View Full Version : Non Kinetic surge capacity for COIN operations

06-06-2007, 10:08 AM
My topic is particularly directed to the seemingly elusive quest to find a solution to the perceived USG resource gap for the political element of COIN operations. As stated below, conventional wisdom notes that successful COIN solutions are 80% political and 20% military.

Originally Posted by SWJED

Could not agree more. I just take exception to sweeping generalizations about the "value" of PMCs beyond specific tactical actions and tasks in a U.S. COIN enviornment that conventional wisdom says the solution is 80% political and 20% military. PMCs are not going to give us the 80% - at least not now or in the near future. Maybe later once we sort all this out...


What is not widely known in military circles is that there exists an extensive cadre of private firms that have been implementing the EXACT requirements of the political/civilian element of COIN/Stability Operations for over 30 years. But, sadly, due to interagency turf wars and a myopic understanding of the civilian capacity, this private resource is either entirely invisible to most or tends to get readily dismissed and lumped into the category of "soft" NGOs (ie. humanitarian organizations that have a deep aversion to directly coordinating and closely working with the military).

From my observations, the military policy discourse (and those of RAND and other think tanks) on the role of civilians in The Long War suffers greatly from this near sightedness. The civilian contribution seems to be framed from what "is known" or "has been in front of us" versus "what is out there" but not yet seen first hand (or misunderstood if it is seen). The usual definition of civilian contributions is it comes from either contractors from the private sector or NGOs. The definition of private sector contribution seems to be soley focused on what is known - firms that provide operational surge capacity (logistics, supply, camp ops, security) and operational support or implementation firms (engineering/construction). NGOs are all lumped as non profits that implment humanitarian programs and are a good USG resource to coordinate with at a national level through OFDA/USAID and directly within local AORs. What is missing is the inclusion of the multitude of private sector companies that provide the 80% COIN types of activities in pre-current- post conflict/war zones.

This brings me to the Who, What, Where, When, How of these companies.


Field and headquarter staff and consultants are veteran conflict zone implementers of a variety of political/economic/social programs. Most have advanced degrees but more importantly all are chosen due to their cultural and regional expertise. Some come from USG (military agencies, State, USAID) or former UN peacekeeping staff and many got their start in Peace Corps.

Most if not all US based companies are predominately implementing partners of USAID. Yet, many have also implemented programs for the World Bank, Asia Development Bank, UN agencies, and have also been funded by the State Department to fully staff UN or OSCE civilian operations (civilian police or election administrators - not to be confused with circuit junkie election monitoring gigs).

Services provided have been in rapid response economic development (national level and micro-finance/micro enterprise, workforce development, vocational training, private sector development), community basic services/infrastructure, governance, rule of law, democratic institution building (including civil military institutions), agriculture/natural resources, health, education, etc.

Even prior to Iraq and Afghanistan, many private firms have been implementing critical COIN like activities in Bosnia, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Mozambique, Kosovo, East Timor, Congo, Sudan, Sri Lanka, Mindanao, etc etc.

The prevelant assumption is that development firms implement activities after the dust has well settled. This is not the case. In Iraq for example, through the USAID Office of Transitional Initiatives funding, a private firm (DAI) implemented quick impact essential services projects that utilized rapid employment in places such as Sadr City, Talafar, Falujah, etc. This was all done in direct coordination with the military.

COIN like activities are all based on Do No Harm principles which essentially is "be cognizant of local culture, history, norms, social fabric to avoid causing more conflict" and are steeped in participatory community engagement methodology. What is crucial is that the "Western" face is kept to a minimum and that local partners are engaged to assure access, legitimacy, and effectiveness. Typical engagements relevant to COIN include:

Conflict/Situational Analysis Assessments of Operating Environments (to focus on political, historical, cultural, socio-economic, social and informal governing networks);

Community Level Engagement including Quick Impact (QIP) basic services/infrastructure Projects with heavy emphasis on rapid job creation; community economic development (microfinance/enterprise/agribusiness); private sector development (vocational training, workforce development, etc)..

Public Information Campaigns through all media elements - FM, AM, Short wave radio, tv, street theatre, etc.

Small Grants and Local Subcontracting Management - for example, a QIP Iraq program totaled over $300 million in local grants/subcontractors in 2 years;

Remote implementation of programs through the use of vetted local

Rapid Response - many can deploy 72 hours after contract signature and often can cut grants within a week;

The "so what" question

Many of these private sector development firms recognize that the USG Civilian Agencies are understaffed and under-resourced and will not be able to assume the leadership required to engage at the levels required. As some of these firms have already closely coordinated with the military, many recognize the inherent need to more directly engage with the military so that the totality of the USG response is more targeted and more efficient.

