanitarian relief globally.

I believe the UN has an essential role to play in stabilzation and reconstruction, but should play it on the basis of their strengths, not their weaknesses.

Thus I think the PRT format would serve that purpose nicely. And give added civilian "surge" capacity within communities.

Leaving the "clear and hold" to the pro's and the people themselves as they gain confidence in their own ability to keep the peace.

Kansas, USA
June 15, 2009

Joseph in Kansas writes:

Your blog could not have been more timely! Today, I will be meeting with colleagues at the U.S Army Command and General Staff College (Department of Joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations) to discuss the way ahead for my elective entitled, "Advanced Stability Operations." This course is offered in the Spring and Winter and is open to all military, civilian, interagency and international students/professionals seeking an enhanced understanding of the whole of government/comprehensive approach to stability operations planning. Distance participants earn 1.5 college credits as they collaborate with in-residence students sharing experiences and studying/discussing stability operations case studies. During the first half of the course, homework tutorials, which may be accomplished on home PCs/notebook computers at the student's leisure, prepare the students for quality guest speakers who address the five stability sectors (security, governance, justice, social well-being, and economic/infrastructure development. To date, we have dedicated the second half of the course applying the Interagency Management System whereby students role-play as members of a notional Sudan Planning Team to tackle a real-world, Sudan-centered stability operations planning problem. One option we are considering is to transition our focus from Sudan to Afghanistan and have the students role-play as members of the ICMAG. Another option we are considering is giving students the choice of taking either a Sudan- or Afghanistan-centered version of the course. I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who reads this entry and has an interest in taking my course and/or offering suggestions as to how it can be more revelent in training/educating those who will be serving our country in the area of stability operations. Thank you.

New York, USA
June 11, 2009

Ron in New York writes:

Sec. Clinton and Sec. Gates can synergize security, stability and development. The key is cutting out corrupt governments. Otherwise, we are putting good dollars in bad pockets.

Idaho, USA
June 12, 2009

Abraham in Idaho writes:

@ Eric -- I like your idea of designating the "clear and hold" responsibility to those personally involved or qualified to get the job done and leave the UN peacekeeping efforts to focus on reconstruction. I think the UN would be much more effective in this capacity than in the "clear and hold" area. The only holding they seem to do is holding things up, whereas "the pros" could do the job much more efficiently with less bureaucracy.

New Mexico, USA
June 13, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

@ Abraham in Idaho,

Here's a few additional thoughts on a related track, but in the wee hours I was writing it, the section regarding NATO trained UN administered PRT's and the rationale for separating the UN peacekeeping opps from the UN executive (as is our civilian/military leadership in the US) didn't get posted, probably due to the way I described a certain lack of commitment I have observed from some quarters.


In any case, the UN must make "stone soup" out of whatever contribution is offered up by individual member states every time the UN wishes to conduct a peacekeeping opp. much like NATO does, but with the added conundrum that often times some other member states are the one's contributing to the hostilities and the humanitarian crisis in negative ways, and actively try to see the UN mission fail in material ways.

It completely befuddles me that the UN expects to keep the peace when state sponsors of terrorism are sitting in the General Assembly instead of being given the "thorazene shuffle" out the door to a padded cell especially reserved for ethical infants.

When what we ultimately need is a "Whole of Planet" approach to stabilty that cuts out the deadwood from the body politic internationally.

All these things have interconectivity on an opperational level as well, on the ground.

So I called the plan "Nation Building 3.0" for a reason.

Feel free to contribute, it's a work in progress.

District Of Columbia, USA
June 14, 2009

James in Washington, DC writes:

The Civilian Response Corps is a program with incredible potential. I pray that the program receives the funding it needs (and deserves) to meet the incredible challenges we will face in preventing / reacting to state failure in an increasingly complex security environment.

I was encouraged to read about Austere Challenge 2009. One of the key hurdles that the CRC will face is learning how to work alongside the U.S. Military. Many military officers have worked with Provincial Reconstruction Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan and have developed a sense of how to develop productive civ-mil relationships in a stability/reconstruction environment. I would argue that many, if not most, of the CRC personnel have not worked closely with the military (with the obvious exception being those personnel with PRT/ePRT experience.) I hope that, as the CRC program matures, DOS and DOD continue to cooperate and conduct joint training exercises. I recommend that CRC personnel deploy to the combat training centers (the National Training Center - Ft. Irwin, CA - and the Joint Readiness Training Center - Ft. Polk, LA) during units' pre-deployment mission readiness exercises. This would give our military leaders a chance to work with inter-agency civilians (as they will have to do in Iraq and Afghanistan) and it will give CRC personnel a chance to work with (and gain an appreciation for) their military counterparts.

June 16, 2009

Ben writes:

Seeing some of this first hand has been exciting for me. The Department of Defense working closely with the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development and the Department of Agriculture is a great idea in my opinion. This may be our only chance to make Afghanistan a more stable area. I am excited to see where it can take us in the next few years in Afghanistan. It is great to see such support from all levels of the government.

New Mexico, USA
June 18, 2009

Eric in New Mexico writes:

"Third, peacekeeping. We greatly appreciate the courage and dedication shown by UN blue helmets around the world, but these brave men and women are often stretched up to -- or beyond -- their limits. We must make sure that peacekeepers have the help they need to prevent a fragile peace from breaking down, and we must invest in more effective and efficient peacekeeping that can protect civilians menaced by rebel bands and marauding gangs, whether in Haiti or the eastern DRC.

But UN peacekeepers -- even better trained and equipped ones -- are not always the right solution when innocents are in peril. Sometimes, an unfolding atrocity is so large or so fast that it can be quelled only by the swift arrival of combat-ready brigades or their equivalent, operating outside the UN chain of command, and not built from scratch as a UN peacekeeping force must be. Only a handful of countries have this capacity at the ready, and even fewer can or will guarantee a response when called upon. Such governments, and regional organizations including NATO and the European Union, must take a hard look at their will and capacity to quickly deploy -- either to fill the gap before peacekeepers arrive, to reinforce them during a crisis, or to respond in cases where peacekeepers are not the right answer to begin with."

- Ambassador Susan Rice, US perm rep. to the UN




@ Matthew,

Given my previous comments on this thread and the stark assesments therin along with a possible solution, the above statement is either a really notable case of parallel thinking, or there's an exteremely strong probability that our lovely ambassador reads Dipnote.

You have any thoughts on the PRT suggestion?

July 12, 2009

John in Iraq writes:

I am interested in your view of the way forward in regards to medical care. So much of what I read either does not mention health care services or only discusses them in terms of "humanitarian aid". While a certain amount of humanitarian assistance will be needed in all of the areas in which we are operating, I fear that too little emphasis will be placed on building lasting health care systems that are appropriate for the country and serve the local population in a meaningful way. I also wonder if we have medical professionals with the appropriate training and experience to take on this type of mission.

July 13, 2009

Johnson writes:

Civil military doing good job,,,,,,,,,,


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