Small Wars Journal

CCO Update: New Home for the Consortium for Complex Operations

Last April, over 200 people gathered in Washington D.C. for the State Department-sponsored kickoff of an innovative, web-enabled, interagency community of practice, the Consortium for Complex Operations. This project, sponsored by the leadership among the "3D's," (diplomacy, development, and defense), was designed to link civilian and military educators, trainers, thought leaders and practitioners to focus on theoretical and practical problems associated with stability operations, counterinsurgency, and irregular warfare.

As the CCO approaches its first anniversary, the CCO Support Office will be moving to the Center for Technology and National Security Policy (CTNSP) at the National Defense University (NDU) under the oversight of Hans Binenndijk and Bernie Carreau. This move introduces clear advantages as well as some manageable challenges to the CCO's charter and has thus generated some moderate debate. Based on my experience in leading the development and launch of the CCO, I thought I would offer the following insight for the SWJ readership and the CCO community of interest.

The CCO-NDU Plan

One of the things that made the CCO unique, was its link to policy makers, via the governing structure across State, DoD, and USAID. This link was designed to give the community a voice to leadership. Accordingly, the project will maintain ties to Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) office for Policy via a permanently detailed Deputy Director from the Stability Operations office, (currently Dave Sobyra). A new executive director under NDU should be named soon. The Executive Committee will continue to be comprised of policy reps from OSD, US Agency for International Development (US AID), State Pol/Mil, State Center for Reconstruction and Stabilization (S/CRS) and the Joint Staff and will be chaired by Hans Binenndijk.

Pros? Cons?

While there will be a few challenges to overcome, overall the move to NDU offers clear advantages to the mission of the CCO. The immediate proximity to the academic community and the thought leadership in the CTNSP will introduce resources and collaborative opportunities. The CTNSP has a fist hand interest and expertise in Complex Operations having just released a compressive draft publication on the Complex Operations challenge across Defense and the interagency space.

The Center's prolific policy emphasis, and the University's events and students from across government, industry and academia will undoubtedly add energy and focus to the CCO's constituency, productivity and offerings.

There is demand for the CCO's insights on the part of both government and academia. Partners from Ohio State, the University of Texas, George Mason and others share interests in the events and activities of the Consortium and are keenly interested in focusing their students and institutions on addressing some of the nation's challenges and opportunities. The move to NDU can only help with actively involving these partners from outside the government.

While the proximity to academia and thought leadership can only help the CCO's energy and relevance, the CCO's leadership will need to stay focused on two primary CCO imperatives, the first to define and employ an interagency governance model, and the second, to avail ongoing training and information to our men and women who are continually engaging in complex operations in many and varied global regions. As was evident in every phase of the CCO stand up and execution, relentless attention, coordination and scheduling was required by CCO Support Center lead, Mac Bollman, to ensure the fully integrated oversight of the CCO among the interagency partners. It would have been be easy to revert to single point decision making, enabled by the fact that the funding for the CCO is primarily from defense. The CCO's interagency charter, and Executive and Steering committee bodies required perpetual attention and coordination to vet agendas and initiatives and to gather the leaders of five different organizations. As to the training challenge, while NDU is not a training institution, the CCO does have a charter responsibility to keep its members current on available training and to help them get at the training they need. The comprehensive catalogue of complex operations-related training and education across the consortium, which is maintained by the CCO on its portal, took a tremendous amount of energy to compile. It will continue to require sustained effort by consortium members and leadership to update to ensure the members' offerings are up to date and in view.

Overall the Right Move

The move to NDU is coming at the right time to take the CCO to the next level of collaboration and community support in Complex Operations. The move can energize all aspects of the CCO's charter on thought leadership, consortium support and coordination, and the guidance for its membership on available training for those heading out to support Complex Operations.


Janine Davidson's CCO Kick Off speech, April 28, 2008: Janine's speech was co-authored by Janine Davidson and Mac Bollman and provides a clear overview of the original intent and design of the CCO.

Janine Davidson is an Assistant Professor at George Mason University's Graduate School of Public Policy and a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution.