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Newsletter 11-02
November 2010

Section 1. Specialty Skills Initiative

Approach to "Whole of Government" Continuity, Civilian-Military
Staff Integration for Stability and Reconstruction Operations,
and Specialty Skills Initiative

Robert McDonald, CALL Liaison Officer to the Center for Complex Operations

Printed with permission from 10th Mountain Division.

"One of the most important lessons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is that military success is not sufficient to win; economic development, institution building and the rule of law, promoting internal reconciliation, good governance, providing basic services to the people, training and equipping indigenous military and police forces, strategic communications, and more - these, along with security, are essential ingredients for long-term success."

-Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates

Efforts to achieve an effective integration of interagency capabilities for stabilization and reconstruction missions have been limited at best. There is a critical need for fully integrated interagency efforts at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels. Civilian and military cooperation and collaboration are not sufficient in today's complex environment. The change in paradigm is to focus on how the military can better integrate civilian personnel and capabilities when required to engage in stability operations. While the military may have led the initial phases, all stakeholders involved now realize that civilians must take a leading role in these missions.

Strategic Context

The leaders of our government have set the strategic context for the whole-of-government approach to future conflict that fully integrates civilian and military operations. The quotes below give some important thoughts that emphasize this requirement.

"The Army must create horizontal 'grassroots' links that can build habitual links and foster relationships between civilian and Army SSTR [stability, security, transition, and reconstruction]-related planners and organizations." Source: RAND Corporation study, Integrating Civilian Agencies in Stability Operations, 2009

"We must significantly modify organizational structures to achieve better unity of effort. ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] cannot succeed without a corresponding cadre of civilian experts. . . ISAF will welcome the integration of new civilian funding streams, but must be willing to make up the difference using military funding as necessary." Source: GEN McChrystal's Initial Assessment, 30 August 2009

"[Sec. Clinton] was enormously proud of this integrated civilian-military process. We all talk about civ-mil integration, and the bottom line on it is the closer you get to the battlefield, the closer the integration. And at the province level and the district level, it is really remarkable..." Source: U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, Special Report on Secretary of State Clinton's Recent Visit to Afghanistan and Pakistan, 23 November 2009

To effectively strengthen our interagency skills, the Army requires an initiative that maximizes training, cooperation, integration, and relationships between military and civilian counterparts.

Specialty Skills Initiative

The specialty skills initiative (SSI) is a "grassroots" initiative under the Department of Defense's Campaign Continuity to create an interagency pilot program within an Army division headquarters at home station to better prepare units to perform stability operations in theater. Recognizing the need to improve the execution of stability operations in Afghanistan through an interagency structure, "civilian platforms" have been established in Regional Command (RC) - East and RC - South to improve critical components of stability operations, such as democracy/governance, agriculture, economic development, rule of law, and other development sectors.

Civilian platforms in RC-West and RC-North are also currently being staffed. These platforms strengthen civilian-military relations by improving communication and coordination, thereby promoting unity of effort. A corresponding interagency stability operations structure (i.e., SSI at home stations during dwell time [time between deployments]), will facilitate improvement of collective, interagency effectiveness. In doing so, units will be better prepared to deploy to Afghanistan, fortifying the U.S. government's continuity of effort. The following desired effect and benefits are consistent with the SSI concept:

  • Desired effect: Interagency specialty skills personnel are embedded into division headquarters while at home station, during training, and through deployment (quantity and specialty).
  • Benefits:
    • Improves interagency approach to stability operations prior to deployment.
    • Builds interagency relationships and understanding during train-up.
    • Improves interagency planning process and synchronizations.
    • Builds division staff and teamwork early.
    • Integrates all interagency approach of stability operations into training, command post exercises, and mission rehearsal exercises.
    • Furthers the concept of "continuity" by rotating interagency expertise through Campaign Continuity divisions.

In December 2009, an SSI conceptual framing session was conducted with the other agencies that have a vested interest in and knowledge of SSI to brainstorm how SSI could be structured and implemented. Specifically, the purpose of the framing session was to develop specific aspects of the initiative such as the composition of the SSI team and pilot structure, command and control (coordination and collaboration), and training requirements. This initial framing session did not cover detailed aspects of funding or manning these requirements, as those topics will be addressed as the pilot develops.

The SSI attempts to address complex, wide-ranging, and long-standing issues. The SSI is building on progress being made in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) to better integrate interagency efforts to improve effectiveness in stability operations. The SSI does this by creating a pilot program to assess the training and organizational changes that should take place in the United States to support, facilitate, and improve interagency progress in theater. The SSI is not a militarization of development but rather an opportunity to improve our nation's partnership in stability operations.

As a result, 10th Mountain Division's upcoming deployment was chosen as a vehicle to further this partnership. Ultimately, this type of partnership should become "a way of doing business" for military and governmental (and nongovernmental) organizations in the future.

The 10th Mountain Division has conducted an assessment of stability operations training, structure, and processes to determine what needs to be improved under the umbrella of the SSI. The division established an SSI working group with periodic back briefs to organizational leadership and steering committees. At the publishing of this article, the division is developing plans to conduct the training, integration, structure, processes, and relationship-building of interagency personnel who will train and deploy with the division. This phase runs the length of the deployment. Periodic assessments will be conducted to refine and improve follow-on iterations of the SSI with other deployments.

(Note: This article was compiled from notes and discussions with COL John D. Sims, Fire Support Coordination Officer, 10th Mountain Division.)



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