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Handbook 07-34
September 2007

Chapter 4

Strategic Guidance and Authorities

Overarching Interagency Strategic Guidance 

Senior interagency officials provide strategic guidance through cabinet-level principals’ committees (PC) or deputies’ committees (DC). The committees are chaired by the National Security Council and reflect the grand strategic goals as laid out by the President. In turn, the PC or DC may create or task existing interagency policy coordinating committees or country reconstruction and stabilization groups to flesh out and further develop implementation based on the strategic guidance. 

Though in charge, the Chief of Mission (COM) or designated authority, in concert with the National Command Authority, may designate a specific U.S. government (USG) 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. 

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 COM (where there is an existing U.S. embassy) or presidential envoy on the civilian side.3 Whichever department has the lead, all efforts at the field level should be made to 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, wherein the COM will assume lead for USG efforts. Certain circumstances may result in the recognition of joint civilian-military command, preserving unity of effort if not unity of command.4 

Operational Interagency Guidance: Roles Played by the PRT 

Operational interagency guidance is the implementing glue between overarching strategic goals and local execution. This guidance delineates the separate agency areas of responsibility (AORs) and ensures a common assessment/understanding that each line of operation or sector reinforces the others. The guidance should tie national/sector development programs with the stability objectives and activities of the 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 that the local objectives are effective, attainable, and aligned with operational and strategic goals. 

Implementing Agency Guidance 

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 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 that the PRT leadership ensure that 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. 

Funding Guidance and Authorities 

Funding for activities within the PRT AOR will likely come from several sources, although country- and regional-specific circumstances preclude a definitive list.  Examples include: economic support funds (ESF) (DOS/USAID); overseas humanitarian, disaster, and civic aid (DOD); Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) (DOD); and International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement (INCLE) (DOS). 

In many cases, such as ESF and INCLE, the PRT is likely to play an oversight or supporting role. In Iraq and Afghanistan, CERP provides military commanders with funds they can directly program and disburse; however, it is not presently clear to what degree this practice will carry over in future reconstruction and stabilization missions. Legal restrictions on the use of certain funds and the existing sanctions on the country in question require the separate management of these funds by the organization responsible for their expenditure. In addition, constraints, including prohibitions on certain uses of the funds, must be taken into account in planning how and whether the PRT will undertake specific activities. 

PRT leadership must be fully aware of the guidelines and authorities that are attached to each funding source and determine the best use of these funds, to include which funds are best used for specific projects. Balancing this multitude of considerations is an essential task of the PRT’s interagency leadership to ensure an effective, efficient, and sustainable work plan. 


3 Regional bureaus in the DOS (and their respective assistant secretaries) work directly with the embassies that fall within their responsibility.  There is no civilian equivalent to the combatant commanders. 

4 See Annex C on Iraq. Multi-National Force-Iraq and the ambassador are jointly responsible for achieving mission objectives


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