Under the current situation, private companies contributions to stability operations are confined to the stove pipes of USAID and State. If and only if personalities in the field mesh, one will see seamless coordination of USAID funded programs with Regional COs and or Battalion COs or the occasional IDAs of Special Operations Forces.

My argument for direct contracting by US military agencies is based on the following:

1. The National Defense Strategy, QDR, and Directive 3000.05 point to the need of "out of box thinking for irregular warfare"

•“need to reorient our military capabilities to contend with . . . irregular challenges more effectively”
•National Defense Strategy 2005, at 3

2. Private development firms provide the services required as outlined in Directives...

•“Immediate goal . . .to provide . . . local populace with
–Restore essential services, and meet humanitarian needs.”
DoD Dir. 3000.05, sec.4.2

•“Long-term goal to help develop indigenous capacity” for

–Essential services

–Viable market economy

–Rule of law

–Democratic institutions,

–Robust civil society

DoD Dir. 3000.05, sec.4.2

3. The military is moving ahead to prepare itself to address tasks when "civilians cannot". Directive 3000.05 This statement refers to the civilian agency leads - USAID and Department of State. USAID has a severe lack of officers and a continous cutback in funds so there is a hiring freeze. What many do not realize is that USAID officers themselves do not implement but they set scopes of work based on negotiations/diplo efforts. They also are the contractors that manage the administrative details. Thus, there are not enough of them to subsequently hire private development firms to implement programs. As an aside, many observers tend to think State officials and USAID officials are interchangeable. They are not. State has never been in the business of designing, contracting and managing stability operations development programs. They have had experience with funding humanitarian programs but by and large, State officials do not have the training required to oversee such a program. This is why when Bing West asked the State Department official in Iraq if they had a "economic development model" to be distributed to commanders...the response was no....they would and do not...this is not their business. Private development firms/Implementing partners have them however...

Instead of the Military re-creating the wheel, it seems to me that engaging contractors to assist in this arena makes infinite sense and makes for a more expeditious response/solution. I suppose one could say these private development firms could be the "KBR types for non kinetic response requirements".

What is exciting is that some have already started to see the connection of the dots. As previously cited, the Quick Impact Projects in Tal Afar Iraq that targeted rapid job creation (and was implemented in lock step with the 3rd Cav) was cited as a successful model for Clear, Build and Hold in the recently released COIN Field Manual. Over 50% of the 300 million in grants in Iraq were conducted in strict coordination with the military. The program was such a success, the Commanding General (Chirelli) inquired as to how he may directly obtain the services of the private firm (DAI) to continue the important work (as USAID funding had ended). Sadly, the idea was too new to overcome bureacratic hurdles.

Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


06-11-2007, 01:59 PM
I have just finished working on this specific issue. I am on vacation for two weeks. I will post some replies after I dig through my notes. This is a good question. The short answer is that there is no "non-kinetic" surge capacity. The willingness to create a standing capacity is there (CRC), but this will take time. In the meantime, the ability to meet thios requirement is generally not happening due to disconnects between senior management and the bureaucracies they manage. In some organizations the "top" says do it, and the bureaucrats drag their feet and squabble. In other organizations, the lower level folks get it and want to make it happen, but nobody in "the front office" really gets it. Money is alos a huge issue. I will provide better answers in a week or so. I hope this helps intially.

06-17-2007, 04:50 AM
I have just finished working on this specific issue. I am on vacation for two weeks. I will post some replies after I dig through my notes. This is a good question. The short answer is that there is no "non-kinetic" surge capacity. The willingness to create a standing capacity is there (CRC), but this will take time. In the meantime, the ability to meet thios requirement is generally not happening due to disconnects between senior management and the bureaucracies they manage. In some organizations the "top" says do it, and the bureaucrats drag their feet and squabble. In other organizations, the lower level folks get it and want to make it happen, but nobody in "the front office" really gets it. Money is alos a huge issue. I will provide better answers in a week or so. I hope this helps intially.
I, for one, would greatly appreciate seeing your research and opinion on this topic.


07-03-2007, 11:45 PM
DoD is implementing 3000.5, and that is the organization that the directive applies to. This is potenialy a systemic fix, that means it will take time and resources. 3000.5 does not apply to the state department and its organizations.

IGO involvement: Varies based on the role of the IGO. Furthermore, IGO members have a huge say in what the IGO does and does not do. Look at what the UN success rate is. As they say, all politics are local, so what is politically acceptable to IGO members dictates what they do, no matter how much of win-win others might perceive it as.

NGO's will do what their charter allows them tod. they will execute thekir charter provided they have the resources to do it. They will do this regardless of what we want them to do (as ICRC rep explained to me). With NGO's the best you can plan on is bringing them into planning at an acceptable level to enable resources to be used to more effectively.

Private sector: Preety busy right now. furthemore, there are not that many people out there. There are plenty, but the demand is even higher. Many private sector "development" organizations are enaged in other less high profile places. Furthermore, the private sector is going to want high price to surge for the USG.

