2021 Civil Affairs Symposium Report

2021 Civil Affairs Symposium Report

March 17, 2022

This report is part of the Civil Affairs Issue Papers, Volume 8: Building a Global Civil-Military Network


The Civil Affairs Association hosted its annual web-based Symposium, sponsored by Third-Order Effects, Valka-Mir Security and Conducttr, on 8–10 November 2021. Building on last year’s discussion and the realization that Civil Affairs (CA) can help the Army to better understand strategic competition, this year’s theme was “Building a Global Civil-Military Network.” Recent events suggest critical lessons for building a global civil-military network to strengthen alliances and attract new partners. A global civil-military network also helps regional commands, interagency bureaus and embassies deal with challenges like Chinese and illicit network penetration in Latin America and Africa, hybrid warfare on the European periphery, anti-access/area denial in the Indo-Pacific region and climate-driven disruptions and humanitarian disasters.

The creation of a more formal and deliberate global network of civil-military enterprises is long overdue, now more obvious in an era of great-power (or strategic) competition in which access and influence define positional advantage. In today’s geopolitical environment, global competition resonates most at the levels of key leader and population engagement. Whether for major combat operations, irregular, hybrid or other forms of gray-zone warfare, or continuous competition with state and non-state actors, advantage falls to the force that acculturates a superior learning network—institutionally, not just operationally.

The greatest value-added of CA, strategically as well as operationally, has always been in its ability to develop and leverage civil networks, resulting from persistent civil reconnaissance (CR) and civil engagement (CE) and captured in civil knowledge. CA does this by, with and through a vast array of military and civilian partners. This capacity, how-ever, is now more vital to “winning without fighting by leveraging all elements of national power,” as Army Chief of Staff General James McConville phrased it in his first paper on competition.1

As the premier Army and joint capability to win without fighting, these “warrior-diplomats” comprise a diverse and people-centric force for influence, collaboration and competition in multi-domain and joint all-domain operations (MDO and JADO) and for information and irregular warfare. As this unique force maneuvers in human geography, it builds personal and professional relationships, gaining positional advantages from access and influence as well as regional and cultural understanding vital to strategic and operational design for interagency-led competition in-theater. A lead economy-of-force capability for narrative, direct and indirect competition, CA enriches civil-military integration. 

Civil networks and knowledge from nonstop virtual and forward-deployed engagements also mitigate the inherent U.S. handicap as the “visiting team.” This is especially true when CA works by, with and through country teams, Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs), National Guard State Partnership Program partners, Foreign Area Officers, NATO and United Nations (UN) Civil-Military Coordination, commercial enterprises, peacebuilders and humanitarians, etc. 

What should that network look like? What should comprise its collaborative frameworks and tools, its civil knowledge, convening and information-sharing architectures—institutionally and operationally? What other changes in doctrine, organization, training, materiel, leadership and education, personnel, facilities and policy (DOTMLPF-P) should take place, within and beyond current capacities to facilitate this expanded learning organization? How should they be implemented and prioritized? These were the questions framing the discussion at the 2021 Symposium and informing the research and writing of this volume of the Civil Affairs Issue Papers.

Major Findings

The Symposium provided neither comprehensive nor conclusive answers to these questions. From the speakers, workshops and Civil Affairs Issue Papers, the Association and friends will enable the CA Corps and its partners to offer ways ahead to further refine viewpoints and potential solutions for these lasting questions at the Roundtable in April. Among the findings:

  • Especially for strategic competition, having a robust civil-military network as a result of robust and consistent CE, at home as well as abroad, provides a wide and continuous feedback loop to enable more effective unified action and political-military decisionmaking.
  • The resulting civil knowledge from such networks must be integrated with other knowledge platforms to promote unified action. Knowledge itself being power, the ability to share and integrate it rapidly is vital to success in complex operations and strategic competition, regardless of where, when and why.
  • Building broad-based civil networks produces and perpetuates regional and cultural competencies—which, in turn, enhance and enable information operations (IO)—and is critical to long-term mission success.
  • While the U.S. Army just updated Field Manual (FM) 3-57, Civil Affairs Operations (CAO), both NATO and the UN are about to field updates of their own civil-military policies and doctrines. For all three organizations, while these updates may have closed some cognitive gaps in respective emerging civil-military operations, many questions remain on how to institutionalize the necessary, non-doctrinal “OTMLPF” changes to unleash the considerable potential of civil-military forces. Platforms like the Symposium and Roundtable can help the major civil-military centers of excellence (CoEs) to conduct force and concept development flank coordination while enhancing a worldwide learning organization.
  • CA NCOs will be the driving force in the transition to updated CAO concepts and new CA military occupational specialties (MOSs).
  • Regional civil-military networking calls for CA professionals to: continuously map and visualize the network as it grows to better understand and visualize its reach, power and gaps; network internally and organize for a network approach; and build layered networks. It also requires: a CE approach that is centered on common aspirations (opportunities) as much as it is on common problems (threats); and continuous forward presence and operationalizing CA teams in the rear to support forward teams. Fostering strategic empathy, understanding how CA supports security cooperation and promoting presence and engagement with a genuine view to learning are also important.
  • Especially in security cooperation missions in strategic competition, CE activities also serve as a form of CR, enabling CA to better understand cultural context and to identify deep-seated social grievances and aspirations at different levels of society, as well as threats to and opportunities for interagency and interorganizational stabilization.
  • CA operators must be knowledgeable of and networked with interagency as well as with other military information- and influence-related capabilities in order to be strategically shaped to gain and maintain positional advantage in the information environment. This requires persistent engagement with them institutionally, not just operationally.
  • CA activities must actively support U.S. interagency strategic messages for targeted civil societies, rather than assuming that merely their broadcast is sufficient to lay the groundwork for the tactical or operational success of specific stabilization projects or key-leader engagements.
  • In order to have a synergistic impact with interorganizational partners, CA must be nearly as knowledgeable of them as they are of interagency partners—and must be knowledgeable of applicable DoD authorities and funding mechanisms such as Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster and Civic Aid (ODACHA) for multiple reasons: CA must be able to speak authoritatively as the primary advisor to military commands about them, and must have practical and earned knowledge of how to best appropriately and discreetly integrate military capabilities with their capacities operationally.
  • Reserve CA forces are still not readily available to military commands for other than major combat or post-conflict operations. They are still limited by archaic and arcane mobilization authorities and by funding mechanisms that prevent them from leveraging the unique capacities of CA and other information-related capabilities that are largely held in the RC. While detrimental to conventional wartime and post-conflict operations, the Army’s inability to readily and steadily access such forces could prove incapacitating in strategic competition. This inability also encumbers the strategic depth of shrinking active component CA forces under greater demand for security cooperation and persistent engagement missions.
  • The growing military involvement of Russia and China in UN field missions in Africa gives them greater regional access and influence—and enables them to change UN peace operations policies in ways that counter U.S. and Western interests and international norms, as a recent National Defense University paper observed.2 To counter this growing concern, the United States could increase military staff involvement in UN field missions, on the military staff and as military observers. As warrior-diplomats, CA would be an ideal force for these strategic sensors and enablers.
  • One of the best ways the expanded CA Corps can help build a global civil-military network for strategic competition is through the commercial connections that a CA industrial base in applied social sciences and related technologies can engender. While this includes leveraging technologies in artificial intelligence (AI), human domain and social media analyses and simulations, it also involves entrepreneurial and venture capitalism’s crowdfunding and blockchain development platforms, as discussed in the Issue Paper on “Innovation as a Weapon System: Cultivating Global Entrepreneur and Venture Capital Partnerships.”

Finally, while this year’s discussion has largely been about improving or expanding CA’s capacities and capabilities, what also came through loud and clear is the need for a consistent presence of CA forces at theater, joint and service commands, as well as U.S. embassies, for situational awareness and understanding, planning, security cooperation and other “persistent forward engagement” missions in order to shape and build the decisive positional advantages of a robust global civil-military network. 

As 2021 Civil Affairs Roundtable keynote speaker Lieutenant General Eric J. Wesley, USA, Ret., stated, “You can’t compete if you’re not there.”3 Or, as Colonel William Smith, USA, warned at the Symposium: “If we don’t get into the fight during competition, by the time we get to open conflict, the war is already lost.” Beyond reviving the 2016–2017 discussion of “leveraging civil affairs,” the issue of how to create a demand signal for CA in strategic competition may merit greater attention.

Keynote Speaker

This year’s keynote speaker was Major General Darrell J. Guthrie, Commanding General, 88th Readiness Division, former Commanding General of the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), or USACAPOC(A). His talk was “Observations of a Former Civil Affairs Commanding General on Operation Allies Welcome,” facilitated by Association Vice President and former USACAPOC(A) Commanding General Major General Daniel R. Ammerman, USA, Ret.

