The Army Irregular Warfare Fusion Cell’s August Newsletter

The Army Irregular Warfare Fusion Cell’s August Newsletter has been published online.  From the Director, Colonel Chadwick W. Clark:

One very interesting action that fell out of the 2015 Doctrine Conference recently was the difficulty units have in understanding the difference between Foreign Internal Defense, a traditional SOF mission, and Security Force Assistance, a General Purpose Force mission. What is the difference? As it turns out, there is little to distinguish the concept and doctrine vision now in the Combined Arms Doctrine Directorate here at Fort Leavenworth, and we now will consider the excellent material found in FM 3-05.137 (FID)… The IW Fusion Cell and Special Warfare Center and School are working now to consolidate the doctrine to reduce the confusion (and reduce the number of FMs and duplicative work). FM3-07.1 (SFA) is under revision. Let us know what you think.

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You addressed something that is important, the confusing discussions on SFA and FID (again not the same, but have much in common) are the result of a myopic focus on Iraq and Afghanistan. While the term GWOT has correctly IMO been eliminated that doesn't mean the threat isn't global in scale and that one of the ways to address it is to help enhance the capability of the appropriate security forces in the appropriate states from Bangladesh to Columbia to Nigeria and beyond. The ability for DOD to support this requirement is "severely" hampered by various laws and policies that limit DOD ability to train other period, and even more difficult to train law enforcement, which is often the appropriate security for best dealing with the terrorist threat. In major named operations we often get these authorities (we just don't do a good job at it), but for the efforts outside the major combat zones we're bankrupt with authorities and funding.

In regards to your comment about advisors and trainers being the same, that is only true sometimes. There are numerous instances where State or DoD can train, but not combat advise foreign forces. Sometime for good reason, but when advising is desired outside the combat zone we all too often lack the authority to do so. An advisor accompanies the security force on missions, and while he/she may be dual hatted as a trainer, there are many trainers that are not authorized to advise, or not in a position to be an advisor. The distinction is important, because many times we (again outside Iraq and Afghanistan) we only desire the authority to advise, or in some cases only the authority to train (and sometimes equip). We need a system that allows flexibility based on the mission requirements, the current set of laws/policies do not allow that flexibility. We do not need a blanket authority to do everything, which unfortunately is what SFA is perceived as being. The authorities granted need to be based on each specific mission and all the factors influencing it, thus the reason for my comparison to ROE in the previous comment, choose what is appropriate, get consensus from State and the Host Nation, then execute with a purpose.

In early 2009, there was much debate at MNF-I and MNC-I about this very topic: what is SFA? As a SF officer, I kept asking the question about that 95% overlap -- what is the difference? The answer that was firmly engrained in the conventional officers' minds was "SOF does FID." I asked them to show me where that comes from and, of course, no one could tell me a manual number, correct name and much less the chapter and page where it came from. It was already conventional mantra.

Since no one in that HQ could define what it was we were doing in Iraq at that time or in the future, they simply copped-out and said that MNF-I was conducting "full-spectrum operations." They admitted that the label equated to conducting "army stuff" and said that it was all that was acceptable to the senior leadership as politically safe wording.

Since the planners were not allowed to use the FID manual for reference, the process led to enormous confusion over tasks, troop-to-task requirements, how to structure the unworkable "Advise and Assist Brigades" and even simply what to call the specified tasks for the sake of writing the OPORD 10-01 and eventually 11-01. What we've seen since then is that US forces have done nothing conceptually differently from January, 2009 until today except that the confusion has stymied lower-level initiative due to their leaders' (that is, commanders and staffs) lack of confidence in what their limitations are and what their higher will support.

In reference to working with the Iraqi Security Forces, there was endless debate about who trains, who advises, who assists, who equips and who conducts Key Leader Engagements. The very "Joint" plans staffs could not get it through their minds that there are no discernable differences berween an "Advisor" and a "Trainer." In this regard, because of their disparate and irrelevant career fields and experiences, this MNF-I plans staff was too joint to be useful. Of the 25 field grades (mostly 0-5s and 0-6s)in the room, only three had ever worked with indigenous forces or ever touched FID/SA activities at any level in the past -- two SF guys and an AFSOF pilot. Even fewer had actually completely read or were familiar with the manuals of interest to the topic at hand, including 3-24.

Essentially, the universal rank-and-file impact of this confusion has been a lack of trust of the higher echelons by the bulk of US forces. Few really understood what was expected of them and their organizations, so they frequently did as little as possible for the first couple years. In some places in Iraq, that same dynamic still exists.

All that said, I agree that it is a good thing that Leavenworth and Bragg are finally talking. That by itself is a metric-ton of improvement since the FM 3-24 Coordinating Draft feedback process. But, there are organizations that have much more to contribute than those two bases of thought. The Naval Postrgraduate School's Defense Analysis department (under Dr. Gordon McCormick),and Stanford's and Carnegie-Mellon's Sociology Depts (Kathleen Carley's work) have a lot to offer -- with intellectual rigor attached -- that makes it into the debate only peripherally through graduates of those institutions.


