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A Governance Advising Framework for the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB)
Douglas Hurst, Bill Mandrick and John McElligott
The crisis of governance that is most disturbing and corrosive is occurring at the state level and reflects a world of more and more perennially weak, corrupt, or captured states that are unable or unwilling to meet the needs of their citizens, to provide an inclusive fold of protection and provision, to evoke the continued loyalty of their citizenry, to maintain the rule of law, to impose and maintain order in their major cities, and to control their borders.[i]
Responding to the crisis of ineffective governance will require governance advising during all phases of military operations. We describe here the potential role of the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB) in such a response, as well as a framework for planning and conducting governance advising activities. Because governance advising requires expertise in numerous domains outside the U.S. Army’s purview, we conclude with prescriptions for building a network of governance experts, which can be leveraged for a variety of activities (e.g., planning, reach-back, train-the-trainers, etc.).
Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) and Governance Advising (GA)
According to Lt. Gen. Joseph Anderson, Army Chief of Operations, the Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) are designed to “…benefit the Army by providing trained and accessible resources for support to missions such as foreign internal defense, stabilization operations, security force assistance and counterinsurgency operations.”[ii] If the role of the SFAB is to support these four mission areas, then they will be doing much more than advising and assisting on merely security issues. Rather, supporting missions such as Foreign Internal Defense (FID), Stabilization Operations, Security Force Assistance (SFA) and Counterinsurgency (COIN) Operations will require the Commander to consider the host nation’s ability to govern its population, and where needed, to advise and assist on governance-related activities. Governance is defined as “the state’s ability to serve the citizens through the rules, processes, and behavior by which interests are articulated, resources are managed, and power is exercised in a society.”[iii]
Analysis of the four stated mission areas that the SFABs will support reveals the need for a Governance Advising (GA) capability—GA threads through each of the doctrinal descriptions of FID, Stability Operations, SFA, and COIN. First, FID is doctrinally defined as “…the participation by civilian and military agencies of a government in any of the action programs taken by another government or other designated organization to free and protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, insurgency, terrorism, and other threats to its security.”[iv] We know that an enduring stability must address ineffective, inept, and corrupt governance. In an interview with Octavian Manea, David Kilcullen said, “Governance is extremely important in pretty much every counterinsurgency. But how it needs to be addressed is different from campaign to campaign.” Kilcullen goes on to say, “Governance, legitimacy, effectiveness are central and if you don’t have that piece then it doesn’t matter how good you are on the military side.”[v] We propose that the Army needs to build a flexible, modular GA network that can be adapted for each campaign to match US objectives and capabilities with the needs of partner nations.
Second, Stability Operations are defined as “…the various military missions, tasks, and activities conducted outside the United States in coordination with other instruments of national power to maintain or reestablish a safe and secure environment, provide essential governmental services, emergency infrastructure reconstruction, and humanitarian relief.”[vi] Stability operations are planned and executed by military-civilian teams, and the Department of Defense is tasked with leading and supporting their development. The team’s functions include:
- ensuring security
- developing local governance structures
- promoting bottom-up economic activity
- rebuilding infrastructure
- building indigenous capacity for such tasks
Such teams could be led by SFABs, with participation open to other U.S. agencies and private sector partners who possess relevant skills and experience, because SFAB personnel do not hold skills in governance advising.
Security Force Assistance (SFA) is defined as “Department of Defense activities that contribute to unified action by the US Government to support the development of the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and their supporting institutions.”
Source: United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-22: Foreign Internal Defense, (Washington, D.C., 2010), http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jp3_22.pdf
Third, capacity and capability development through SFA requires more than training in individual and collective tasks (e.g., fire and maneuver). Security forces must be tied into higher-level policies and the rule of law, otherwise we are training potential militias with untethered leadership and violent agendas.
Fourth, SFABs will support COIN Operations defined as “…the comprehensive civilian and military efforts taken to defeat an insurgency and to address any core grievances.”[vii] Government legitimacy (i.e. sound governance) is a Center of Gravity (COG) in COIN Operations, and the insurgent uses any crises of governance as his call to arms. Supporting COIN operations means that GA rests squarely on the shoulders of SFABs, but how does the Commander and his staff wrap their collective minds around this multifaceted problem? Understanding governance and GA requires a framework, from which they can start to plan. In the remainder of this paper we propose such a framework, as well as recommendations for developing a GA expert network. The fact that adjectives such as sound, legitimate, and effective governance remain undefined is part of the raison d’être for this kind of governance expert network—GA needs to have experts who can operationalize these terms.