As senior mission commander for the operation, MG Guthrie was able to draw on many of the 88th’s 55,000 Soldiers, based in 250 facilities in 19 states from Ohio to the Pacific Northwest, to receive and process over 77,000 emigree arrivals from Afghanistan between 17 August and 25 October. The majority of these resettling evacuees worked directly with U.S. military, diplomatic or development efforts—including their family members. At one of eight DoD installations handling this influx, about 1,500 Soldiers of Task Force McCoy worked with representatives of 200 federal interagency and non-governmental organizations (NGOs), as well as state and local governments, to resettle almost 13,000 of these evacuees. From Guthrie’s point of view, the civil-military, federal, state and local governmental and community coordination has been “absolutely amazing.”

In response to Association President Kirlin’s mention of the last such operation in which CA was involved—assisting Cubans in the “Freedom Flotilla” in May 1980—MG Guthrie noted some similarities. Among these were the scale and rapidity of the surge of evacuees and the complex challenge of interagency, intergovernmental and interorganizational coordination, let alone military command and control. The current lines of responsibility, however, are clearer now than they were in 1980, thanks to the Defense Support to Civil Authority (DSCA) authority construct and its smooth transitions to the State Department, as the initial lead federal agency, on to the Department of Homeland Security. There are clearer delineations of legal jurisdictions. Additionally, today’s information-rich environment, including social media, has enabled faster and more consistent dissemination of information to the guests. This resettlement mission has continued through the winter and on into the spring, although the numbers are dwindling.

Concurring with this year’s theme, MG Guthrie emphasized how the operation he has overseen demonstrates the criticality of building networks in the complex MDO era. One of the great comparative advantages of reserve forces in general, and reserve CA forces in particular, is their natural ability to build civil networks. It is particularly helpful to consider this in light of the following definition from the previously-mentioned updated FM 3-57:

A civil network is a collection of formal and informal groups, associations, military engagements, and organizations within an operational environment that interact with each other with varying degrees of frequency, trust, and collaboration.4

In Operation Allies Welcome, MG Guthrie shared, “We learned to trust and collaborate on the fly. It would have been so much easier if some of these networks were already established.” As an aside, he also noted that the Civil Affairs Association and events such as the Symposium and Roundtable contribute to greater frequency, trust and collaboration within the interagency, international organizations and NGO community. They also enable better understanding of the various populations in question for any given circumstance, including their formal and informal structure. In today’s operational environment, especially for strategic competition, having a robust civil-military network as a result of CE, at home as well as abroad, provides a wide and continuous feedback loop to enable more effective unified action and political-military decisionmaking.

In his second major insight, MG Guthrie cited FM 3-57 again to explain how the resulting civil knowledge that such networks generate must be “integrated with other knowledge about the operational environment to create shared understanding among commanders, unified action partners, international organizations and civilian partners.”5 “Knowledge is power,” he went on, “and the ability to share and integrate it rapidly is critical to success in complex operations. It is also essential to creating shared understanding across the interagency and NGO representatives. This is true whether you are in Syria or in Wisconsin.”

His third insight noted that civil networks produce and perpetuate regional and cultural competencies, but came with a caveat: “We continue to struggle in this space when it comes to tribal, ethnic and cultural norms.” He went on to share personal recommendations on how to move the CA enterprise forward:

  • First, DoD and DA civilian executive as well as military command leadership must better recognize the capabilities, skills and talents that reside in USACAPOC and the CA community writ large. The demand is undoubtedly there for CA forces in DSCA mission sets—Army National Guard units maintain CA personnel in their ranks and, in this operational case, all eight DoD safe havens have requested CA support. Yet, there were only two CA-qualified officers in the operations (one of which was MG Guthrie). There remains a sense of confusion on whether CA forces are restricted to operating only overseas. CA forces, both active and reserve, need more full-spectrum legal authorities and budget mechanisms that could easily make them far more accessible to joint and Army commands. More CA personnel were needed for this operation, but reserve CA forces are still not readily available to military commands for anything other than major combat or post-conflict operations. While merely detrimental to operations such as these, such a limiting circumstance could prove incapacitating in a steady state of strategic competition. 
  • His second recommendation is with respect to how CA’s unique abilities for civil networking, CE, civil analysis and civil knowledge integration make it a de facto force of choice in psychological as well as IO. Again, drawing from FM 3-57, MG Guthrie noted how, when deployed, “CA forces enhance and enable information operations (IO) by identifying civil aspects of the information environment, assessing and evaluating civil indicators of IO effectiveness within the AO, and providing actionable options to the supported commander’s IO plan regarding themes and messages. CA forces complete these actions and provide support to IO through the conduct of CAO.”6 As an information-related capability, CA “is profoundly important because money and thought leadership, like today, is flowing to those providing these capabilities.” Whether in Operation Allies Welcome, competition, or conflict, operations are conducted in a rich information environment. Therefore, being able to enhance and enable IO is critical to mission success and the long-term success of CA.

Workshop I – Civil Affairs Proponent Updates: CA in Joint, Army, Marine Corps & NATO Initiatives

The Symposium workshops kicked off with a panel of institutional representatives from the “proponents/schoolhouses” to provide updates on issues and initiatives that their organizations have been working on since the CA Roundtable held in April 2021. As in previous sessions, Colonel Dennis J. Cahill, USA, Ret., Deputy Civil Affairs Capability Manager at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command Force Modernization Center (UFMC), and a current Civil Affairs Association Director, returned to moderate. The panel members included, in order of presentation, Lieutenant Colonel (promotable) Dave Henning of the Joint Civil Affairs Proponent at U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM); Colonel Kurt Sisk, Civil Affairs Capability Manager at the UFMC; Colonel Jay Liddick, Director of the U.S. Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI); Mr. Aaron Weiss, USMC CA Strategic Planner at the Office of the Deputy Commandant for Information (DCI), who is also a senior CA NCO and a Civil Affairs Association Director; and Lieutenant Colonel Stefan Muehlich, Branch Chief of the Concepts, Interoperability and Capabilities Branch at the NATO Civil-Military Cooperation (CIMIC) Centre of Excellence (CCoE).

LTC(P) Henning kicked off the briefing portion by providing a USSOCOM J39 CA Update. He first presented an overview of the current J39 CA Branch structure, which consists of four officers and one civilian contractor. He then provided an overview of two main points: 

  • The J39 is in the process of updating the USSOCOM Directive that governs the MFP-11-funded civil-military engagement (CME) program of record. Connected to this update is a related effort to develop a better system of tracking and reporting CME progress and achievements in each theater so that decisionmakers better understand the value proposition of special operations CA Soldiers in global networks during competition.
  • The Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) Annual Assessment of USSOCOM’s status as the Joint Proponent for CA was completed and submitted in written form in March of 2021. A formal presentation of results to the office of the Assistant Deputy Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict (ASD (SO/LIC)) has been delayed for several reasons, but course of action development for future execution of joint CA proponency is expected to resume with a 16 November 2021 briefing to the USSOCOM Chief of Staff. The J39 will conduct the FY21 Annual Assessment by the end of second quarter FY22 and will likely present the results of both the FY20 and FY21 assessments to the ASD (SO/LIC) at that time. In the meantime, the joint doctrine team projects initial coordination and a call for a writing team to update Joint Publication 3-57 sometime in the second or third quarter of FY22.

COL Sisk followed with a U.S. Army Civil Affairs Proponent Update, focusing on the following: 

  • A restated value proposition to augment existing strategic communications messages: “Civil affairs forces provide commanders a capability to understand and address the political, economic and social challenges of the operational environment that affects all military operations.”
  • An overview of the current Civil Affairs Capability Manager Division structure, which consists of six officers, one NCO, five Department of the Army civilians and two individuals borrowed from outside organizations to focus on key elements of CA modernization.
  • A discussion of five priority efforts and the multiple supporting efforts that he and his team are working on to move the Army’s CA force into the future. Recent developments include the publication of a new version of FM 3-57 on 29 July 2021; the redesignation of active CA officers from 38A to 38S and the active NCOs from 38B to 38R, 38T, 38W and 38Z. Chief among the ongoing efforts is the development of a CA Science and Technology Learning Ecosystem (CASTLE), which incorporates technical elements of the CA Solution-Army (CAS-A) effort and a multi-disciplinary science approach to understanding and analyzing the human aspects of military operations that will be built into a unique framework for training and educating future CA Soldiers and units. 

COL Jay Liddick then updated for the Joint Proponent for Stabilization and Peace Operations:

  • While PKSOI remains at Carlisle Barracks, PA, and works with the U.S. Army War College, it now reports to the commander of the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.
  • With about 20 assigned personnel, PKSOI concentrates on policy and strategy; concepts and doctrine; training and exercises; and leader development and education. In order to move both stabilization and peace operations forward, PKSOI works closely with the CA Capability Manager and the CA Branch Proponent on key elements of those responsibilities.
  • Within four lines of effort designed to improve DoD, interagency and other partner peace and stability capabilities, PKSOI key efforts include: updating Joint Publication 3-07, Stabilization Activities; institutionalizing the Joint Interagency Stabilization Course with two courses per year for 30 students each in March and October; implementing the Global Fragility Act in coordination with DoD, the Department of State (DoS) and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID); and working with the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Stabilization and Humanitarian Affairs (DASD (SHA)) to execute the Biennial Stabilization Assessment for 2022.

