Small Wars Journal

Policy Memo: A US Take on the Napoleonic Policing Model

Wed, 03/30/2022 - 10:45pm

Policy Memo: A US Take on the Napoleonic Policing Model

By Christjan Gaudio

Executive Summary

It is time for the United States (US) to develop a land-oriented sister military service to the United States Coast Guard. This organization should combine the uniformed components of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with the military police components of the Department of Defense (DOD) and focus on force protection and security missions domestically and overseas. Similar to the Coast Guard, this new uniformed law enforcement organization should be a full-fledged member of the Joint Force, working within the DHS and seconded to the DOD depending on mission requirements. The US predilection for war is to fight nation state conflicts utilizing the Air-Land Battle construct.[1] US adversaries are aware of, and plan to mitigate this preference by focusing on irregular conflicts that neutralizes US military strengths. Addressing these challenges, categorized as strategic competition, requires a force oriented to operate below the threshold of armed conflict, reinforcing the global rules-based order, ensuring and enabling allies and partners, and synchronizing stabilization and peace operations across the Joint Force and within the interagency. Utilizing the Napoleonic Policing Model as a starting point and incorporating lessons learned and modeled by the Coast Guard, this paper recommends the development of a uniformed military law enforcement organization, similar to the Italian Carabinieri, which seamlessly transitions from military operations in support of national objectives to domestic operations enabling civil authority and reinforcing the rule of law.

A US Take on the Napoleonic Policing Model


            There is often a recommendation and discussion of the need for a reorganization of the Department of Homeland Security.[2] This paper will attempt to discuss one organizational change that could be part of a larger reorganization of the greater Homeland Security enterprise. The specific organizational change outlined in this paper is based on the Napoleonic Model of Policing idealized by the Italian Carabinieri and French Gendarmerie and similar, domestically, to the US Coast Guard.[3] The recommendation is to produce an organization that has both law enforcement authorities and military responsibilities through a combination of the uniformed components of the Department of Homeland Security and the military and civilian police units of the Department of Defense focusing on force protection duties and responsibilities spanning the border responsibilities of Border Patrol, building security of the Federal Protective Service, airport security of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the combat support responsibilities of the Army’s Military Police. This organization would fall outside of the DOD but be a member of the Joint Force and a military service by law (just as with the Coast Guard and Title 14).[4]

            The past twenty years of conflict saw the DOD focus on irregular warfare and attempting to stabilize the operating environment in Iraq and Afghanistan. This was done with the military as the lead. Traditionally, the military prefers conventional conflict focused on the binary system of peace and war. The current operating environment shows that geopolitical competitors are exploiting seams between peace and war to neutralize US military strengths. This is illustrated by their contribution and support to adversaries in Iraq and Afghanistan and adaptions made to modernize adversarial military services following observations of US adaptations to meet irregular conflict. Over twenty years the US Army has altered its training models to create lighter forces that can meet irregular enemies on their own ground. The army is now trying to reorient to nation-state conflict and meet challenges posed by Russian aggression and Chinese challenges to the global rules-based order.[5] The lessons learned from adapting to irregular conflict risk being lost as the services seek to transition back to peer state conflict. The development of a uniformed law enforcement organization, focused on enabling civil authority, on border security, and force protection could serve as a repository for such lessons. This would ensure that future learning curves are flattened as the Joint Force meets future challenges in the conventional and irregular warfare arenas. Establishment of such an organization creates efficiency within the Joint Force by providing a complementary capability through its law enforcement and force protection focus while enabling DOD military services to focus on combat arms development and combined arms warfare. The development of a uniformed law enforcement organization within the Joint Force likewise creates budgetary efficiencies by eliminating redundant capabilities across the DOD and DHS. Organization, budgetary, and mission efficiencies could lead to a Joint Force more capable at addressing irregular warfare, better at stabilization, strategic competition, peacekeeping, and conventional warfighting. A Joint Force better able to complement existing instruments of national power while reinforcing national security roles and diplomatic/political efforts.[6]

 The Napoleonic policing model is one that combines domestic and military law enforcement responsibilities within one entity. “In Napoleonic systems, such as those of France, Italy, and Spain, military and civilian policing systems exist side by side (with the military policing system primarily designed to police civilians and both systems designed to counterbalance each other).[7] This system creates a uniformed service that bridges understanding between military staffs and civilian governments. An organization that is focused on humanitarian duties while still operating in the environment backed by the threat of force from conventional military capabilities.[8] This complementary nature creates broader capabilities within the Joint Force to bolster US objectives in strategic competition by furthering relationships with allies and partners in the competitive space. At its most basic level, the creation of this uniformed law enforcement organization achieves ends (US goals) by combining ways (strategic competition) with means (a more capable and balanced Joint Force) and could potentially change the strategic reach of the nation while also improving its ability to operate at a level below armed conflict.