Governance Advising Framework
SFABs have a tall order to fill in regard to GA, so that Commanders and their planning staffs will need a framework to help them understand and visualize the Host Nation’s (HN) current state of governance. Three GA related questions immediately come to the fore. What are the functions of sound governance? What types of experts are required for governance advising? What Lines of Effort (LOEs) and supporting activities will move a HN towards sound governance? Answering these baseline questions will help the Commander’s staff with mission analysis and planning.
Fortunately, there are sources where the first two questions have been addressed, and from those we can devise an answer to the third question—answers to the third question can be rendered in a graphic (see figure 1 below). The functions of government, and the experts in each function, are outlined in: 1) the United States Institute of Peace and United States Army Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, Guiding Principles for Stabilization and Reconstruction, 2009, which generally aligns with 2) the sectors found in Joint Publication 3-07 Stability Operations. They are enumerated as follows:
- General Governance
- Safe and Secure Environment
- Rule of Law
- Social Well-Being
If we think of these stability (governance) sectors as Lines of Effort (LOEs), then we can start to identify a) the types of activities that support each LOE and b) the types of experts required for GA—see image 1 below. It should be stressed that the activities proposed in this paper are limited to “advising” versus “doing”, as they are intended to set the preconditions for longer-term stabilization maintained by the HN. GA, as proposed here, is intended to be repeatable and sustainable through a network of experts who provide analysis, planning, training scenario development, and reach-back consultation from any theatre of operations. The intent of this framework is to help the Commander and his planning staff understand:1) the disparate elements that contribute to a failed, failing, or recovering state, 2) the activities required to move towards a stable state (as defined in JP 3-07)[viii], and 3) the required expertise needed for advising.
Figure 1. Governance LOE’s with supporting Activities derived from Joint Publication 3-07: Stability
Recommendation: Build a Network of GA Experts
With the framework depicted in figure 1 above we can start to infer the types of experts needed to conduct GA, and how they can be networked into GA Communities of Practice. In order to plan and conduct GA, SFAB Commanders need access to such a network of governance Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) in dozens of disciplines outside of the military’s purview. This network will provide the expertise needed for exercise scenario development, governance assessments, operations planning, reach-back from the theater of operations, and knowledge management in governance domains. But who should be responsible for identifying and managing these highly-skilled experts? Although numerous authoritative directives assign the responsibility for identifying and managing governance experts to the U.S. Army, it remains a hot-potato issue.[ix] Noah Cooper states that, “…the SFABs are unlikely to create a cadre of true advising “experts,” or to capitalize on the talents of those soldiers with demonstrated proficiency in the advising tradecraft.[x]
The Institute for Military Support to Governance (IMSG) is an example of the Army’s tenuous commitment to identifying and managing much needed governance experts. The IMSG was formed to identify military reservists with civilian acquired skills in governance.[xi] This includes reservists who hold positions as judges, economists, city-planners and administrators, bankers, land managers, nutritionists, plant managers, chiefs of police, etc. Despite their success in identifying, recruiting, and networking governance SMEs the IMSG was defunded in 2016.
Finding subject matter experts in governance functional areas such as cultural preservation, legislation, strategic analysis, communication, justice reform, public health, economic development, essential services, et. al. will require more than internal (i.e. military) sourcing. The number of military reservists with civilian acquired skills in governance will not be enough to meet all of the requirements of GA. Once a pool of military reservists with governance expertise has been identified and networked, the DoD will need to reach outside to identify SMEs in government and academia. Select experts will become part of the network of GA experts and will form their own expert communities and sub-communities of interest. See vignette 1 for an example of how to source and use a GA network for a public health concern.
Vignette 1: Using a Governance Advising Network to Combat Zika Virus Affecting USSOUTHCOM Partners
Countries like Panama hold strategic importance for the United States. The outbreak of Zika Virus in Central and South America sent those governments scrambling to respond and allay the fears of citizens. Not only did Zika pose a health threat to Panamanians, including its members of the military and their families, but it also slowed the flow of tourists to a trickle, creating a huge hole in local and national budgets.
Through the National Guard Bureau’s State Partnership Program, Missouri is partnered with Panama. In this situation the Missouri National Guard could leverage Soldiers and Airmen whose day jobs are focused on disease transmission, health care, travel, and tourism. Any service members identified with the requisite knowledge and skills could be used at the operational and strategic levels to advise the Panamanian provincial and national governments in response to Zika virus.