Mr. Aaron Weiss provided a USMC CA proponent update, covering four main points: 

  • A recent virtual CA working group for USMC CA units and professionals developed or refined multiple topics across DOTMLPF-P to focus the USMC proponent in its work to improve CA group (CAG) operations and force professionalization.
  • The proponent has nearly completed a new policy for CA and civil-military operations, covering topics such as governance of the CA community within the USMC structure and the role of CA within IO.
  • Within the area of force professionalization, the proponent is recoding CA positions into a 17XX code set that combines psychological operations and CA into a single career track for Influence Officers and Influence Marines and in the active component. There will be no immediate change to management of RC CA Marines until after the active component changes are assessed. At the same time, security clearance requirements for CA planners are being upgraded to enable better integration with maneuver planning. These changes have necessitated a reassessment of training requirements and an increase in the number of MOS courses for FY22.
  • Work is being done to finalize the Marine Civil Information Management System (MARCIMS) as a program of record. It is important to continue to improve this system and to be able to share civil information with partners, the CA community and maneuver units, as well as to integrate analysis with the intelligence community.

LTC Muehlich concluded the briefing portion of the workshop by providing a view of current NATO CIMIC from the perspective of a Branch Chief at the CIMIC CCoE. His main points touched on policy, a comprehensive approach and potential opportunities and risks.

  • NATO’s revised policy on CIMIC and CMI (civil-military interaction), currently in staffing, reflects several trends in NATO CIMIC, including an increased focus on three areas: non-lethal methods for effects through CMI; analysis and assessment of the civil environment; and widening the scope of operations to include the broader continuum of competition.
  • The ability of NATO CIMIC forces to talk to and plan with civilian agencies before crises occur is often challenged by national sovereignty issues and political fears that NATO is interfering with national priorities. To remedy this, the concept of a comprehensive approach is finally being addressed at high levels; it will ultimately be defined in NATO policy and doctrine.
  • The CCoE continues to work on the comparison of changing U.S. CA and NATO CIMIC doctrine (announced at the CA Roundtable in April 2021) and hopes to execute the planned courses for EURO-NATO CIMIC familiarization for U.S. CA units in the first quarter of calendar year 2022. One challenge already identified is the number of terms used by both forces that have different meanings, requiring better synchronization in the writing and publication of foundational documents.

The question-and-answer period provided an opportunity for proponent representatives to respond to questions and concerns of the community of interest and covered a broad range of topics, including: the importance of 38G functional specialists and why 38B NCOs are currently restricted from pursuing 38G; the shortfall in the enlisted ranks of USAR CA units and the restructuring of the Army CA force; ownership of CA data using systems such as Palantir and a question regarding the ultimate system for capturing, analyzing and storing CA data; information advantage as it relates to CA operations; USMC CA force structure changes in terms of active and reserve components, enlisted MOSs and regional focus; and the continuation of ASCOPE-PMESII (areas, structures, capabilities, organizations, people and events – political, military, economic, social, information and infrastructure) as a tool for binning data versus analysis and building the assessment framework for CA.

Workshop II – USACAPOC(A) Command Strategic Initiatives in Civil-Military Networking

One of the more insightful discussions on the implications of the new CA doctrine was led by Colonel Marshall Straus Scantlin, USACAPOC(A) Director of Strategic Initiatives. He was joined in a review of “Command Strategic Initiatives in Civil-Military Networking” by three current CA brigade commanders: Colonel Keith K. Kelly, who commands the 364th Civil Affairs Brigade (CA Bde); Colonel Reginald J. Kornegay, commander 360th CA Bde; and Colonel William J. Smith from the 308th CA Bde.

The panel started with an introduction by COL Scantlin in which he asked the question, what do we [USACAPOC(A)] look like and what do we do in the future as our doctrine and environment changes? It focused on two new elements in the 28 July 2021 update of CA doctrine FM 3-57, Civil Affairs Operations, which introduces a different way of understanding and implementing CA doctrine. Those two groundbreaking elements are the Civil Affairs Task Force (CATF) and the Civil Network Development and Engagement (CDNE). The panel centered its discussion around two questions: “What is a CATF and how does it operate during competition, conflict or large-scale combat?” and “How do we plan and implement during competition, conflict or large-scale combat?” The panel members described their approaches to these two elements of FM 3-57 and then responded to audience inquiries.

FM 3-57 describes a CATF as a scalable unit in charge of the stabilization elements, organized around the nucleus of CA and support elements, that provides important links among interagency, interorganizational and non-government organizations. The provision can include public affairs, maneuver elements, engineers, medical units, military police, logistics and transportation elements or other units as necessary for stabilization operations. FM 3-57 describes CDNE as the activity that engages, evaluates, develops and integrates civil network capabilities and resources into operations, providing commanders with a more complete understanding of the operational environment. CDNE enables freedom of movement and maneuver, management of limited resources, preservation of combat power and options to find, disrupt and defeat threats in the civil component. 

COL Keith Kelly focused on the INDOPACOM area of responsibility and stated that the USACAPOC(A) owns the bulk of the Army’s (and thus the joint force’s) influence capabilities (i.e., 90 percent of CA and PSYOP and 75 percent of IO), including almost all of the strategic and operational level CA. CDNE helps frame CR, civil-military engagement, civil-knowledge integration and other aspects of CAO activities with respect to the human domain. In this sense, he said, “CA Soldiers shape the operational environment” throughout the competition continuum, including in crisis and conflict. He identified two issues with the CDNE concept. One is whether CDNE is a staff or team function, as continued engagement is needed to maintain and build the network. The other is how CA should share the products and information derived from CDNE. In addressing the CATF, he stated that the requirement has to be added to theater operational plans with planning assistance from USACAPOC(A)’s CA commands (CACOMs).

COL Reginald Kornegay emphasized the need to adjust our thinking about CA within the context of the new doctrine. The idea that civil networks must endure during all phases of operations and civil network development to support operations is inherently different from the paradigm of American strategic culture. Especially in great-power competition, he concluded, “We’re going to have to get out in the field much more in pre-crisis in order to shape the competition environment.” This is because of the greater relevance of strategic and situational understanding, which is more than just awareness. CATFs are not always focused on support to conventional maneuver; in fact, they can be the focus of operations and can be the lead element for the fulfillment of theater campaign and national strategic objectives. CATF personnel must not only be far better educated than before, but must also train in combat training centers (CTCs) more frequently. Figuring out the CATF’s role in combined, joint and interagency settings will allow us to win without fighting. He stressed, “We cannot be an afterthought,” at any point in the competition continuum.

Further noting the criticality of the constant forward presence of CA forces in theater strategic and operational commands, COL William Smith observed, “If we don’t get into the fight during competition, by the time we get to open conflict, the war is already lost.” He noted how the CATF concept worked very well in the latter stages of U.S. operations in Afghanistan and in CA’s work in Kuwait on refugee issues, adding how access, influence and information advantages have also been a key factor in that regard. Two issues these operations raised are: the lack of a task force in Qatar to work information advantage and IO; and, whether the echelon for basing a CATF should be the CACOM.

Among the questions the panel addressed in the following interactive discussion were:

  1. Can we use CA brigades and CACOMs at Warfighter exercises? The consensus is yes, we need to use them at higher echelon exercises—where Army and joint force leaders stand to learn to understand and leverage CA in general and CATFs and CDNE in particular. 
  2. What will CA force structure changes look like with the new doctrine? USACPOC(A), in coordination with the Civil Affairs Proponent, is working some of these issues and expects to forward a recommendation in June 2022. (Note: This may be impacted by the deactivation of the 83rd CA Battalion—the last active component conventional CA formation—along with possible reductions in the 95th CA Bde structure.) 
  3. Should the information-related capabilities consolidate in one organization? Although no consensus emerged, USACAPOC(A) provides that structure (albeit, not as an operational, force development, or training and doctrine command for Army information-related capabilities).
  4. How do we prepare senior NCOs and field grade officers for thinking at Combatant Command level? We should consider the various opportunities that exist to achieve a better development model, e.g., training with industry and college partnerships (as well as self-development platforms ideal for RC CA professionals, such as those listed in the Association website’s “Learning Resources” page).
  5. What potential institutional and force development hurdles are we facing, and how do we adapt through operational iterations to prepare for the future? Potential solutions include new ideas and different ways of doing things that are tested; failures will identify areas to improve; and vector-based analysis tools to understand the environment. USACAPOC(A), the panel concluded, has to provide feedback to the Civil Affairs Proponent to further develop and refine doctrine.
  6. How would disruption of civil networks, caused by conflict, impact CATF operations and engagements? The current Army model is not sustainable, the panel contended. Sporadic RC CA deployments restart relationships and network development at the beginning of every deployment, not sharing knowledge gained from rotation to rotation. As COL Smith noted, CA cannot help the Army to help the nation to win without fighting if it is not maintaining a constant presence at supported joint and Army commands, nor maintaining a persistent presence in forward areas in order to conduct CDNE. Human networks evolve rapidly, and continuous engagement is required to understand civil and cultural considerations, shape narratives, limit disruptions, evaluate networks, identify opportunities and respond to changes.
  7. What does the USMC version of information advantage look like? USMC transformation includes a cadre to deploy forward and to develop and maintain long-term engagement. Marine Littoral Regiments (MLRs) rotate in and out of theaters to maintain a persistent presence forward but with the reduced footprint of a Marine Air Ground Task Force. MLRs include littoral combat teams, logistics, air, PSYOP, CA and network analysis and engagement.