The US focus on strategic competition requires a robust, whole of government approach that balances national instruments of power to compete with adversaries below the threshold of armed conflict while retaining the ability to fight and win in war. These wars could be conflicts of US choice or one thrust upon the nation and range across the continuum of military operations from irregular conflict requiring light role forces supporting diplomatic and humanitarian organizations to high-end conventional warfare requiring a fully integrated and synchronized Joint Force prosecuting Air-Land Battle. Strategic competition encompasses the entire operating environment and requires a nimble Joint Force capable of operating across that environment. Furthermore, an argument could be made that strategic competition requires a DHS able of operating across the continuum of military operations to complement diplomatic, economic, and information efforts. Strategic competition does not differentiate between national instruments of power – it seeks to synchronize them to enable accomplishment of US strategic objectives.

Currently, the US solution to difficult problems is to have the military solve it. This led to military forces taking the lead in diplomatic efforts to build and secure nations in turmoil. Domestically, law enforcement is centered at the local level distributed amongst state and local entities to counterbalance federal investigative authorities. This system is designed to protect the democratic system from centralized, federal tyranny. As a result of this, uniformed federal law enforcement entities are focused on force protection with limited authorities directly focused on specific mission sets. The Uniformed Division of the Secret Service provides security to the President and Vice President, Customs and Border Protection mans border entry control points, Border Patrol provides uniformed presence and security at the US border and TSA provides security at airports. Military services control their own force protection concerns through the development of redundant security personnel. This process is inefficient as it duplicates efforts, creates redundant budgets and rather than a single organization focused capable of complementing military forces in irregular conflict, there are several disparate and competing agencies that do not have the ability to integrate within the Joint Force construct.

            It is the ability for forces to integrate and synchronize within the Joint Force construct that makes this uniformed law enforcement organization so compelling. Integration into the force provides representation on planning staffs which accounts for law enforcement equities that address challenges associated with irregular conflict and strategic competition. Liaison officers from non-military services are not a working solution. It takes them time to learn the military system and find areas to assert equities. Integrated uniformed members that work collaboratively with combat arms units providing combat support/force protection functions, tempered by service domestically on border entry control points, force protection security missions, and regularly interacting with the American public provides balance to the military’s traditional focus on full-spectrum nation state warfare.

This paper proposes the creation of a Carabinieri type organization within the Department of Homeland Security that fulfills both civil and military police function.[9] It recommends accomplishing this by combining the uniformed components within the DHS; Border Patrol, Customs Border Protection, Uniformed Division of the Secret Service, Federal Protective Service, and Transportation Security Administration; with Department of Defense military police from the Army, Air Force, Marine Corps, and Navy.

“The majority of Carabinieri units are responsible for law enforcement missions and the maintenance of public order and also focus on specialized law enforcement activities such as fighting organized crime and the drug trade. The Carabinieri also conduct military duties such as military police and security tasks as well as overseas policing deployments. They have a hybrid command in that they report to the Minister of the Interior with respect to their law enforcement and public security tasks and to the military chain of command in the context of their military duties.”[10]

The combination of DHS components and military police entities creates a land-based force within the DHS similar to the United States Coast Guard - an organization that fulfills federal policing duties and military policing functions complementing national efforts in the strategic competition space.

This new uniformed law enforcement organization, straddling military and civilian responsibilities and a member of the Joint Force, could be labeled as a Special Branch and model on the UK system in addition to its focus on force protection, and combat support.[11] This function complements current DHS intelligence efforts and could provide a vehicle to better integrate it into the larger J2 (intelligence) staffs at combatant commands and on the Joint Staff. Special Branch is a model used to success in the United Kingdom, seen in operations prosecuting terrorism, reinforcing civil authority, and supporting tactical level operations focused on maintaining established rules of law. Incorporation of such a model provides enhanced capabilities while maintaining an emphasis on domestic intelligence constraints, rule of law, and the need to support at the tactical level.

