Small Wars Journal

Distinguishing Between SFA and FID

Wed, 12/10/2008 - 9:06pm
Distinguishing Between Security Force Assistance & Foreign Internal Defense

Determining A Doctrine Road-Ahead

by Major Derek C. Jenkins, Small Wars Journal

Distinguishing Between SFA and FID (Full PDF Article)

There is confusion and a disconnect between Security Force Assistance (SFA) and Foreign Internal Defense (FID). It is unclear how or if they support an overarching theme. For years the US Armed Forces have used the FID construct to describe how the military element of US foreign policy supports internal security assistance to friendly nations. Recently, the Secretary of Defense (SecDEF) promulgated a newer, larger construct called SFA. Many in the military view SFA as when U.S. and partner forces rebuild security infrastructure during stability, security, transition, and reconstruction operations.

The new paradigm comes from a realization as spelled out in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), that the U.S. must train partner forces rather than just provide security for them. This grew out of a void in our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. No secret here, the QDR states that we need "multipurpose forces to train, equip, and advise" and "deploy and engage with partner nations" . As a result the SecDEF created the Joint Center for International Security Force Assistance (JCISFA) in 2006. This center is the U.S. Armed Forces focal point for SFA.

This paper will frame the basics for comparison between the current paradigm (FID) and the new one (SFA). Then it will describe why both of these elements fit under a Building Partnership (BP) framework. This framework should be clearly and appropriately described in one doctrinal theme.

Distinguishing Between SFA and FID (Full PDF Article)

About the Author(s)


Mike Hartmayer (not verified)

Mon, 12/15/2008 - 2:26pm

FID doctrine is fine -- for the limited scope of it's definition. Whatever you call/rename SFA, it's still not FID. I'd submit that taking a pause isn't really an option -- what is needed is a thoughtful, deliberate approach for organizing ourselves to enable our partners to do some of the lifting. Current FID doctrine, as good as it is, isn't the concept to get us there. With all the JICs, JOCs, JP's, DODD's, and DODI's that have rolled out lately it's easy to get lost. What is needed is the development of a taxonomy/ontology -- something to frame and organize the discussion.

Kate Buckley (not verified)

Thu, 12/11/2008 - 2:53pm

Major Jenkins,
Fantastic article! Would you please share your definition of SFA?

Rob Thornton

Thu, 12/11/2008 - 9:37am

I don't think we've reached terminology/definition paralysis. I do think the various COCOM and service staffs and CDRs are participating in an important discussion that will help them better meet the policy objectives set before them, better articulate their requirements to do so, and help the generating force better meet those requirements. Its a conversation I think that needs to occur in order to come to a shared understanding, not only in DoD, but within the broader Joint, Inter-Agency, Inter-Governmental and Multi-National community.

For those interested in considering some of the relevant terms I'd offer up the good work Mark Lauber of JCISFA did as the author of Annex B in the SFA Case Study: Mosul Iraq - also on the Small Wars Journal Magazine. Mark makes the case that many of these terms are not in competition or contradiction, but are complimentary. Given the range of interests and conditions, I agree with that.

I do agree with max 161 that it is important that all services; and since it is increasingly relevant to the broader USG, those agencies which might be called upon to support US foreign policy prepare themselves to participate regardless of which agency leads and which one(s) support.

Best, Rob

Just what we need. Another author coming up with another construct - all we need to do to reconcile SFA and FID is to realize that we need the new construct or framework is BP - Building Partnership. As I have said recently I think we need to take a strategic pause from developing new concepts and terminology and get back to basics. How is this new construct going to help our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines on the ground or better yet, how is this going to help our Combatant Commands develop the strategies we need that would employ our forces conducting FID, SFA, TAA, BPC, BP, COIN, or whatever else we want to call it? We have reached terminology/definition paralysis and we need our doctrine writers,, etc to start simplifying concepts to make them useful and understandable.

But the author does make one very important point in his article. Whatever we call it (FID, SFA, BP, etc) all services need to participate in conducting it (whatever "it" is!)