Strategic Guidance, Operational Interagency Guidance,
Agency Guidance, and Operational Guidance
Overarching Interagency Strategic Guidance
In the U.S. government, senior officials provide strategic guidance through cabinet-level principals' committees or deputies' committees. The committees are chaired by the National Security Council and reflect the strategic goals as laid out by the president. In turn, the principals' committee or deputies' committee may task existing interagency policy coordinating committees or country reconstruction and stabilization groups to develop implementation based on the strategic guidance.
In the field, operational guidance normally runs through the relevant combatant command to a joint task force or other appropriate formation on the military side and through the chief of mission (where there is an existing U.S. embassy) or presidential envoy on the civilian side. Whichever department has the lead, all efforts at the field level should integrate the directives from both the supported and supporting departments. The geographic combatant command's strategic plan should delineate the agreed stability and political conditions necessary to shift the military from a supported command to a supporting command, where the chief of mission will assume lead for U.S. government efforts. Certain circumstances may result in the recognition of a joint civilian-military command, preserving unity of effort if not unity of command.
The National Command Authority may designate a specific U.S. government department as the lead agency. In a situation where active combat is expected or underway, the Department of Defense (DOD) may be the lead with other agencies in a supporting role. Where the environment is clearly post conflict and instability has diminished, the lead shifts to the Department of State (DOS), which is responsible for coordinating the efforts of other civilian departments and agencies.
Operational Interagency Guidance
Operational interagency guidance is the implementing glue between overarching strategic goals and local execution. This guidance delineates the separate agency areas of responsibility (AORs). The guidance should tie national/sector development programs with the stability objectives and activities of the provincial reconstruction team (PRT).
Although PRTs mostly focus on the operational and tactical level, the interagency nature of their structure and activities cuts across any number of sectors (security, governance, and economy) and must be aligned with corresponding national and sector efforts. Any discontinuity or gaps in these local efforts is likely to manifest itself as difficulties in achieving unity of effort within the PRT's AOR. Therefore, PRTs play an important role in informing and refining operational guidance from intermediate or higher headquarters and ensuring the local objectives are effective, attainable, and aligned with operational and strategic goals.
Each agency active within the PRT provides appropriate implementing guidance to its respective agency elements deployed in the PRT. Depending on the actual makeup of the PRT, the relevant agencies are likely to include DOD, DOS, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and others - including the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Justice. Drawing on the integrated operational guidance developed at the embassy/joint task force level, each agency provides a framework for its PRT personnel to identify key issues, priorities, timelines, and possible measures of effectiveness.
It is vitally important the PRT leadership ensures the guidance coming in from multiple agencies is carefully coordinated and mutually reinforcing, and that they report to higher headquarters when there are inconsistencies or when difficulties occur. The PRT is an important "ground truth" check on interagency coordination at higher levels; if differing guidance cannot be integrated at the PRT level, it may well be indicative of disjointed coordination or planning at the regional or national level. The PRT's activities are then developed through a common assessment of the situation and integrated implementation plan.
The concept of the PRT resulted from a joint initiative between Multi-National Force-Iraq (MNF-I)/DOD and U.S. Mission Iraq/DOS. The intent was to transition the lines of operation of governance and economics at the provincial level from the military to the PRT. PRTs take on the task of developing the political and economic environments within the province.
Mission statement of PRTs in Iraq
The PRT program is a priority joint DOS/DOD initiative to bolster moderates, support U.S. counterinsurgency strategy, promote reconciliation, shape the political environment, support economic development, and build the capacity of Iraqi provincial governments to hasten the transition to Iraqi self-sufficiency.
In the post-surge environment, PRTs are now almost exclusively led by the United States in Iraq. The DOS serves as the lead agency for all PRTs except Dhi Qar, which is led by Italy.
The focus of PRTs is the provincial government and provincial-wide effects. At the national level, the United States has several agencies engaged, including DOD, DOS, and others. Below the provincial government, at the district/city government level, the maneuver commander takes the lead. In the spring of 2007, embedded PRTs were assigned to brigade/regimental combat teams to facilitate maneuver commanders' interactions at the district/city government level in the Anbar, Baghdad, and Babil provinces. At this same time, all PRTs, with the exception of the Babil PRT, were paired with a brigade/regimental combat team or division/force headquarters.
PRTs in Iraq focus on coaching, teaching, and mentoring Iraqis in governance and economics. The PRT structure is modular in nature, with a standard core structure tailored to each province. The DOS takes the lead for PRTs, supported by DOD and other civilian agencies.