Small Wars Journal

JCISFA Conference Musing

The recent Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance (JCISFA) Symposium at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas (29-31 Jan 2008) addressed the issue of Security Force Assistance and the way forward. The Symposium was entitled "Key Security Force Assistance Issues in an Age of Persistent Conflict." Here are some observations from the conference:

There are a number of issues and assumptions that received general agreement. These included that we are in an era of "persistent conflict" and that there will be a requirement for some level of security force assistance (train, advise, and assist, or TAA) to be provided for at least the next decade and beyond. There was also an acknowledgement that "stability operations" are a core mission of the military on par with offensive and defensive operations -- a concept from DOD 3000.05 and incorporated in the new FM 3-0 that will roll out in February 2008. The importance of joint and multinational operations and interagency participation in a "whole of government" was also embraced, although there are huge issues in the capacity and ability of the non-DOD agencies to make this happen in the near term.

There are two big issues that are yet to be resolved -- although the conference provided a great forum to throw the issues on the table and discuss them in detail:

1) Should there be a "security force proponent," and, if so, who should it be? Drilling down further, if there is a "security force proponent," what exactly would its role be -- doctrine, force generation, coordination, or more?

One of the rationales for not having a single proponent is that there isn't a centralized proponent for "offense" or "defense" -- these are missions that are accomplished by all of the services; generating forces to accomplish these missions are inherent in the Title X responsibilities. One criticism of this argument is that we don't generally create forces to focus solely on offense or defense -- most of our forces, especially land forces, have offensive and defensive capabilities and have to be able to transition between the two different missions (and, as our doctrine shows, normally do a combination of offensive and defensive missions simultaneously).

There are, however, some forces that do focus on stability or security force missions as their primary mission -- in a nutshell, "train, advise, and assist" is a mission to enable others to do a wide variety of the offensive, defensive, and stability operations. This reality lends itself to having at least level of centralized proponency for the security force assistance mission.

2) How do we structure for "security force assistance" and the TAA mission?

This is, in my opinion, the crux of the issue. Should we create a separate "advisor corps" (Nagl) or "SysAd" force (Barnett) to focus on these missions -- a separate structure and career path? Or, should we focus on having the so-called General Purpose Forces having a 'full spectrum operations" capability -- able to run the gamut from major combat operations to long-term advisor missions?

The answer to this question probably is best found in a balance -- just how much of our structure should be dedicated to the primary mission of advising in terms of force design? In many ways, SF and other SOF units are designed to the TAA mission -- but the demand for this type of detailed advising and security force assistance exceeds the supply. Under the ARFORGEN model, units can be trained and "retooled" to focus on the TAA mission, but that is at the cost of losing that unit for its designed mission... and a force design that attempts to incorporate all potential missions may create "Frankenstein" MTOEs that are designed to do everything and not able to do anything well.

Unfortunately, cost and force structure are independent variables -- we simply don't have enough money or forces to create a full set of all potential capabilities... there has to be some acceptance of risk and hedging our bets. Designing a force for "the fight we are fighting today" will no doubt be the wrong force for the "fight we'll fight tomorrow." One of the speakers at the conference provided this comment:

...the idea that we can have two Armies with two officer corps, one for regular fighting, and one for security force assistance, is a snare and a delusion. Educate our officers to think, not just to follow recipes, and they will rise to the situation and adapt, whatever comes.

It all comes to the issue of balance -- how to create the right mix of generalists (full spectrum forces) and specialists (SF and SOF) to handle the issues of today and tomorrow. There are no easy answers, but the conference did a great job in identifying the questions that must be addressed.

Dr. Jack D. Kem is the Chief of the Combined Arms Center (CAC) Commander's Initiatives Group (CIG), Fort Leavenworth, KS. As the CIG Chief, Dr. Kem assists the CAC Commander by developing ideas and initiatives, conducting strategic planning,and conducting independent and unbiased analysis of the CAC Commander' areas of interest. Dr. Kem also hold a concurrent appointment as a Supervisory Professor in the Department of joint, Interagency, and Multinational Operations in the US Army Command and General Staff College.