Workshop III – Non-Commissioned Officer Forum: The Role of the CA NCO in Building Networks

The first day ended with the NCO forum on the role of the CA NCO in building networks—a topic also covered in this year’s winning Issue Paper. Facilitated by CA Corps Honorary Sergeant Major and Association Vice-President retired Command Sergeant Major Timothy Kohring, who also serves as a Regional Plans Specialist at the U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the discussants included: Sergeant Major Analisa Ortega, Operations Sergeant Major, 3rd Battalion, 1st Special Warfare Training Group; Sergeant Major Frank Mathias, G37 Sergeant Major, USACAPOC(A); Master Sergeant Nicholas Weisenberger, Operations NCOIC, 98th Civil Affairs Battalion (SO) (A); and Staff Sergeant Lucas Vaughan, Civil Affairs NCO, 96th Civil Affairs Battalion (SO) (A). A word of thanks goes out to 1SG Sean Acosta from the Association for initiating this forum. 

The forum centered its discussion around a major implication of the new FM 3-57 in Civil Network Development and Engagement (CDNE) as a new core competency of CA warrior-diplomats and as part of CAO. Future NCOs will eventually learn the new doctrine training within the CA course curriculum, considering that a new officer branch (38S) and a new enlisted MOS (38R) will be created by 2023. For a time, however, the CA operational force will be challenged with having two overlapping CA MOSs within their teams—the original 38B CA NCO (whose MOS converts to 38R as all positions within the tables of organizations and equipment recode to 38R); and the 38R Civil Reconnaissance NCO. 

The challenge of managing this transition will fall largely to CA NCOs. School training has yet to be developed to teach the (not yet mature) CDNE concept as envisaged in the doctrine to the operational CA force. In the interim, current CA NCO leadership needs to work within the Army structure while leveraging their well-established leadership, mentoring and adaptive skills to integrate the CDNE concept within the CA force at tactical unit and team levels—all while maintaining current operations tempo in CA team rotations to supported commands in-theater.

While the parallel CDNE and MOS integration processes are primarily happening among active CA, the reserve CA force must also contend with it as a longer and more difficult process. As this transition takes place, networking between active and reserve CA NCOs must take place simultaneously with building institutional and operational civil-military networks outside the CA Corps. For one, this will enable unit transition processes (as an extension of training). Secondly, it will maintain unit and CA Corps readiness during competition operations. Active/reserve CA unit senior NCO collaboration will drive much of the CDNE and MOS transition process. Senior NCO knowledge and understanding of the new doctrine and human domain will go far in getting units and teams up to speed quickly and effectively.

One area of concern was shown by how the panel members themselves understood the new MOSs only as far as the Military Occupation Change Status (MOCS) as approved, but without clear and detailed descriptions of the new officer/NCO MOSs. At the time of the Symposium, the Proponent was working hard on the 38R MOS but was not available to brief. The panel agreed that the Proponent needs to brief both CDNE, the new MOSs and the transition process at the CA Roundtable next spring. 

This will help reach some key CA NCO leaders. Following a discussion with CSM Tim Strong, USA, Ret., CA Proponent Leadership Development Chief, the panel identified a parallel need for a series of online NCO professional development sessions to socialize these complex sets of changes among the largest possible number of active and reserve NCOs. The CA Association has offered to sponsor these online sessions.

Given all these challenges, CA NCO leadership must clearly march the CA Corps forward into the future as outlined in the CA Proponent’s 2020 Capabilities Based Assessment (CBA). The mission as described in the CBA outcome is changing for CA. The doctrinal changes in the newest FM 3-57 are more substantial than the incremental ones over the last decade or so. Fortunately, CA NCOs are well educated, motivated and cognizant of the importance of their mission. With an intrinsic understanding and knowledge of their enterprise, they are a driving force within the CA Corps and its transition. Advising bottom-up as well as mentoring top-down, they will manage the changes to come through the Force Modernization process. 

Workshop IV – Lessons in Building Regional Networks: Recent, Current and Emerging Operations

The second day opened up with Workshop IV, on “Lessons in Building Regional Networks from Recent, Current and Emerging Operations,” from CA practitioners recently or currently deployed in theater locations. Facilitated by Major Assad A. Raza, Division of Civil-Military Studies (DCMS), Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC), the panel included: Major Nick Dubaz, Civil-Military Plans Officer, C9 Directorate, U.S. Forces Korea; Captain Benjamin Ordiway, a graduate student formerly assigned to the 92nd Civil Affairs Battalion (SO) (A); Captain Benjamin Gump, Chief, Civil Information Management Cell, OEF-HoA; and Sergeant Major Chris Melendez, Civil-Military Operations Planner, U.S. Army Pacific.

MAJ Dubaz noted how contemporary conflict and competition requires building regional civil-military networks that cross borders to accomplish operational and strategic objectives. While CA teams are proficient at developing local networks, there continue to be issues of tying them with tactical level networks and at the operational level to achieve sustainable strategic effects. The Syrian Civil War provides a case study of both conflict and competition for influence in a complex environment, with various insurgent groups supported by foreign powers fighting alongside or against each other, while the resultant humanitarian crisis has created a massive influx of refugees into Europe. Despite poor cooperation among countries like Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, CA teams were effective in border area civil network development to support coalition military objectives. There are three key lessons that CA could apply to any regional network-building approach at operational and tactical levels:

  • Continuously map and visualize the network as it grows to better understand and visualize its reach, power and gaps. The Naval Postgraduate School’s CORE Lab provides courses on social network analysis methods, theories and analytical tools used for more information. The techniques taught at the CORE Lab draw insights from network data for operational effects. These social network analysis, mathematical and visualization tools can identify key nodes, connectors, influencers and other measures of networks that would not be apparent in raw data.
  • Network internally and organize for a network approach. Once networks are mapped and analyzed, it is critical to utilize their information to improve internal networks and organize for an approach more adaptive to their circumstances. In Northeast Syria, the combined State/USAID interagency team and CA company was the critical civil-military networking node. This organizational design effectively linked previously disconnected networks, including local councils, emerging civil societies, NGOs, IGOs and interagency partners. Understanding these networks has allowed for effective coordination and targeting of stabilization assistance in post-ISIS controlled areas.
  • Build layered networks. Once organized for a networked approach, it is essential to adapt and scale networks through a layered approach. This requires both tactical development and operational integration, as well as identifying complementary and supplementary networks that this approach reveals. This can improve the resiliency of networks and account for gaps among them—as seen early on in the Syrian conflict as CA teams worked in the peripheries in Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey. The CA company’s layered approach, starting in Qatar, facilitated the successful access and entry of U.S. forces in the Syrian interior once the decision was made to deploy them. 

CPT Ordiway provided a case study from his CA team’s experience with developing networks in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The U.S. Embassy Sarajevo asked his team to identify CE opportunities at the local level in Republika Srpska (RS), given the difficultly of the Embassy’s programmatic approaches and its personnel limitations—not to mention the RS’s general aversion to any U.S.-backed initiatives. His team developed civil networks—from local mayors to NASA’s Headquarters and Jet Propulsion Laboratory and the Environmental Protection Agency—for Embassy use. Most compelling was its intra-state ethnic and political factors model explained in his Defense Visual Information Distribution Service story.7 Major lessons included:

  • An engagement approach centered on common problems is a good recipe for short-term success (e.g., Pliva River flooding across the inter-ethnic boundary). A longer-lasting approach, however, is to find and capitalize on initiatives centering on common aspirations. For example, their CA team established a common aspiration by leveraging NASA programs to help educate children.
  • Strategic competition undoubtedly requires continuous forward presence, but what we make of that presence is even more critical. For example, each engagement that the CA team and its successors had with the Jezero mayor coincided with an increasing number and variety of local and U.S. organizations. When the U.S. Ambassador delivered a letter from the NASA Director of the Mars Exploration Program to the mayor, media interest grew from local radio to RS media to regional media throughout the Balkans. When the Perseverance Rover was set to land on Mars, the CA team helped to organize a youth-based “landing party in Jezero”; this was covered by major media in Bosnia-Herzegovina and by the Associated Press. The story eventually spread to National Geographic, ABC, NBC and NPR.
  • Teams should be operationalized in the rear to support the forward team. One challenge for rotating CA teams is in maintaining the relationships with established networks; this is particularly difficult because of the risks of burning out these relationships or losing rapport, as teams are often short-term visitors for local partners. This reinforces the common view that, while CA teams may be endearing, their efforts are not enduring. By ensuring continuity of deployed team actions, the CA company remained connected with the forward team, helping ensure unity of effort. Much of this was due to team-to-team succession management and coordinated mission preparation at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. This also helped designated teams maintain constantly updated situational understanding at any point in the rotational cycle.