The civilian side of the USG. Currently, the other other executive agencies all want to particiapte. Generally they are hampered by a lack of resources, particulary budget and personnel. Within some agenciess, there are bureaucratic squabbles over who will do what. These squabbles namely exist over a perception of who will become the penatgon's ne "bestest buddy" and reap the perceived budgetayr reward. USAID is great example, as an organization that should be in the forefront of the "non-kinetic surge", they are still squabbling over the concept that US foreign aid is no longer going to be strictly needs based. Furthermore, USAID has a total of roughly 2000 personnel of whom only 953 are available for overeas operations. 953 for any USAID project anywhere. Despite all of theis USAID is trying, however there budget got cut last year. So there is no short term fix to the non-kinetic side of the surge. I do know that an OSD representaive did state at a conference in Munich in April that the US Military was probably going to have to develop force structure to meet these needs in the future because of the amount of lead time the civilian side of government needs.

As a note (my.02), the Civilian Reserve Corps (CRC) has a lot of potential. However, the organization running the implementation of the program really does have the bureaucratic expertise to make it happen. They have made some huge errors in getting the program started. It is almost the proverbial you can lead a horse to water, but....

08-03-2007, 08:46 AM

Thank you for your response and I apologize for delay in responding. A couple of thoughts...

I understand Directive 3000.05 relates only to DoD and should have clarified my thought more fully. NSP 44 outlines the need for collaborative stability operations and reiterates the standard expectation that civilians agencies (State/USAID) take the lead on the long term goal to provide indigenous capacities in governance, economic development/viable market economy, and essential services.

The link in Directive 3000.05 to NSP 44 is the statement that DoD will take the lead on stability tasks "when civilians cannot"

My point of discussion is not so much about how NGOs or IGOs could assist DoD in their internal preparations for amping up non kinetic capability in order to fill potential civilian gaps (I agree wholeheartedly with all of your observations on NGOS/IGOs) but how private development contractors can contribute to assisting the DoD in their mandated directive to "take the lead" in these tasks.

I duly note that the use of private development contractors is not "the answer / be all and end all" but offer that this resource should not be overlooked when our military is on the cusp (whether we like it or not) of entering into a "new territory". General Sattler and many others have professed that "we dont have this expertise". I am just offering that there are resources that do have the expertise and those resources, private development firms, operate on contracts and as such strictly follow the direction of the client. Contracts have deliverables - if they are not completed - payment is not rendered for services. Very different from most if not all non profit NGOs or IGOs, as you point out, who operate under grants or cooperative agreements (that allows them to pretty much do what they want).

My thoughts on how development contractors can contribute bore out of discussions with military colleagues in the field. While many of you on this board are aware of development contractors (particularly former and current DATTs), many field commanders I or my colleagues have worked with did not understand who the heck USAID was let alone the variety of players - NGOs and contractors. As such, I just wanted to raise the profile / awareness of the existence of this "fifth pillar" resource to DoD.

There have been some profile awareness as it relates to coordination of efforts (but not so much on the existence of contractors that are willing to work directly for DoD....the assumption is all civilian development workers are NGOs - ie. non profits - who abhor working with the military - that assumption is wrong as some contractors have and do want to work with military - and not only to make a buck necessarily but to genuinely contribute to the current national security needs).

As we know, USAID and some civilian development workers have been periodically briefing outgoing field commanders for awhile now. Yet, there has been a decided upswing in the request for these types of briefings in light of the advent of CERP funds. My colleagues and I were/are invited to help brief outgoing field commanders on the "Civilian players in stability operations" and how the military may coordinate with them in their AORs.

As coordination has increased, there has been a recognition that our expertise can be tapped directly too - beyond these "one off" trainings/briefings. Discussions mainly center around the development of training guides and curriculum development for the various military education institutions but also in direct implementation of activities.

For example, recently, I have been in discussions with Special Ops on IMET requirements. Specifically, the requirement for Train and Equip assistance to establish Civil Affairs capabilities in various countries suffers from a current lack of MTTs. The USG Regional Commands dont have the staff to conduct this training, nor SME ( in some instances) or manage the various potential implementing regional partners.

In discussions with some Special Ops guys, eyes lit up when I mentioned to them my (and other) firms history of civil military relations assistance (mainly policy reform to civilian Ministry of Defense officials but also Role of Military in Democracy, Budgeting, transparent defense procurement, etc) and transitional community engagement programs in conflict or post conflict zones. These transitional community engagement programs (restoring essential services, basic infrastructure, micro-enterprise, public info campaigns, etc)generally were in the form of grants to local organizations, overseen by vetted local staff, and managed via a low profile or sometimes managed "remotely" by US or TCN personnel (ie. expat personnel were in permissive areas communicating with local staff who could travel and work in non permissive areas). This approach minimizes the need for heavy security to contractors. In many instances, central offices in permissive zones (where security is needed) were operating under extremely low profile "hidden" manners and often were assumed to be national companies.

