Small Wars Journal

A Governance Advising Framework for the Security Force Assistance Brigade

Sat, 11/18/2017 - 2:30pm

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),

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:

  1. General Governance
  2. Safe and Secure Environment
  3. Rule of Law
  4. Social Well-Being
  5. Economy

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,


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.

End Notes

[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.”, 16 Feb. 2017,

[iii] United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-07: Stability, (Washington, D.C., 2016),

[iv] United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-22: Foreign Internal Defense, (Washington, D.C., 2010),

[v] Octavian Manea interview with David Killcullen, Small Wars Journal, 07 November 2010, available at:

[vi] United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-07: Stability, (Washington, D.C., 2016),

[vii] United States. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joint Publication 3-24: Counterinsurgency, (Washington, D.C., 2013),

[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,    

[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,


About the Author(s)

Douglas Hurst is a Colonel in the Army Reserve, working as a Civil Affairs officer in the special operations community with a focus in international relations.  He has over 25 years of experience in the financial services and technology industries and is CEO of Third Order Effects, LLC.

Bill Mandrick is a Civil Affairs Officer (Colonel) in the Army Reserves. He holds an earned doctorate in ontology and has developed formal reasoning frameworks for the special operations and intelligence communities.  He is CSO of Third Order Effects, LLC.

John McElligott is a First Lieutenant in the Army Reserve.  A Civil Affairs officer, he is a public health advocacy/lobbying specialist and former Peace Corps volunteer.  He is COO of Third Order Effects, LLC.



Wed, 12/20/2017 - 3:17pm

In reply to by Luddite4Change

It'll end up being a DoD mission whether it's best tackled by someone else or not. The simple truth is unless conditions are stable and the host nation is firmly in control, no one else will go.

The question is why the Army is creating a new unit for this, and not making use of (and expanding) the Civil Affairs capabilities it has. I predict that the SFAB will go in to advise, and end up training...advising is hard, and requires lots of patience and discipline to help your hosts discover their own way, rather than jumping in and doing or directing the work. While I'm sure the initial SFAB cadre is comprised of stellar individuals, I'm not sure the Army is picking them with that in mind.


Wed, 12/20/2017 - 11:01am

As a former FAO, and senior member of a US Embassy Country team I've watched the formation of the SFABs from its initial concept over 10 years ago with both enthusiasm and apprehension.

On the positive side, its good news for the COCOM commander and his resident security cooperation forces in theater (SDO/DATT and attache/SCO team) to have an organization they can task for executing the advise and assist missions in the country/theater.

On the negative side, there is the danger that the SFAB neglects to remember that it is a sub-contractor brought in to execute specific tasks (much like a framer or plumber while building a house), and instead tries to be the architect and/or chief engineer.

While I don't dispute some of the needs in the article, nor in fact some of the solutions, it indicates to me that the SFABs may be all to susceptible to default to be the entire tool kit.

I'm left with asking a critical question, "Is what is being proposed above a DOD mission, or is it best tackled by some other department?"

Again I must ask: Who in the United States/the West has sufficient expertise and experience with (a) the "creation of authority and the accumulation of power" (think: with "authoritarian governance") and with (b) the application of same to the modernization of outlying states and societies, this, so as to (c) advise other states and societies (in a SFAB or other forum) as to these exact such matters???

(This, given that the "American way of governance" appears to not be applicable to -- and/or indeed is generally undermining of -- the needs of states and societies that, before and/or after conflict, we have decided to "modernize.)

Explanatory excerpts:

From Samuel P. Huntington's "Political Order In Changing Societies:"


... When an American thinks about the problem of government-building, he directs himself not to the creation of authority and the accumulation of power but rather to the limitation of authority and the division of power. Asked to design a government, he comes up with a written constitution, bill of rights, separation of powers, checks and balances, federalism, regular elections, competitive parties -- all excellent devices for limiting government. The Lockean American is so fundamentally anti-government that he identifies government with restrictions on government. Confronted with the need to design a political system which will maximize power and authority, he has no ready answer. His general formula is that governments should be based on free and fair elections.