As the Civil Information Management Cell Chief at Camp Lemonier, Djibouti, in support of Operation Enduring Freedom – Horn of Africa (OEF-HOA), CPT Gump related the challenges in Africa with how Russia and China continuously seek access and influence with governments in the region. The Chinese are perceived to have unlimited funds and manpower for highly attractive massive infrastructure projects, presenting dilemmas for U.S. civil and military operators unable to respond symmetrically to that challenge. CA teams at OEF-HOA utilized several initiatives to develop local partnerships. Three of them were: support to the DoD initiative on Women, Peace, and Security; capacity development of local doctors and veterinarians; and an English language discussion group. CA teams engaged with partners from local to senior government levels as well as interagency and interorganizational partners. These CE activities also served as a form of CR, enabling them to better understand social grievances and aspirations at different levels of society. Among their discoveries in military and government agencies was their intense interest to partner with or attract U.S. investors for tourism and other economic opportunities, which proved useful to the U.S. Embassy.

However, they also discovered the population’s low confidence in their own governments to meet local needs. In addition to advocating on local behalf with their governments, CA teams helped identify non-government resources to fill essential service gaps. CPT Sabin’s team, for example, collaborated with the government to refurbish a well to increase local access to water, improving local trust in the government. Joint training with allies and partners to improve local service capacities, such as veterinarian services, proved an excellent mechanism to strengthen and expand networks without compromising them. 

The English language discussion groups provided an opportunity for local groups to focus less on their differences while learning English together. At the same time, the CA teams learned to better understand various local network dynamics, helping to frame engagements with government officials better as they advocated for locals based on their knowledge of societal needs gathered through these initiatives.

SGM Melendez acquainted the audience with the Indo-Pacific’s vast scope and scale, as well as its numerous extremes. They provide challenges to how theater Army commands must build strong, regional partnerships within such a complex “neighborhood” through the twin efforts of strategic dialogue and exercises at multiple levels as critical to this goal. He also cited the Defense Institution Reform Initiative (DIRI) strategic framework for general principles in building such relationships. 

SGM Melendez had three considerations for CA in building or contributing to regional networks: 

  • Strategic Empathy. We craft campaign plans, operations and orders from various strategic policies and strategies because we know ourselves and our priorities. Similarly, we must continually cultivate an appreciation for the internal pressures (e.g., social, economic, political) that shape our allies’, partners’ and competitors’ ranges of options. CA must go beyond the mere collection of facts to the internalized recognition—and appreciation—of such factors.
  • Security Cooperation and CA Relationship. There is a very important, albeit underdeveloped, relationship between CA and the security cooperation enterprise. This relationship often goes unnoticed at tactical levels where CA teams concern themselves with achieving “success” in relatively short rotations. Critically, CA elements always ought to consider how their activities either help or hinder long-term security cooperation efforts in a given country.
  • Presence & Engagement. This is probably the most obvious observation, but it is so critical that it bears repeating often. Partnerships are reciprocal relationships. If you want to be a good neighbor in the Pacific—or anywhere—you must show up, participate and be willing to learn from others. We exchange best practices and learn from one another. Exercises and strategic dialogues provide a great opportunity to bring the team together and build “reps” around common problem sets. 

Workshop V – Interagency Coordination for Advancing the Information Element of U.S. Power

The impetus for this year’s interagency workshop comes from how the pervasive threat posed by mis-, mal- and dis-information has grown and evolved over the past decade or so. This is a challenge that straddles the civilian and military aspects of U.S. foreign policy, particularly in strategic competition. It also transcends the strategic tension we sometimes feel, as we adapt to a world centered around strategic competition on the one hand, while also dealing with the continuous challenge of non-state actors on the other. In both types of competition, our adversaries are making malign use of information to further their goals at the expense of the United States and its allies. CA obviously has a lot to contribute to this effort. But there are other key actors across the civil-military spectrum working in this space with whom CA would benefit in networking.

Moderated by Ryan McCannell, a Civil Affairs Association director who works for USAID as Director of the Center for Conflict and Violence Prevention, which is part of the Bureau of Conflict Prevention and Stabilization, the interagency panel focused on the strategic role that information plays as an element of national power. Representatives from four key agencies described the broad range of efforts underway in the information realm, where global and regional networks are adapting to evolving threats and opportunities. They included: Stevie B. Hamilton, Jr., Director of the Interagency and International Coordination Cell at the State Department’s Global Engagement Center (GEC); Mick Crnkovich, Director for Information Operations in the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) for Special Operations & Combating Terrorism; Mrs. Mirela Bruk, Senior Strategic Program Analyst at the United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) in the Office of Policy and Research; and Lieutenant Colonel Diana Parzik, Counter-Disinformation Coordinator at USAID’s Center of Excellence on Democracy, Human Rights and Governance, and the Commander of the 440th Civil Affairs Battalion in Fort Carson, Colorado. 

The discussion started with brief summaries of the organizations’ respective contributions in relation to the information element of national power. Although the four featured agencies contribute to the same strategic end—the promotion of democracy and deterrence in the face of mis-, dis- and mal-information operations by violent non-state adversaries and autocratic competitors—the ways and means vary widely. Both USAID and the GEC provide grants and technical assistance to independent media and civil society organizations in host nations to improve media literacy, secure online information sharing and debunk propaganda. State/GEC also plays a critical coordination role across agencies in Washington, at numerous diplomatic posts, and with the media and technology industries; as well as data analysis and policy formulation based on trends and innovations in the information sector.

The United States Agency for Global Media (USAGM) centers its work around the six networks it supports: Voice of America; the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, which oversees Radio and TV Martí; Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; Radio Free Asia; the Middle East Broadcasting Networks; and a new Open Technology Fund, which provides secure and uncensored access to the internet for those living in information restricted countries. The mechanisms for such support vary across networks, but in all cases, USAGM maintains a legal and operational firewall between the policy-making and coordination functions of the agency itself, and the constellation of independent media networks receiving support. This firewall embodies the U.S. constitutional framework and ensures that supported entities can achieve the highest journalistic standards while remaining free of influence in the content of their reporting. USAGM also maintains coordination networks with like-minded national broadcasting agencies and provides professional education and training to journalists and other key actors in host nations.

Meanwhile, DoD maintains numerous information-related capabilities such as IO, PSYOP, CA and even classic human intelligence activities. Mr. Crnkovich noted that DoD has recently redoubled its efforts to coordinate among these capabilities, at the behest of Congress, including new senior IO advisors undertaking posture reviews to recommend enhancements that should streamline and focus IO capabilities in the near future.

The question-and-answer period focused on two key themes that emerged from this broad overview. The first explored the strengths and weaknesses of the diverse and relatively decentralized U.S. approach to information, as compared to the apparently more focused and centralized means employed by autocratic competitors. Panelists noted that this approach reflects the American political culture and structure of using checks and balances among several competing organizations to avoid a concentration of power and promote a pluralistic approach to solving problems. However, they acknowledged that coordination remains a continuous challenge and that various inefficiencies can result from this approach. What works best is when the White House and other key policy makers articulate clear strategic goals and messages that agencies can rally around. Although it produced an Interim National Security Guidance in March 2021, the Biden Administration is still formulating its national security strategy and installing key political appointments, which explains some of the challenges that agencies face, even as their capabilities continue to grow and evolve.

The second theme was, quite naturally, what role the CA Corps can and should play in today’s complex, information-rich environment. Panelists responded that CA is an important and unique capability for civil-military networking and influence, given its dual role of informing commanders about the civil environment while serving as a principal touchpoint for the U.S. military among civilian interlocutors in embassy country teams and host-nation civil society. Moreover, the information environment has changed remarkably in the past decade—what Mr. Crnkovich refers to as “an electronic herd mentality”—where the challenge is ensuring “the speed of command [can] exceed the speed of maneuver.” This challenge required persistent engagement and a clear sense of how the CA mission set contributes to both an embassy country team’s overall goals, as well as the DoD’s IO architecture. 