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Rob Thornton

Sat, 02/02/2008 - 11:31am

Note- The Law professor was from Indiana Uiversity - Regards, Rob

Rob Thornton

Sat, 02/02/2008 - 11:29am

Lots of stuff going on the community at large related to Small Wars Community of Interest. Along with the symposium that JCIFSA (the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance) there were a couple of other noteworthy events. There was some significant work and thinking done on TMAAG (Theater Military Advisory and Assistance Group), and the JFCOM (Joint Forces Command) and PKSOI (the Peace Keeping Stability Operations Institute out of the Army War College at Carlisle Barracks) hosted a conference at Gettysburg, PA in a shared effort with CALL (Center for Army Lessons Learned) to produce a Rule of Law Handbook for COCOM and JTF commanders and planners - but could also be used by those who must consider military support to Rule of Law (RoL) in their operations and planning.

I was fortunate enough to be the JCIFSA representative and I was very impressed at the level of representation and participation from across the Joint & broader Inter-Agency communities. There was also some representation from the ICRC (Red Cross), and a presentation by a law professor from Indiana University whod spent some time with his students tackling a Rule of Law scenario. I walked away far more literate in the broader scope of how important the issue of Rule of Law is in achieving our foreign policy objectives in terms of the pieces, parts and roles of the many agencies, organizations, commander and staffs play in addressing military support to Rule of Law; and how military operations and legal authorities are increasingly integrated with other legal authorities within the Inter-Agency, Host Nation, and broad Inter-National community.

The conference provided a nice balance between panel discussions and smaller work groups. The discussions were led by panels who are either currently dealing with or recently dealt with RoL issues with focuses on places like Afghanistan, Columbia, Horn of Africa - the panel compositions reflected the Inter-Agency requirements of dealing with RoL - given both the practical and legal consideration of the challenge - and offered the opportunities to ask questions to the people whod actually had to work through the difficult issues they faced in pursuit of foreign policy objectives.

The small group work was broken out to give each small group cross cutting capabilities from the Inter-Agency and a senior mentor to guide the work toward producing thinking on what efforts (in this case we used the idea of Logical Lines of Operations) might be pursued to accomplish the effects that provide support to the RoL. We also tackled what tasks might be fleshed out under those LLOOs to help commanders and planners dealing with the Rule of Law to allocate resources (money, time, people, units, etc.), and what other agencies and organizations might be coordinated with to accomplish military support to RoL. The overarching guidance was to strike a balance between universality and specificity in order to provide the work greater utility and longevity, in other words, try and focus more on a menu those working RoL could use to consider the conditions they face, not just the ones faced by others in the past.

The goal is to get something out to practitioners as quickly as possible that is both relevant and has utility so that we can better achieve unified effort on Rule of Law issues - the type of key planning requirements that help commanders, planners and staffs consider the problems and conditions they face.

I think JFCOM & PKSOI did a fantastic job on arranging and synchronizing the conference to address a difficult challenge we face in accomplishing our foreign policy objectives. This is one of those things that show the willingness of those working at the grass roots level to tackle tough Inter-Agency issues based on the guidance from some of the more senior leaders who understand the requirements we face now and ahead.

As a planner type at JCIFSA, I came away with a much better understanding of how Security Force Assistance plays a role in the broader and more encompassing areas of Security Sector Reform and Rule of Law. This is an ongoing effort, and JFCOM has plans to continue the work to support the staffs and commanders who deal with RoL on both a sustained day to day basis through engagement with our partner states, and within the framework on achieving large scale/effort support to RoL such as we see in Iraq and Afghanistan.

A huge hat tip to them and the many agencies who participated in tackling tough issues to produce something that both lays the basis for considering and framing tough issues, and will produce something practical 04s and 05s can use to support the intent of their 06 through Flag Officer leadership. They did a great job, and I think exceeded even their own expectations - I came away bettered prepared to both work in my area, and provide better support to the larger effort.

Best, Rob