The Department of Homeland Security components earmarked to merge into this new uniformed law enforcement organization all focus on force protection and security. This visible deterrence complements other potential roles, like Special Branch, and military police responsibilities. It is this complementary nature that creates efficiency across the federal government and within the Joint Force. Creating an organization that eliminates budgetary waste while also honing a potent tool to support diplomatic policies globally and domestic policies internally. Combat support functions focus on force protection and security in support of combat arms efforts on the battlefield. Military police units are regularly used at a threshold below armed conflict to provide a visible presence that is seen as less aggressive than that posed by front-line infantry units. [12] The incorporation of these missions into this newly created uniformed law enforcement organization professionalizes the law enforcement credentials on the battlefield, provides ready forces to deploy in support of strategic competition, and creates an entity focused on irregular conflict, specifically stabilization and peace operations.

            It is the unique construct of combining peace and war authorities, using the Napoleonic Policing Model, which provides greater utility to the nation. US Code would need to model on Coast Guard authorities (Title 14) to create a similar land-oriented force while also addressing challenges posed by opponents concerned with the potential for such an organization to undermine democratic processes. The main difference to be implemented, different from the Napoleonic Policing Model is that whereas the Italian Carabinieri/ French Gendarmerie Model is Ministry of Defense seconded to Ministry of Interior; the US model, as currently illustrated by the Coast Guard, is Department of Homeland Security seconded to Department of Defense through the Joint Force. This US model aligns with civilian/federal law enforcement controls that are conducive with limiting tyrannical reach in a representative democracy while also providing the military with complementary capabilities in the strategic competition space.

            Individual federal, state, and local organizations will resist this policy recommendation. They have vested interests in the way the system works now be they budgetary or managerial/span of control. There are viable public concerns related to tyranny and the perception that the federal government is getting too strong that will need to be addressed and protected in US Code. These concerns can be mitigated by reinforcing the focus on force protection and security responsibilities both domestically and overseas and not enhancing the authorities of the original organizations (i.e., think twice about establishing a Special Branch). Furthermore, discussions of military overreach and threats to US democracy do not account for the ingrained, rigorous training program that Joint Force personnel undergo throughout their career emphasizing the primacy of civilian elected leaders over the instruments of state power.[13] It is easy to whitewash this as window dressing; however, experience shows that officers and enlisted personnel take these obligations and concerns to heart and conduct themselves in a fashion that ensures primacy of civilian leaders over the military instrument of national power.[14]

Creation of a uniformed law enforcement organization, similar to the Carabinieri, and modeled on US Coast Guard authorities fills an existing gap within the Joint Force structure and enables the United States to better address challenges posed by strategic competition. Development of this organization creates efficiencies within the federal government by combining redundant capabilities while also expanding the experiences and capabilities of units in combat support roles supporting military operations. A uniformed law enforcement organization that combines force protection and security functions across the federal government, including military roles, provides a cadre of subject matter experts focused on operations below the level of armed conflict and capable of addressing challenges posed by stabilization missions while storing and incorporating lessons learned from past experiences in irregular conflicts. This uniformed law enforcement organization would be a military service, making it a member of the Joint Force, with domestic law enforcement responsibilities focused on force protection and security. As a military service, its officers and enlisted personnel would undergo the same standards of training that the other service complete, including rigorous courses on the role military services play in the US democratic system and the supremacy of civilian elected leaders. A unit constrained by ideals and policies, focused on strategic competition below the level of armed conflict, and operating across the continuum of military operations in both domestic and forward deployed roles provides an awesome addition to the Joint Force and enables the United States to better address military contingencies, foreign training and enablement of allies and partners, and an improved means of reinforcing model behavior and the accepted global rules-based order.




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Lawson, Chappell and Alan Bersin, Juliette Kayyem, ed. Beyond 9/11: Homeland Security for the Twenty-First Century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2020.


Morag, Nadav. Comparative Homeland Security: Global Lessons. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2018.