The envisioned Civil Affairs training program objective encompasses both a global overview of the role of the military in a democracy (importance of separation of powers, roles in defining national security strategy, funding, etc) and a transfer of knowledge of "how to engage communities" in support of increased internal stability.

Our experience fit these objectives and it looks like we may be engaging with the military directly to help assist with implementation of these programs.

What I was trying to convey previously, is that if one would look at this collective experience and field operating capability one step farther (beyond MTT training and service member training), private development contractors "could" be brought on to help advise and or directly manage CERP funds, for example, or implement other functions like the conduct of "assessments". Given CERP funds are budgeted for 1 billion world wide for 08, the shortage of Civil Affairs or other trained Special Forces officers begs the question of how effectively these funds will be disbursed.

Regarding CERP funds, there have been many articles that recognize the obstacles current military personnel have with designing, managing and implementing CERP programs. The literature goes on to say that inexperience with selection of local contractors, sub-contract approaches, grant approaches, etc has led to poor program results. Nagl recommends in his writings for "advisors" but I STRONGLY disagree with the associated assumption that USAID officers or other USG agency personnel could do this type of work. They simply do NOT have the experience or expertise. While it may not be rocket science, community engagement approaches and contracting/regulations knowledge requires expertise derived from multiple years of FIELD level experience (rather than HQ national program scopes of work which is what USAID/State folks focus on).

** I would like to add here that I know that not all contractor (or NGOs for that matter) staff are equally talented, experienced, or effective. But, I would like to also counter that not all staff are opportunists bouncing from one country to another (although goodness knows I have met many too). As in any vocation, there are good and bad. And, I agree, that there are not enough "good" firms to assist the US military services across the board. However, I do believe that there are enough reputable firms (who have thorough vetting procedures) to bolster the current cadre of civil affairs officers (which to my understanding is not that many - 2 brigades?).

In terms of assessments, I also understand that there are simply not enough staff to conduct country or specific targeted area assessments (political, cultural, economic, etc) and funding has sat idle due to the lack of capacity to field teams. Currently, there are some traditional DoD contracting firms doing this work (generally open source intelligence) but too often they do not have the "cultural development angles". As an example, many "big" traditional DoD contractors have contacted my or other firms to conduct these assessments for them as they recognize they dont have all the skill sets.

Regarding the Civilian Reserve Corps, I am very skeptical. Plucking politically connected private technical subject matter experts or Dept of Ag or Dept of Commerce or other USG agency officials and plopping them in the middle of a conflict zone is grossly ineffective. Technical know how does not immediately transfer to an international assistance expert. DO some work out? well, yes, but by and large the results are poor. Folks with zero international experience, or internatioanl field experience, let alone conflict or post conflict zone experience, frankly freak out (dont blame them) or try to impose US practices and policies in their formulation of assistance strategies. It does not work. Think - CPA.

- I have written too much so I am going to continue in a separate posting - if you are not already asleep.... Bronwen

08-03-2007, 08:47 AM
Also, the shortage of USAID/State personnel is not going to be solved by these USG agency personnel (or private experts - eg. ag professors - from Iowa etc). Why? USAID staff main function is to design national strategies but mostly the lion share of the work is contract management and specific technical program design approaches (do no harm principles, etc). I am continually confounded by the perception that many have that "anyone can do development work". I guess being the daughter of a superintendent and public school teacher makes me sensitive too as it smacks the same way - "I went to school so I can teach" or in some folks mind "I want to do good, so I can do it"

To me, it makes sense to bolster the ranks (therefore funding) of USAID and or in the interim continue to do what is being done to staff USAID missions in Iraq and Afghanistan - hiring more firms that provide the USAID profile personnel (IRG has over 500 folks in the field right now in these roles).

But, as we know, this is not going to happen soon by a long shot. The military appropriately sees that it needs to bolster its abilities so they can be responsive to their mandate. I believe private development firms can contribute to DoD effort to "get up to speed" on these new issues. Why ignore a potential resource available?

Finally, it confuses me why there is an accepted tradition to hire contractors to help with surge capacity in areas that military services are known to traditionally be experts in (Logistics support, camp management, etc) but yet, in an area where there is professed "inexperience", the idea of contractors makes people very uncomfortable? We seem to be "okay" with paying the cost of surge capacity in areas we know well, why not "pay the cost" for surge capacity in a crucial area the military does not know well?

Sorry for the ramble but am afraid I am jet lagged but did want to continue the discussion before too much time passed.

Look forward to your thoughts

Thanks and best regards, Bronwen