In many modernizing societies this formula is irrelevant. Elections to be meaningful presuppose a certain level of political organization. The problem is not to hold elections but to create organizations. In many, if not most, modernizing countries elections serve only to enhance the power of disruptive and often reactionary social forces and to tear down the structure of public authority. ...


From Francis Fukuyama's "Foreign Affairs" article entitled: "Samuel Huntington's Legacy:"


... This laid the groundwork for a development strategy that came to be called the "authoritarian transition," whereby a modernizing dictatorship provides political order, a rule of law, and the conditions for successful economic and social development. Once these building blocks were in place, other aspects of modernity like democracy and civic participation could be added. (Huntington’s student, Fareed Zakaria, would write a book in 2003, The Future of Freedom, making a somewhat updated variant of this argument.)

This argument is still very much with us. In the wake of America’s flawed nation-building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, many people have suggested the need for sequencing in development, putting state-building ahead of efforts to democratize and expand political participation. ...



If the American system of governance (to wit: "weak"/"limited" government) will not do what we need governance to do in these circumstances ("modernize" -- by force if necessary -- these states and societies; this, ultimately more along modern western political, economic, social and value lines). And if we have absolutely no expertise and/or experience with the kind of governance that we DO need in these instances (to wit: strong/authoritarian governments/governance).

Then, given this such significant deficit in "authoritarian governance" expertise and experience, how can we "advise" anyone; this, about how to stand up, implement and/or maintain/sustain such a (equally unpopular/equally illegitimate in the current age?) authoritarian government??? This, in a SFAB or other forum?

Bill C.

Fri, 12/01/2017 - 5:07pm

In reply to by cammo99

A possible breakdown (followed at the end by an attempted answer to cammo99's question above):

(First, from NSC-68 of 1950 -- portions of which still appear to be valid today):

1. Objective: "The objectives of a free society are determined by its fundamental values and by the necessity for maintaining the material environment in which they flourish."

2. Policy: "Our overall policy at the present time may be described as one designed to foster a world environment in which the American system can survive and flourish. It therefore rejects the concept of isolation and affirms the necessity of our positive participation in the world community."

(Next, from former NSA Anthony Lake's 1993 "From Containment to Enlargement"):

3. Strategy: "Throughout the Cold War, we contained a global threat to market democracies; now we should seek to enlarge their reach, particularly in places of special significance to us. The successor to a doctrine of containment must be a strategy of enlargement -- enlargement of the world's free community of market democracies."

(The following is from me):

4. Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFAB):

There are areas/regions of the world, wherein, our such efforts -- to "enlarge the world's free community of market democracies" -- these have not been sufficiently embraced; by the local people themselves and/or by their local governments. It is in these such contested/potentially contested areas/regions of the world that the need for "friendly"/"more friendly" governments -- and for sufficient "friendly" military, police and intelligence forces to support same (so as to adequately deal with "anti-western-modernization" challenges/challengers) -- exists.

(Herein, to understand -- more generally -- such things as our need for foreign internal defense, stabilization operations, security force assistance and counterinsurgency operations capabilities; today and in the future?)

Bottom Line Thought -- Based on the Above:

As to cammo99's question above:

Q: "Why is the military responsible for SFABs ... ?

A: Because it will take both "friendly" foreign governments (if necessary, "installed" by us) and "friendly" foreign military forces in support of same (these trained by us, to be proficient in both conventional and unconventional warfare) to meet the requirements of "enlarging the world's free community of market democracies."

This, in the face of efforts made by "unfriendly" states (exs: Russia, China, Iran, N. Korea, etc.) and "unfriendly" non-state actors (exs: AQ, ISIS, the Islamists, etc.); all bent on ensuring that the U.S./the West does not (a) gain greater power, influence and control throughout the world; this, by (b) "enlarging the world's free community of market democracies."

(For those who do not agree with this possible breakdown, I believe that we would all very much appreciate any effort made to suggest, advance -- and to substantiate -- a different such breakdown. I know I certainly would.)

Cammo99 -- does this help?