As LTC Parzik noted, this challenge is complicated by the fact that IO occurs primarily in steady-state and gray-zone environments, where competition is occurring in real time and below the level of traditional warfare. These factors require more sophistication and a somewhat different skill set than CA personnel receive in the course of their qualification courses and other military training. It also requires a change of mindset: CA activities must support the strategic messages that the U.S. Government is attempting to send to civil societies in host nations, rather than perceiving that those messages are broadcast to lay the groundwork for the tactical success of specific construction projects or key-leader engagements. It is therefore incumbent upon the CA Corps to be knowledgeable of and networked with interagency as well as other military information- and influence-related capabilities in order to be strategically shaped to gain and maintain positional advantage in the information environment.

In summary, the information challenge aligns fundamentally with the core strength of CA: its fluency in and comfort with the seams between civilian and military communities. As LTC Parzik put it: “It takes a network to fight a network,” and CA, a premier U.S. civil-military networking capacity, is integral to the information and influence ecosystem in which it—and the commands it supports—operates. As such, the CA Corps is a national strategic landpower capability in advancing U.S. power in the information realm.

Workshop VI – Operation Allies Refuge: Lessons on Interagency and Multinational Collaboration

Following MG Guthrie’s keynote observations on civil-military networking from Operation Allies Welcome in the United States, there was a similar review of interagency and multinational collaboration in Europe during the associated Operation Allies Refuge (OAR). Association Vice-President Colonel Caroline Pogge, who has been posted with the U.S. Army Europe & Africa (USAREUR-AF) as the G39 Civil Affairs Planning Team Chief, steered a rich discussion by an eclectic group of practitioners from across DoD, DoS and the NGO community. They all quickly engaged in the operation from prior to the arrival for the first Afghan travelers in Europe in mid-August through those still involved in operations today. These included:

  • Major Susan Graler from the 361st CA Bde, posted at the 21st Theater Support Command at Ramstein Air Base and Rhine Ordnance Barracks to provide active-duty operational support (ADOS) as CA detachment leader 
  • Ms. Dee Swanier from the American Red Cross, Europe
  • Ms. Colleen Denny from the NGO, Spirit of America, Europe
  • Captain Josh Black, B Company, 415th CA Battalion CA Team Leader, Camp Liya (Kosovo)
  • Lieutenant Colonel Tyler Waterhouse, attached to the Department of State as Military Advisor at the Bureau for Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) in Washington, DC
  • Mr. Josh Mater, Department of State, temporarily supporting PRM in Washington, DC
  • Ms. Gina Kassem, Department of State (Bucharest), temporarily supporting PRM in Kosovo; and
  • Master Sergeant Larry Lloyd from the 308th CA Bde, currently posted as USAREUR-AF G39 OAR lead planner in Wiesbaden, Germany (and also a 2020–21 Civil Affairs Issue Papers author).

Following quick introductions and a bit of background on organizational roles in OAR, members of the group provided observations, with many of the panel members echoing MSG Lloyd’s comment about the need to establish a network both internal to your organization and external across interorganizational spaces as a function of operational readiness. 

Josh Mater, in his opening remarks, noted the importance of recognizing positive as well as negative lessons. “We need to recognize success. It is always easy to identify what went wrong or could go differently, but we need to celebrate all the things we did well despite all the obstacles and significant changes.” He also reinforced Susan Graler’s point about how authorities and funding for complex operations like OAR are clearly identified and delineated, stressing the need for all civil-military players to understand the various respective funding streams, and for what they can be used. For example, an event focused on civil action will no doubt involve CA. “We need to be smart about what can be accessed, such as ODACHA funds. We need to understand who can join the effort and may be able to extend our resources to other partners we may not be able to directly work with.” NGOs, in turn, provide valuable expertise and fill important gaps, such as the American Red Cross in accepting local community donations, and Spirit of America in quickly purchasing items on local markets such as diapers, coats, etc. In order to have a synergistic impact, CA must be knowledgeable of all these things and must be able to speak authoritatively within military commands and DoD offices about these options and how best to integrate CA and partners into operational planning and execution.

In this respect, the panelists also recognized the value of the CA voice both within DoD and also within DoS offices at higher levels. They relayed these more practical points of view and explained the perspectives of partners and affected populations and provided cultural understanding. All of this is incorporated into decisionmaking and planning processes; it should not to be an afterthought, particularly with regard to interagency coordination and funding considerations. For example, people should start by identifying what can be funded by whom, how that funding will operate, what does not need funding, and where there may be duplication of funded efforts with counterproductive or unintended impacts on other actors in the network. 

Another point of consensus is the importance for strategic level leadership to understand the impacts of “DC level decisions” on the CA teams and their partners attempting to operationalize their directives and guidance on the ground. This is prompted by Gina Kassem’s stress on the importance of constant vertical and horizontal communication. How to ensure bottom-up as well as top-down communication and enable and manage multiple feedback loops to promote better interorganizational decisionmaking and outcomes (as MG Guthrie noted) is an area that merits particular interagency study and experimentation. This is especially true in the fog of humanitarian assistance in a dynamic and information-rich operational environment with a large, diverse group of actors. Speaking with a more unified voice through jointly amplified messages when raising problems through all hierarchies is critical to building a common executive operational picture and to the kind of decisionmaking that should come from it. Ms. Kassem gave the example of how she and Captain Black coordinated their respective CAT and PRM daily report drafts to ensure that they highlighted issues in mutually supporting ways, enabling better and faster responses. 

Colonel Alan McKewan, Division Chief, CCJ3 Interagency Action Group Civil Affairs at USCENTCOM, who has served multiple tours in Afghanistan, provided some additional insights as a participant from the CENTCOM perspective on the same general mission during the same timeline. At CENTCOM, planning started earlier, before June, on a classified platform. Once the determination permitted a shift to unclassified networks, they were able to bring more partners into the conversation who simply could not access information across classified platforms. CA planners in particular need to have a keen understanding of how ground realities compare and contrast with high-level planning; this allows them to mitigate civil-military and interagency issues either lost in translation or unaccounted for. He noted, for example, the early conflict of NEO planning with Special Immigration Visa (SIV) movement requirements, particularly as they were simultaneously happening.

A few of the panelists spoke about the delayed ability of RC CA to get on the ground quickly; this is not surprising, given that authorities and funding for RC CA mobilization and deployment have hardly evolved since the Cold War. Both CENTCOM and EUCOM utilized regionally aligned forces and assigned elements to serve as initial support. While Compo 3 (U.S. Army Reserve) force mobilization is programmed as a backfill option, the reality is that both COMPO 1 and 3 entail intolerable lags to obtain operational support under ADOS orders. This shortfall will be even more keenly felt with the loss of the last active component conventional CA unit, the 83rd CA Battalion. This often necessitates labor-intensive workarounds, such as having CA personnel assigned to Reserve Troop Program Units or reassigned to enable quicker access. The 361st CA Brigade, an Army Reserve CA command, is based in Europe; it has longstanding experience and solid working relations with NATO and other regional partners. They may be the next best solution, with ADOS orders taking about 12 days to produce for TPU CA forces who live and work in-theater, eliminating much of the lag overseas deployment times. (Unfortunately, however, USAREUR decided two years ago to disband the 361st CA Brigade, but may be reconsidering.)

Workshop VII – Allied and Multinational Approaches to Building Civil-Military Networks

Keeping with the general theme of multinational as well as interorganizational networking, the second day ended with Workshop VII, on allied and multinational approaches to building civil-military networks. Colonel Christopher Holshek, USA, Ret., an Association Vice-President and Distinguished Member of the CA Corps, facilitated the Workshop. Guests included: Colonel Stephanie Tutton, Office of Military Affairs, United Nations; Major Csaba Szabó, Deputy Branch Chief, Concepts, Interoperability and Capabilities Branch, NATO CIMIC Center of Excellence; Lieutenant Colonel Dave Allen, U.K. Army, formerly Land Warfare Center Irregular Warfare/Engagement Doctrine Focus; and Lieutenant Colonel Vincent Couturier, Plans & Capabilities Development, Influence Activities Task Force (IATF), Department of National Defense, Government of Canada and Major Eric Storm, IATF Plans & Capabilities Development Cell.

Speaking from the CCoE in Den Haag, The Netherlands, MAJ Szabó began by highlighting the major changes of interest in the soon-to-be-approved revisions of NATO Civil-Military Interaction (CMI) policy (MC 411/2) and CIMIC doctrine AJP 3.19. [For those less familiar, CIMIC is the military capability and operational activity for the implementation of CMI under the North Atlantic Council’s strategic concept of “comprehensive engagement” (i.e., civil-military and multi-agency engagement).] Among the most noteworthy changes is the greater focus on civil or societal resilience as a way to deal with hybrid warfare on NATO’s eastern flank, as explained in NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg remarks at last year’s Global Security Conference in Bratislava: 

In today’s security environment, non-kinetic threats pose as grave a danger as kinetic ones. If NATO is going to be successful, its military capabilities must be backed up by societal resilience in the member states. Without societal resilience, military excellence is useless. Successful resilience involves not just infrastructure but people too. Both the states and NATO need to consider how they ensure that societies are also more resilient in the face of potential shocks.8

Updated CIMIC doctrine will place greater emphasis on civil-military engagement to enable greater societal resilience as a civil defense matter, as well as to promote healthier civil societies more resistant to, for example, mis- or dis-information. CIMIC remains a supporting rather than a leading capability in information warfare. The CCoE has already begun to socialize this understanding with on online seminar series, “Societal Resilience – Conceptual Observations Meet Practitioners’ Experience,” which is accessible on the CCoE website.

