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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