Why is the military responsible for the SFAB?
Reading the list of mission parameters for the sFAB hasn't it occurred to anyone that it is not a military mission but is on the extreme cusp of a mission defined by COIN that has spun off into its own thing?
The military is already struggling with manpower demands and deployments, I just don't believe giving the DFAB their own special beret really makes it a military mission, even in a small war.
What is it some way around the armed forces agreement so we can place troops in infidel unfriendly states?
Shouldn't the manpower for this come under State?

Given that our task today would seem to be similar to that of the Soviets/the communists during the Old Cold War (transforming outlying state and societies more along one's own political, economic, social and value lines), should we not study the Soviets?

From S.P. Huntington's 1968 "Political Order in Changing Societies" -- and re:, it would appear, post-war/post-conflict governance --


"In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men," Madison warned in The Federalist, No. 51, "the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself." In many modernizing countries governments are still unable to perform the first function, much less the second. The primary problem is not liberty but the creation of a legitimate public order. Men may, of course, have order without liberty, but they cannot have liberty without order. Authority has to exist before it can be limited, and it is authority that is in scarce supply in those modernizing countries where government is at the mercy of alienated intellectuals, rambunctious colonels, and rioting students.

It is precisely this scarcity that communist and communist-type movements are often able to overcome. History shows conclusively that communist governments are no better than free governments in alleviating famine, improving health, expanding national product, creating industry, and maximizing welfare. But the one thing communist governments can do is to govern; they do provide effective authority. Their ideology furnishes a basis of legitimacy, and their party organization provides the institutional mechanism for mobilizing support and executing policy.

To overthrow the government in many modernizing countries is a simple task: one battalion, two tanks, and a half-dozen colonels may suffice. But no communist government in a modernizing country has been overthrown by a military coup d'etat. The real challenge which the communists pose to modernizing countries is not that they are so good at overthrowing governments (which is easy), but that they are so good at making governments (which is a far more difficult task). They may not provide liberty, but they do provide authority; they do create governments that can govern. While Americans laboriously strive to narrow the economic gap, communists offer modernizing countries a tested and proven method of bridging the political gap. Amidst the social conflict and violence that plague modernizing countries, they provide some assurance of political order.

END QUOTE… (See Pages 7 and 8.)

Or is this (studying the Soviets) wasted effort; this, given that the U.S./the West appears to have neither (from the second quoted paragraph above) sufficient (a) "ideology that furnishes a basis for legitimacy," nor sufficient (b) "party organization (which) provides the institutional mechanism for mobilizing support and executing policy?" These and/or other such deficiencies seeming to be outlined in this 1973 document:


At the same time, the United States remains under a number of constraints in the possible support of revolutionary warfare in foreign areas, both in relation to the ideologically-opposed communist powers and the less-committed Third World. First, the United States generally lacks the useful, committed local proxies that have abetted and shielded communist efforts. Second, the United States lacks the cohesive motivational force of a communist philosophy, with its built-in incentives to revolution. While identification of the United States with an abundant economy may be attractive, many nations are not ready for industrial modernization. Attempts at modernization create stress and pain, and capitalism as a philosophy is identified with an alien and unattractive colonial and imperialist past. Despite its failure to "deliver," communism continues to attract revolutionary fronts. Despite its successes, capitalism does not "sell." ...

END QUOTE (See Pages vii and viii of the Summary and, for more detail, Chapter III.)

Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above:

Thus, re: "bridging the political gap"/"providing ... political order" (see the third paragraph of the Huntington quote), is what we have learned the fact that, re: much of the Rest of the World today, the U.S./the West has neither sufficient:

a. "Soft power" ("ideology that furnishes the basis for legitimacy) nor sufficient:

b. "Hard power" ("party organization [which] provides the institutional mechanism for mobilizing support and executing policy"); this, to see these such "transforming" missions through? Thus, given these (and/or other) such deficiencies:

1. Military operations undertaken to do "regime change," "stabilize" and/or "modernize" other states and societies (sooner or later along modern western political, economic, social and value lines),

2. These are likely to end badly -- "Governance Advising Framework for the Security Force Assistance Brigade" or no?

Robert C. Jones

Thu, 11/23/2017 - 10:08am

Why does the false promise that “effective governance = stability “ refuse to die?? This is a hanging chad of a theory, left over from the generations of colonial policing, and completely invalidated by two decades of failure when applied to modern missions in the emerging strategic environment.

