Civil Military Operations in the New World

Article excerpt

CIVIL MILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE NEW WORLD by John T. Fishel. 269 pages Westport,CT. 1997. $65.00.

Civil-military operations (CMO) planning is a skill at which the US military as an institution has only recently acquired a level of competency. John Fishel's efforts and experience contribute greatly to this competency. He was the chief CMO planner at the US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) before and during Operation Just Cause. He is truly one of the Army's leading experts on CMO and transition-operations planning.

In Civil-Military Operations in the New World, Fishel discusses CMO planning during recent US military operations, using his in-depth knowledge of the Panama intervention to detail the unique intricacies of CMO planning, task organization and Reserve Component (RC) involvement during Operation Just Cause. This US intervention in Panama was the first time since World War II the US military planned and executed civil assistance. Therefore, Fishel spends time carefully reconstructing political and military events leading up to the December 1989 decision by President George Bush to intervene by force.

Fishel shows how timing of events and locations of planning headquarters isolated some of the planning functions while allowing others to be completed in concert. He then shows the interrelationship of events taking place in Panama with American popular opinion and awareness and how this relationship enhanced or reduced the level of planning effort.

Planning for a US intervention became more urgent as tensions heightened in early 1989. Fishel uses this sequence of events to describe how a new set of planners revising a previously developed plan often repeated or exacerbated erroneous assumptions and other disconnects, which became a problem further magnified by geographical separation of the staff elements and headquarters conducting the planning.

Fishel also shows how changes in commanders and senior staff officers at SOUTHCOM and US Army Forces Southern Command (USARSO) resulted in personality-oriented changes in the plan's focus. Another issue, he succinctly points out, is the impact security classification has on a plan's development, especially on functions requiring coordination. Classification complicated planning even more when using rotating teams of reservists, who could not receive advance briefings or discuss the plan while in transition at the reserve center. The author also covers some methods units use to overcome these planning challenges. …