Academic journal article Military Review

"Divorce Counseling": Civil Affairs Proponency under a New Support Paradigm

Academic journal article Military Review

"Divorce Counseling": Civil Affairs Proponency under a New Support Paradigm

Article excerpt


ARMY CIVIL AFFAIRS (CA) units are increasingly recognized as important tools that America has available in its fight against terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other states. However, Civil Affairs as a proponent has not received funding, support, or recognition commensurate with its mission. Perhaps the most significant challenge the branch faces is overcoming a command structure that separates Active and Reserve components, reducing CA units' capabilities and hobbling their relationship with maneuver units.

The current CA structure does not properly align with the rapidly expanding and maturing needs of the CA total force. While it is tempting to continue to examine the problem of a CA proponency from the Reserve component versus Active component perspective, the continuing demands placed on the CA branch compel us to embrace a new support paradigm.

Gun-toting Diplomats

Described by the Army as "gun-toting diplomats," CA units in both the Active and Reserve components conduct counterterrorism holistically by helping partner nations address the underlying grievances that lead people to violence and extremism. (1) Operating in four-man teams either to support conventional forces or as part of a special operations task force, CA units garner local support for U.S. and host nation policies, develop capability and institutions, and help deter terrorist recruitment. CA soldiers are commanders' cultural advisors, regional experts, and the Army's experts in negotiation, reconstruction, and civil reconnaissance. (2) Testifying before Congress in 2007, then-Army Special Operations Command commander, Lieutenant General Robert W. Wagner, described CA units as "experts in both advancing U.S. interests and objectives and developing the capabilities of partner nations through regional engagements." (3) As described in RAND Corporations' War by Other Means, CA operations are most effective when they go beyond merely "winning hearts and minds" and become a key part of a transformational counterinsurgency operation that aims to "change the underlying structure of society and governance ... to make insurgency an irrelevant mode of pursuing a grievance." (4)

Currently, about 80 percent of the Army's CA Soldiers are in the Army Reserve, assigned--along with reserve psychological operations forces--to the U.S. Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (USACAPOC), which is subordinate to the United States Army Reserve Command (USARC). (5) The majority of CA units have traditionally been in the Army Reserve to facilitate access to the rare skills of functional specialists--such as veterinarians, agricultural experts, and economists--that are better developed in the civilian sector.

The remaining 20 percent of CA strength is in the active component, assigned primarily to the Army's lone active duty CA unit, the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade (Airborne). (6) The brigade reports directly to the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) along with other special operations units such as the Special Forces groups and the 75th Ranger Regiment. Outside of USASOC, Active component CA Soldiers also serve as brigade combat team S-9s, division and corps G-9s at theater special operation commands, and in other assignments.

USACAPOC civil affairs units support general-purpose forces, while CA Soldiers assigned to USASOC support missions within Special Operations Command (SOCOM). Current Army rules of allocation for deployed units generally result in a CA company attached to each brigade combat team and a CA battalion attached to each division. Civil affairs functional specialists also provide support to provincial reconstruction teams and other civil-support elements. The Reserve component CA commands support higher echelons. (7)

The Problem

Until November 2006, the entire CA force, both Active and Reserve, was assigned to USACAPOC. In 2003, the Department of Defense (DOD) under then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld questioned why CA, with its focus on the indirect approach to war, belonged in the same command as special direct action units like the Ranger Regiment. …

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