A couple of quick comments. First the UW definition in the IW SITREP is the DoD definition of UW and has been in JP 1-02 since January 2011 and has been added to the relevant pubs as they are either updated with changes or republished. That was never the Special Forces definition. It was the SOCOM approved definition (by ADM Olson) since June 2009. It took SOCOM awhile to submit it to the JS for change. It was developed at the SOCOM US working group (admittedly held at Ft Bragg) in April 2009 chaired by the SOCOM doctrine action officers and included the SOCOM CSM Tommy Smith.

Reference SFA and FID. We are tilting at windmills. i wish I could post some attachments because I have some charts from the doctrine guys showing the "95%" overlap of FID and SFA with the major differences being to build partner capacity to be able to defend against external threats and to develop capacity to conduct external operations (of course a euphemism to support us in the GWOT and in OIF and OEF).

But the real issue is we are focusing on putting things in boxes and worried more about naming things than developing the strategy and supporting campaign plans. I really do not care if we call it FID or SFA - if our strategy requires that we train, advise and assist indigenous forces then we need to do that and it makes no difference if we call it FID or SFA. In fact we should just describe our ends, ways, and means (ensuring balance and coherency among them) and tasks (with the purpose for conducting those tasks) in plain language without our incessant need to use buzzwords and jargon. We spend more time on the jargon than we do on trying to communicate effectively what our strategy is and how the campaign plan will support that strategy.

The one thing on SFA that I was hopeful for never materialized. In October 2008 as SFA was really taking hold and SOCOM sought joint proponency for it, I asked ADM Olson how he viewed SFA. He said he wanted to see a melding of FID, Security Cooperation, and Security Assistance to be able to combined and get right the Title 10 and Title 22 authorities so we could effectively and efficiently conduct operations that would support strategy. But as far as I know there has only been talk of going to Congress to get the authorities right and I have seen no evidence of SOCOM or the Army or DOD going to Congress and really asking for a relook and revision of all the Security Assistance and related legislation. And as far as I know there are no real advocates to do so on the Hill.


The discussion on Security Force Assistance (SFA) continues to spiral out of control and lead to increasing levels of confusion, and worse yet fail to add any value to the fight. I have no idea how the discussion evolved to the point that SOF does FID and Conventional/General Purpose Forces do SFA, but it was probably another attempt out of desparation to delineate SFA from other missions that look, smell and feel the same, but clearly aren't if one would just take a closer look. FID is clearly defined and confined appropriately by that definition. If we're tasked to train foreign security forces to deploy to Haiti, DROC, Afghanistan (in other words to fight outside their country) it is NOT FID, we are not helping "that" nation with their IDAD program(s). We have and will continue to have numerous rational reasons to train, equip, advise and assist foreign forces outside the realm of FID. Even within the confines of FID, we are handicapped by outdated laws in Titles 10 and 22 that prevent us from more effectively assisting a nation with its IDAD program, and the result is millions of dollars of wasted on a standard doctrinal (legally correct) response, instead of a more rational, cost effective response. These issues were understood by the original thinkers who came up with the SFA concept, but it was still flawed from the outset and has coninued to evolve in a direction that leads to long non-productive conversations trying to make sense of it.

While my vote doesn't count for much, I would vote to scrub the term/phrase and instead focus on the missions FID, Security Assistance, Security Cooperation and identify what shortfalls exist that prevent effective execution. Those shortfalls in my opinion will largely center on authorities for advise and assist, and train and equip. Stop thinking about SFA as a mission, and focus on the real missions FID, SA, SC and how do the train, equip, advise, assist piece better. It would make more sense to all concerned. State would probably object less if you were focused on how to produce a better product for FID (by expanding authorities case by case just as selecting ROE for each mission), rather than pushing for a new mission with associated authorities that just doesn't make sense.

The Army Irregular Warfare Center are apparent masters in producing ideas that are confusing and unneeded. Another example in this newsletter was the comment on UW and FID.

"Even though UW and FID are conceptually opposed, FID may be conducted concurrently with UW as a shaping operation in adjacent countries."

Why do we need to say that? What value is it to the larger community? I actually recall that discussion (one of many), and in the end it was circular talk. Conventional combat in the Philippines can assist UW elsewhere by tying down Japanese forces, thus preventing them from being deployed to the UW theater of operations. Duh, do we really need to state the obvious and list all the "may be conducted" contingencies?

It also used the Special Forces definition for unconventional warfare instead of the DOD definition, and that wouldn't be foul if they identified it as such, but case in point, the DOD definition for UW was more appropriate for our actions in Libya. The definition envisions a much broader effort than SF's unique and important contribution to UW. In fact we can conduct UW without organizing the resistance into guerrillas, auxilliaries and undergrounds by simply providing information, funding, and fire support in many cases. Is that still UW? That is another debate that is hopefully continuing and hopefully its outcome won't be determined by special interest groups, but rather by Americans who are focused on the best solutions for our nation.

We are making these all these IW and SFA related topics much too complicated, and worse we're not solving any problems, but rather devoting all our time to trying to clarifying the complicated mess we created.

Dave, agree much so - Dave D.

It is also heartening to read about the doctrinal collaboration between Leavenworth and Bragg.