Is it the money involved?? Is it the belief that instability can be “fixed”? Is it our unwillingness to admit that perhaps our theories of the power of democracy to cure or the role of ideology to infect are fundamentally flawed? A mix of all of the above.

Bottom line is that political stability comes when people across the many identities affected by some system of governance come to trust in that system. Can one seek to enhance trust through effectiveness? Yes. But to assume that effectiveness regardless of trust is a path to stability is a baseless, and expensive experiment that we need to completely rethink and reframe.

Follow the money. I suspect the “Third Order Effects” business model is rooted in a lot of first order thinking and relies on our continued pursuit of effectiveness as a means to prop up poorly designed policy.


Wed, 11/29/2017 - 4:05pm

In reply to by Bill C.

"(In truth, the U.S./the West having no real or significant knowledge, experience and/or expertise as to "governance" along "other than our own" political, economic, social and/or value lines? Thus, if such were required, we would actually have to seek assistance from "outside the West" personnel, to wit: from our competitors/from our enemies/from the competition -- this, not only for necessary expertise, but also for necessary legitimacy? As to an "interim" governance model -- one which might be necessary to "get things in order" before we begin the, for lack of a better term, "westernizing" process -- [a] just what might this such "interim" governance model look like [Figure 1 above?] and [b] exactly who has expertise/ experience/a background in such a model in the U.S./the West today? Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above: Thus, if we don't know a darn thing about it [a "foreign" and/or an "interim" governance model], then how exactly can we "advise?")"

After reading this once or twice, yes! My last year in uniform, I had the opportunity to serve as a senior-level advisor within a partner nation's Ministry of Defense. It didn't take too much looking around at the collection of various battle trophies and pictures hanging around that they had their own military traditions, their own concepts of how to organize and maintain a national military force, but what we'd done was instead force an organization with our own ideas on what a national military establishment should look like and how it should run. Too often it simply seems to be inertia -- we do it that way because it's what we know, without trying to work with what's already in place.

Re: a governance advising framework for the Security Force Assistance Brigade (SFAB); in this regard, should we consider the following from Dr. Nadia Schadlow -- now a Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Strategy on the National Security Council:


There are serious political competitions underway for regional and strategic dominance. These extend beyond military battlefields and are fought across a variety of domains – political, economic, informational, and cultural. Is the United States finally ready to compete? ...

... Yet in virtually every theater of the world, local and regional competitions over ideas, economic systems, and societies affect America’s ability to protect and advance its interests.


This suggesting that, re: this competition for regional and strategic dominance, the "governance advising mission" of our SFABs; this must be tailored so as to ensure that this is done:

a. Specifically so as to promote/advance U.S./Western political, economic, social, value, etc., ideas and institutions? This, so that we might:

b. "Win" this competition for regional and strategic dominance?

(In truth, the U.S./the West having no real or significant knowledge, experience and/or expertise as to "governance" along "other than our own" political, economic, social and/or value lines? Thus, if such were required, we would actually have to seek assistance from "outside the West" personnel, to wit: from our competitors/from our enemies/from the competition -- this, not only for necessary expertise, but also for necessary legitimacy? As to an "interim" governance model -- one which might be necessary to "get things in order" before we begin the, for lack of a better term, "westernizing" process -- [a] just what might this such "interim" governance model look like [Figure 1 above?] and [b] exactly who has expertise/ experience/a background in such a model in the U.S./the West today? Bottom Line Question -- Based on the Above: Thus, if we don't know a darn thing about it [a "foreign" and/or an "interim" governance model], then how exactly can we "advise?")

The authors bring up some great points about the need to involve (and assist) host-nation organizations at all levels when executing advise & assist missions.

The linked articles also address "governance advising" & may prove informative for those interested in this aspect of security assistance/ security force assistance:……