At the same time, NATO CIMIC fully embraces the idea of “building a global civil-military network,” already having identified its key nexus in a CIMIC-CA enterprise of enterprises in the “CIMIC-CA Synchronization Project” that it forwarded at last year’s Symposium and in a corresponding Issue Paper. As the doctrinal development and schoolhouse counterpart of the USAJFKSWCS, the CCoE is pursuing greater synchronization of civil-military doctrines in the current update, as well as interorganizational co-learning by opening its online courses to CA personnel, including a primer on CMI/CIMIC. Still, more formalized crosswalks need creation among the enterprises and their corresponding networks.

MAJ Szabó agreed that a truly global civil-military network would not only result in better situational understanding for all players but would also give NATO more diplomatic options with competitor and non-aligned states. “Such a network,” he noted, “must be managed and not just established.” The better understanding arises in terms of strategic context and on-the-ground cultural and societal dynamics that, in turn, enhance better political-
military and civil-military decisionmaking.

Joining us for a second year in a row, COL Dave Allen, reporting from Warminster, U.K., provided a short update on what is now called the “Integrated Operating Framework” (previously the “Integrated Operating Concept”). The British are moving to a “fusion doctrine” incorporating a multi-layered approach within a continuum of military functions. This approach acts to “protect and engage” (both of which are “operating” functions) and to “constrain” (i.e., deter) and “warfight” (both of which are “warfighting” functions), all in response to great-power competition, transnational challenges and rapid technological changes. 

The “protect and engage” operating functions are done constantly in forward areas, mainly by Special Forces and SFABs, to maintain persistent global presence, to deny and assure influence and to “compete at the threshold of conflict.” CE networks, he added, are essential to enabling persistent presence, strengthening old ties while building new relationships, and gaining and maintaining regional expertise. All of this, along the lines of the military functions, serves to anticipate events, reassure allies and partners, and deter and—if necessary—defeat adversaries. Within the Western alliance structure, a major value-added of having various large and small forces is assistance in gaining better access and influence in places where the presence of superpower or former colonial power military forces from the alliance could prove problematic. This is an under appreciated value both of a global-civil-military network and of an alliance structure.

Among such forces are those from Canada. Canadian CIMIC comes under the direction of the Canadian Peace Support Center and the Army’s Influence Activities Task Force (IATF) in Kingston, Ontario, from where LTC Couturier and MAJ Storm provided their contributions. The mission of the IATF is to “promote, enable, and synchronize Influence Activities (IA) capabilities in support of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) across the full spectrum of operations. IATF delivers personnel, training and capability development; and ensures a sustainable, operationally relevant CIMIC and PSYOPS capabilities, ensuring its personnel are operationally deployable anytime and anywhere.”

Given their relatively small sizes, Canadian CIMIC and PSYOP forces are limited in their ability to provide the kind of persistent presence in forward areas that COL Allen discussed, or the robust network among civil-military professionals the Symposium is calling for. Nonetheless, they have turned to innovative uses of technology and information platforms to maintain presence, human connectivity, situational awareness and understanding—including the Association and its Symposium and Roundtable platforms, which they have gratefully participated in since last year.

Among the more interesting practices in Canada is its high level of integration of CA and PSYOP force management and operations. The Canadians use “CIMIC,” “PSYOP” and “influence” more integrally in their operational language. CIMIC-PSYOP teaming for operational support in Afghanistan is now being institutionalized under “Force 2025” transitioning to composite active-reserve CIMIC companies, containing both CIMIC and PSYOP teams in each division. The addition of a PSYOPS C2 element will add flexibility for contingent structuring and will enable greater focus of company resources for civil-military networks. Although no longer operating in Afghanistan, some of these teams remain forward engaged overseas in Latvia and Congo. 

At any time, these formations are also available for humanitarian assistance/disaster relief operations, both in foreign, multinational and domestic settings—although, under Canadian doctrine, while CIMIC is both an expeditionary and domestic capability, PSYOP is for expeditionary purposes only. (This is remarkable, given how CA-PSYOP operational integration remains a struggle in especially conventional U.S. Army formations, albeit coming from the same command.)

Colonel Tutton is a U.S. Army field artillery officer seconded to the directing military staff at the UN headquarters. In a sense, her presence demonstrates access and influence. Greater U.S. military staff involvement at both UN headquarters, as well as military observers in UN field missions, are needed to counter the ambitions and actions of greater power rivals such as Russia and China, which of course are permanent members of the UN Security Council and have more military officers posted at the UN Headquarters and in the field than the United States does.

The forward presence of (currently less than 40) U.S. military personnel in UN field missions simply helps to build good will locally, regionally and internationally. This is in addition to gaining positional advantage through their own access and influence, through experience in multinational coalitions and through improvements in peacekeeping, capacity-building programs. These programs serve as an economy-of-force measure to reduce stabilization concerns, especially in areas of Africa, and to spare the need for a greater U.S. military footprint there. The interest in the UN for reasons of strategic competition is explained in a National Defense University study published before the Symposium.9

Of note to USAJKFSWCS and USACAPOC(A), CA officers such as now-retired Major General Hugh Van Roosen, an Association director who has served as a Force Chief of Staff in the UN Mission in Liberia and as Deputy Military Advisor at DPO in New York, as well as COL Holshek, who has had extensive civilian and military service in UN field missions, are ideal for this strategic sensor and enabler role.

COL Tutton reported that the first revision of the UN-CIMIC (in the UN sense, “coordination” rather than “cooperation”) to be undertaken since the original version was first published in 2010 is awaiting approval at the Department of Peace Operations; a new UN-CIMIC operations handbook is soon to be published and is pending the same review. UN-CIMIC is a military staff function that facilitates the interface among the military, police and civilian components of an integrated UN field mission—as well as among the military force and various humanitarian and development actors, local authorities, donor agencies, NGOs, host national government and civil-society organizations. “Civil engagement,” now an operational term in the revised UN Infantry Battalion Manual, includes a new requirement for each maneuver battalion to field an “engagement platoon” of four teams of four personnel (much like CAT-A teams). The teams promote civil stability and interact with local authorities and populations, organizations, key political and community leaders, national military and police, and parties to the conflict—all to improve UN mission situational understanding of the “human terrain.”

Unlike U.S., NATO and most national civil-military doctrines, UN-CIMIC is not there solely to enforce the commander’s intent. UN-CIMIC acts as a primary portal for the military component for civilian mission components, for the host nation, for the local civilian population and for humanitarian and development actors. Of note, humanitarian civil-military coordination is well addressed in the “UNCMCoord” enterprise under the aegis of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). 

As UN military peacekeepers have been mandated to take on expanded responsibilities to provide more support to civilian-led and mandated tasks, UN-CIMIC serves as an important tool within the integrated field mission structure. They develop a comprehensive civilian operational picture through a Civil-Operational Estimate, and then they support integrated “joint” (i.e., civil-military) planning and military support operations for the mission. For these reasons, UN-CIMIC is as much a UN field mission as a military operations function. While not doctrinally explicit, civil-military networking, in the UN understanding, is integral to multicomponent, multi-agency and civil-military coordination in integrated UN field missions.

Workshop VIII – Civil Affairs Industrial Base: New Gaming Technologies to Train in the Human Domain

One of the best ways the expanded CA Corps can help build a global civil-military network for strategic competition is through the commercial connections that a CA industrial base, in applied social sciences and related technologies, can engender. In a continuation of this general theme, Workshop VIII looked at “New Gaming Technologies to Train in the Human Domain,” led by Colonel Arnel P. David, DACOS G5 NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps (U.K.), co-author of Military Strategy in the 21st Century, editor of the upcoming book, Warrior-Diplomats, and an Association Vice-President. Guest speakers included: Robert Pratten, CEO & Founder of Conducttr—the newest among Association sponsors; Brigadier General Ben Edwards, USA, Ret., Crisis Cast; Brian “Mitch” Mitchell, Founder of Crisis Cast; Francesca Hunt, Co-Founder of Crisis Cast; Dr. Aleksandra (Aleks) Nesic, Chair of the Europe and Eurasian Affairs at the Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State; and Dr. Patrick J. Christian, Lieutenant Colonel, USA, Ret., SF, Founding Partner & Senior Social Scientist at Valka-Mir Human Security—another Association sponsor.