Nagl, John A. Counterinsurgency Lessons from Malaya and Vietnam: Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Westport, CT: Praeger, 2002.


Peters, Gretchen. Seeds of Terror: How Heroin is Bankrolling the Taliban and Al Qaeda. New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books, St. Martin’s Press, 2009


Ramsay, James D., and Keith Cozine, John Comiskey, ed. Theoretical Foundations of Homeland Security: Strategies, Operations, and Structures. New York, NY: Routledge, 2021.


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Government Documents


Customs and Border Protection. Frontline. Vlo5, Issue 1. Accessed 24March2022:


Department of the Army. TRADOC Pamphlet 525-3-1, The U.S. Army Operating Concept: Win in a Complex World 2020-2040. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2014.


———. Field Manual 3-07, Stability. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2014.


———. Field Manual 3-24, Insurgencies and Countering Insurgencies. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2014.


———. Field Manual 3-24, Counterinsurgency. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2006.


______. Field Manual 3-39, Military Police Operations. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019.


———. Field Manual 7-98, Operations in Low-Intensity Conflict. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1992.


———. Joint Doctrine Note 1-19, Competition Continuum. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019.


———. Joint Publication 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2013.


———. Joint Publication 3-07, Stability. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2016.


———. Joint Publication 3-08, Interorganizational Cooperation. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2016.


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———. National Security Strategy of the United States of America. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2017.


———. Strategy to Combat Transnational Organized Crime: Addressing Converging Threats to National Security. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2011.


Other Documents

Jones, Dustin. NPR “Joint Chiefs Remind U.S. Forces That They Defend the Constitution” 12Jan2021:

Kenyon, Peter. NPR “Patrols on Porous Iraqi Borders Yield Limited Success” 14Sep2009:

Mitzman, Danny. BBC “It’s 200 years old, but what is Italy’s carabinieri?” 13July 2014:

NATO. “Italian Carabinieri train nearly 9000 members of Iraqi Federal Police.” 01Sep2010:

Shuster, Mike. NPR “Italy Prepares Iraqi Police to Protect Country’s Oil.” 7April2011:



[1] Russell F. Weigley. The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy and Policy (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1973), 464.

[2] Lawson Chappell, Alan Bersin, and Juliette Kayyem, eds. Beyond 9/11: Homeland Security for the Twenty-First Century (Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2020) 41.

[3] Nadav Morag, Comparative Homeland Security: Global Lessons (Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley and Sons, 2018), 185.


[5] Department of Defense, Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2018), 1.

[6] Department of Defense, Joint Doctrine Note 1-19, Competition Continuum (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019), v.

[8] Department of Defense, Joint Doctrine Note 2-19, Strategy (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019), 1-2,

[9] Nadav Morag, Comparative Homeland Security, 260. “Law No. 78/2000 gives Italy’s fourth military branch, a gendarmerie corps known as the Arma de Carabinieri, policing responsibilities in the areas of criminal investigation and law enforcement, maintenance of public order, and disaster relief.”

[10] Nadav Morag, Comparative Homeland Security, 281.

[11] “Special Branch acquires and develops intelligence, usually of a political or sensitive nature, and conducts investigations to protect the State from perceived threats of subversion, particularly terrorism and other extremist political activity.”

[12] Department of the Army, Field Manual 3-39, Military Police Operations (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 2019)


[14] Dustin Jones, NPR, “Joint Chiefs Remind U.S. Forces That They Defend the Constitution” 12Jan2021:


About the Author(s)

CDR Christjan Gaudio works in the Coast Guard's Office of Counterterrorism and Defense Operations Policy as the Chief of the Counterterrorism Policy and Irregular Warfare Division. He is currently enrolled in the Naval Postgraduate School’s Center for Homeland Defense and Security Studies. He is a 2018 graduate of the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College where he was an Art of War Scholar. Additionally he is a 2008 graduate of Norwich University and a 2002 graduate of the University of North Florida. His assignments include Tactical Law Enforcement Team (TACLET) South, Maritime Advisor to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia Border Guard, USCGC GRAND ISLE, USCGC RESOLUTE, USCGC BOUTWELL, Maritime Security Response Team-Chesapeake, and TACLET North.