Accessing Governance Advisors Anywhere, Anytime
SFABs could leverage current networking technologies to connect remote governance advisors with troops in the field. Any smartphone user can browse for the best “dog-friendly coffee shops with outdoor seating.” Users will they get numerous hits and be able to see ratings by other customers. By building a GA network organized by functional expertise areas (communities of practice), levels of expertise, and ratings for past performance, SFABs can quickly identify and sift through experts for any situation. Governance experts could even be on standby to connect with teams patrolling neighborhoods—e.g. experts in agribusiness and illicit trade may be helpful for teams working with Afghan Local Police who come across poppy fields. Knowing the latest information about Afghan politics would be helpful before walking into a shura to negotiate safe passage for logisticians. Staff in future operations could ensure such experts are in the queue and securely connected with teams going outside the wire. Tapping into low-density experts on-demand is possible with today’s technology and should get easier with time.
Members of the GA network for an SFAB do not even need to be in country. Secure networks could be leveraged to connect with experts who are willing to assist the mission, while not in country. Sometimes, an SFAB may realize the host nation really needs experts in an area for which the SFAB is not adequately staffed. For example, an SFAB in Iraq may find that experts in cultural heritage preservation and the illegal sale of antiquities would be helpful in cutting off the flow of money to ISIS supporters and preserving Iraqi artifacts. Such people exist but may not be in Iraq or even available to go to Iraq. To meet that need, the SFAB could contract with the experts on a short-term basis or through remote communications to fill the knowledge gap.
Vignette 2: Training Afghan Police
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) cited how woefully ill-prepared the U.S. Army was for advising the Afghan police. A recent report cited how one infantry officer without a law enforcement background watched television shows to get tips on how to train Afghan police. SIGAR John Sopko cited talent mismanagement as a problem. Similarly, SFABs will not be prepared to training Afghan military police. SFABs are not recruiting Soldiers with MP backgrounds. Plus, only one of the six planned SFABs would reside in the National Guard. That one SFAB would be fortunate to recruit members whose civilian jobs were in law enforcement.
Source: Horton, Alex. "Some U.S. troops watch ‘Cops’ to train Afghan police. That’s a problem, watchdog says." Washington Post, September 21, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2017/09/21/some-u-s-troops-watch-cops-to-train-afghan-police-thats-a-problem-watchdog-says
If Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) will be conducting FID, stability operations, SFA, and COIN, then they must be able to plan for and execute GA. However, the depth and breadth of expertise required to plan for and execute successful GA does not reside in the active duty Army. This essay provides a framework for SFAB Commanders and planners to articulate GA lines of effort, supporting activities, and desired end-states. It also serves as a framework for identifying the right types of GA experts from across the branches of the military, interagency and private partners, local government, and academia. As the cadre of GA experts are identified, the SFABs should leverage current and future networking technologies so that the GA experts can be properly managed—e.g. updating knowledge and skills profiles, distributed searching for specific expertise, linking experts to wider communities of practice, and adjacent knowledge matching. Combining this GA Framework with a network of experts, professionally managed with the latest technology, will result in a very powerful GA capability for the SFAB Commander.
[i] Matfess, Hilary, and Michael Miklaucic. Beyond convergence: world without order. Washington, D.C.: Center for Complex Operations, Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, 2016. pg. 23
[ii] “Army Creates Security Force Assistance Brigade and Military Advisor Training Academy at Fort Benning.” www.army.mil, 16 Feb. 2017, www.army.mil/article/182646/army_creates_security_force_assistance_brigade_and_military_advisor_training_academy_at_fort_benning.
[v] Octavian Manea interview with David Killcullen, Small Wars Journal, 07 November 2010, available at: http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/journal/docs-temp/597-manea.pdf
[viii] A stable state is able to protect and govern its population to degree. The population considers the level of protection and governance acceptable and normal. Characteristics of a stable state include: the civil populace perceives the government as the legitimate authority with a monopoly on the use of coercive force, governments have the ability to resolve disputes within ruling elites and between government and the governed, governments have the ability to provide for essential services for the people and enter into dialogue with society about those services, the government has the ability to positively influence key regional and international leaders, and the civil population perceives the government is able to secure the future of the population. (adapted from Joint Publication 3-07: Stability, August 2016, pg. I-8, http://dtic.mil/doctrine/new_pubs/jp3_07.pdf)
[ix] Joint Operating Environment 2035. “The Joint Force in a Contested and Disordered World,” July 14, 2016.
[x] Noah B. Cooper, "Will the Army’s New Advisory Brigades Get Manning and Intel Right?," War on the Rocks, last modified November 5, 2015, https://warontherocks.com/2017/09/will-the-armys-new-advisory-brigades-get-manning-and-intel-right/