The first technology discussed was Conducttr’s simulation software, which provides a high-fidelity information environment that allows realistic engagement in cyberspace. A whole range of social media engines backed by AI/ML help generate content, conduct analysis and provide feedback. COL David explained that “in defense exercises, we rarely wargame or simulate activity ‘left of bang.’ We routinely start exercises in Phase III with high-intensity warfighting and concentrate on that activity.” Conducttr provides simulation and crisis scenarios which could be brought to bear, early and often, before the fighting begins. Information specialists can test narrative warfare, psychological operations and influence operations in a safe-to-fail environment. 

According to Robert Pratten, their “mission is to make everyone’s life an adventure, because it is through adventure that people can achieve their full potential in life.” With their simulation platform, Conducttr creates this virtual sense of adventure through immersive, realistic experiences. Using the same technology, they have helped defense and government organizations simulate hybrid warfare all across Europe. From campaigns to key leader engagements, the software can also scale to meet a wide range of training objectives.

The second technology discussed was developed by Crisis Cast, Valka-Mir and the British Army. It was initially called the Human Domain Matrix and later named Project Tyrion. The matrix of factors to describe the human domain was developed by Dr. Pat Christian and Dr. Aleks Nesic. The virtual reality (VR) and filming technologies came from Crisis Cast. Together, they combined the best of the creative arts and the science of the human domain to build this initial prototype, which was focused on Mali. “We are inhabiting more of a world of emotions and stress behaviors,” Mitchell explained. Beyond the better known concept of cognitive warfare, Dr. Nesic from Valka-Mir pointed out the importance of what she termed “emotional warfare”: “Many of our adversaries and competitors know how to evoke emotion in people and so how to influence them in ways that we do not even consider,” she explained. “This project brings this dynamic to life in a powerful virtual reality scenario that provides a new way to learn about culture, tribes and human behavior.”

The group’s goal is to make more scenarios focused on a number of landscapes across the world to improve frontline personnel (military, diplomatic and development workers) performance in the human domain. The project has already brought the motion capture and technical leads from such movies as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Mad Max: Fury Road and the Star Wars: The Mandalorian series. They also had high-end AI companies integrate their technology into the background of the platform. 

“The real power behind these projects is the speed with which these prototypes and projects were funded and delivered,” COL David highlighted. “What normally took years was accomplished in only months, and that is truly incredible.” He closed by asking leaders in the audience to consider, “How often are you exercising the core business of your profession? Going beyond the normal shoot, move and communicate? Is it a few times a year, or just once? These simulations could be used all throughout the year, and at all levels. Imagine what they could do for individuals, teams and entire organizations.”

Civil Affairs Issue Papers

The Symposium culminated with the presentation of the five papers selected to be included in this publication. Authors competed for best paper presentation cash prizes of $1,000 (first); $500 (second); and $250 (third). The winners were (in order of ballots casted):

  • Civil Affairs and Great-Power Competition: Civil-Military Networking in the Gray Zone
    by Sergeant First Class Nicholas Kempenich, Jr., USA
  • Innovation as a Weapon System: Cultivating Global Entrepreneur and Venture Capital Partnerships
    by Major Giancarlo Newsome, USA, Colonel Bradford Hughes, USA, and Lieutenant Colonel Tyson Voelkel, USA
  • Maximum Support, Flexible Footprint: Civilian Applied Research Laboratories to Support the 38G Program
    by Dr. Hayden Bassett and Lieutenant Kate Harrell, USNR
  • Individualism versus Collectivism: Civil Affairs and the Clash of National Strategic Cultures
    by Colonel Marco A. Bongioanni, USA 
  • Back to Basics: Civil Affairs in a Global Civil-Military Network
    by Major Jim Munene, USA, and Staff Sergeant Courtney Mulhern, USA

Issue Paper Committee Chairman retired Brigadier General Bruce Bingham noted how this year’s crop—in addition to discussing the past, present and future of CA—had some unusually “out of the box” thinking, e.g., an organizational restructuring of humanitarian assistance at embassies, the expansion of an existing prototype applied research lab in academia, and private sector entrepreneurial investment opportunities where CA teams should play a more robust and impactful role in strategic competition.

The papers, published here with this Symposium Report, constitute the eighth volume of the Civil Affairs Issue Papers. Authors will also discuss them more on the OneCA podcast on the Association website. Previous volumes and the summaries of the current papers are also available on the Association website.

Final Remarks

Association President Colonel Joe Kirlin, USA, Ret., closed out the three-day forum, noting the importance of continuity and resilience in the Association’s effort to “educate, advocate, and motivate” through platforms such as the Symposium, Roundtable, Issue Papers, Eunomia Journal, OneCA podcasts and others that help the CA Corps to advocate through engagement of key civil and military institutional leadership.

These Association platforms are more valuable than ever, he noted, because CA and its ability to “secure the victory” have even more relevance today, in strategic competition, than they have had in past eras of major combat operations and post-conflict reconstruction. With this understanding, Army and national defense leadership could more effectively provide military support to U.S. and allied competition with adversarial powers and illicit networks. 

Along with his thanks to the CA community, its allies from around the world and its organizational partners, all for their robust participation, he noted that the Association will continue to grow its resources as well as expand its convening role in interorganizational collaboration in order to promote a worldwide enterprise of civil-military enterprises—the original intent of the Worldwide Civil Affairs Conferences that took place each year during and after the Cold War. He looks forward to continuing that endeavor at the online Roundtable in April 2022 and at an in-person meeting sometime next year.

The full videos of the Symposium and its workshops are viewable on the Eunomia Journal YouTube channel. For more information, and to access all the above-mentioned platforms and stay updated, please visit the Civil Affairs Association website at https://www.civilaffairsassoc.org.

★  ★  ★  ★

Colonel Christopher Holshek, USA, Ret., Vice President for Military Affairs in the Civil Affairs Association, co-organizes the annual Symposia and Roundtables and co-edits the Civil Affairs Issue Papers. A 2017 Distinguished Member of the Civil Affairs Corps, he is a Civil-Military Director at Narrative Strategies, LLC, Senior Civil-Military Advisory at the NATO ResilientCivilians working group and Senior Civil-Military Fellow at the Alliance for Peacebuilding. His book, Travels with Harley: Journeys in Search of Personal and National Identity, reflects experiences and insights gained from three decades in CA at all levels and across the full competition continuum and in the joint, interorganizational and multinational environments.


  1. General James C. McConville, USA, Army Multi-Domain Transformation Ready to Win in Competition and Conflict, Chief of Staff Paper #1 (Unclassified Version) (Washington, DC: Headquarters, Department of the Army), 16 March 2021, i.
  2. Bryce Loidolt, Doing Well by Doing Good? Strategic Competition and United Nations Peacekeeping (Washington, DC: Center for Strategic Research Institute for National Strategic Studies National Defense University, September 2021).
  3. Colonel Christopher Holshek, USA, Ret., 2021 Civil Affairs Roundtable Report - Roundtable Identifies Opportunity for Civil Affairs to Help Shape ‘Competition,’ (Fort Bragg, NC: The Civil Affairs Association, 6 May 2021), 2.
  4. Department of the Army, Field Manual (FM) 3-57, Civil Affairs Operations (Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, July 2021), 1-5.
  5. FM 3-57, 1-6.
  6. FM 3-57, 1-10.
  7. Ben Ordiway, “U.S. SOF Civil Affairs: Bring Worlds Together,” Defense Visual Information Distribution Service, 19 April 2021.
  8. NATO, “Keynote Speech by NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Global Security 2020 (GLOBSEC) Bratislava Forum” (as delivered), 17 October 2021, www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/opinions_178605.htm.
  9. Loidolt, Doing Well by Doing Good? Strategic Competition and United Nations Peacekeeping.

Continue reading Civil Affairs Issue Papers, Volume 8:

by Colonel Joseph P. Kirlin III, USA, Ret.

2021 Civil Affairs Symposium Report
by Colonel Christopher Holshek, USA, Ret.

Civil Affairs and Great-Power Competition: Civil-Military Networking in the Gray Zone
by Sergeant First Class Nicholas Kempenich, Jr., USA

Innovation as a Weapon System: Cultivating Global Entrepreneur and Venture Capitalist Partnerships
by Major Giancarlo Newsome, USA, Colonel Bradford Hughes, USA, & Lieutenant Colonel Tyson Voelkel, USA

Maximum Support, Flexible Footprint: Civilian Applied Research Laboratories to Support the 38G Program
by Dr. Hayden Bassett & Lieutenant Kate Harrell, USNR

Individualism versus Collectivism: Civil Affairs and the Clash of National Strategic Cultures
by Colonel Marco A. Bongioanni, USA

Back to Basics: Civil Affairs in a Global Civil-Military Network
by Major Jim Munene, USA, & Staff Sergeant Courtney Mulhern, USA