President Barack Obama’s speech at the Pentagon on January 5, 2012, regarding the new Defense Strategic Guidance (DSG) clarified one aspect of the future of the Department of Defense (DOD). The DOD budget will undergo significant reductions in coming years. The obvious question is how the Department can achieve the Nation’s security objectives given the coming fiscal restraints. The 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) builds on the concept of engagement outlined in the 2006 and 2010 Quadrennial Defense Reviews (QDRs) and contains a partial answer:
Our diplomacy and development capabilities must help prevent conflict, spur economic growth, strengthen weak and failing states, lift people out of poverty, combat climate change and epidemic disease, and strengthen institutions of democratic governance.1
The NSS asserts that the United States must continue to engage with other nations to achieve U.S. national security objectives. One component of military engagement issecurity cooperation (SC), which is defined in DOD Directive 5132.03, DoD Policy and Responsibilities Relating to Security Cooperation, and in Joint Publication (JP) 1-02,DOD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. While the definitions are slightly different, the results are the same regardless of which definition one wishes to use. Security cooperation involves U.S. military interactions with foreign security establishments to accomplish three objectives: develop military capabilities, build relationships, and gain peacetime and contingency access.2
In the past several years the U.S. Government published a series of national strategic documents and joint doctrine manuals. Now is a good time to assess how well these documents guide SC efforts consistent with the Secretary of Defense’s January 2012 DSG, given significant budget cuts to DOD. This article evaluates current guidance and doctrine regarding planning for security cooperation activities, briefly describes the evolution of security cooperation guidance, and proposes a planning methodology to help combatant commanders make thoughtful choices on when and where to conduct SC activities. In addition, it offers considerations and challenges in planning SC engagements.
The January 2012 DSG, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense, describes the future role of SC. Although the guidance does not specifically state “security cooperation,” it does address two of the three objectives of SC: building capacity and relationships. Under the heading “Primary Missions of the U.S. Armed Forces,” one of the missions is to “Provide a Stabilizing Presence.” It describes this mission as follows:
U.S. forces will conduct a sustainable pace of presence operations abroad, including rotational deployments and bilateral and multilateral training exercises. These activities reinforce deterrence, help to build the capacity and competence of U.S., allied, and partner forces for internal and external defense, strengthen alliance cohesion, and increase U.S. influence. A reduction in resources will require innovative and creative solutions to maintain our support for allied and partner interoperability and building partner capacity. However, with reduced resources, thoughtful choices will need to be made regarding the location and frequency of these operations. [Emphasis in the original.]3
For this article, the key phrase in the above paragraph is thoughtful choices. How can a combatant commander recommend “thoughtful choices” on where to engage and how often to provide that stabilizing presence? On the first page of JP 5-0, Joint Operations Planning, Admiral Mike Mullen, USN (Ret.), states, “This edition . . . reflects the current doctrine for conducting joint, interagency, and multinational planning activities across the full range of military operations.”4 The authors do not agree with this statement as it applies to SC. It is fair to say that while the links between strategic guidance and planning doctrine are stronger than ever, there are few specifics in joint doctrine that will enable a combatant commander to recommend SC engagements to DOD or make thoughtful choices in planning regional SC activities.
As a basis for comparison there is an extensive treatment in JP 5-0 regarding planning for major combat operations. In addition, the Services have a body of knowledge on the specifics of combat operations planning, and many of those who serve on joint planning staffs have employed similar problem-solving processes during their Service assignments (for example, the Army’s Military Decision Making Process). However, there is little doctrinal help at any level of command or Service about where and how often the United States should engage with partners.
The 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review contains a section specifically devoted to building partner capacity. After a short introduction on SC activities, the paragraph continues:
In today’s complex and interdependent security environment, these dimensions of the U.S. defense strategy [security cooperation] have never been more important. U.S. forces, therefore, will continue to treat the building of partners’ security capacity as an increasingly important mission.5
The 2010 NSS echoes these sentiments. It does not explicitly address security cooperation, but it acknowledges the U.S. role in reaching out to other nations:
Our foundation will support our efforts to engage nations, institutions, and peoples around the world on the basis of mutual interests and mutual respect. Engagement is the active participation of the United States in relationships beyond our borders. It is, quite simply, the opposite of a self-imposed isolation that denies us the ability to shape outcomes.6
The NSS continues with one type of engagement: “Our military will continue strengthening its capacity to partner with foreign counterparts, train and assist security forces, and pursue military-to-military ties with a broad range of governments.”7
There is an extensive treatment on SC activities in the 2012 Guidance for Employment of the Force (GEF). Security considerations preclude an in-depth discussion of specific aspects of the GEF regarding security cooperation, but it is clear that the guidance does not provide a methodology on how to plan for SC activities. This is reasonable given that the GEF is policy and not doctrine.
The current JP 3-0, Operations, maintains the same theme: “Establishing, maintaining, and enhancing security cooperation among our alliances and partners is important to strengthen the global security framework of the United States and its partners.”8
Finally, JP 5-0 addresses security cooperation and engagement and describes in detail how to plan joint operations using the joint operation planning process (JOPP). It notes where security cooperation fits in the planning efforts of combatant commands: “The campaign plan is the primary vehicle for designing, organizing, integrating, and executing security cooperation activities.”9 The publication does not offer any detail on how security cooperation planning could or should be conducted, however.
In summary, the national strategic guidance and joint doctrine are clear. The U.S. military will continue to engage friends’ and allies’ security forces through security cooperation. These SC activities are articulated in the combatant commander’s theater campaign plan (TCP).
Theater engagement and theater security cooperation have been part of DOD’s lexicon for well over a decade. The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) published documents titled Security Cooperation Guidance (SCG) in April 2003 and November 2005. The 2005 SCG provided the combatant commands with SC objectives, ways to conduct SC, and priority countries.10 Interestingly, the SCGs were not tied to other strategic planning guidance documents produced by the Secretary of Defense (Contingency Planning Guidance) and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan). These strategic guidance documents focused on contingency planning and did not account for or direct either steady-state or SC activities. OSD partially resolved this disconnect in 2008 by linking steady-state activities that included SC with contingency planning guidance in the GEF. The 2010 and 2012 GEF maintained this link between steady-state and contingency planning efforts, but there seems to be more that joint doctrine could offer to help planners in combatant commands plan for SC activities.
The proposed methodology offers a way to develop an operational approach for security cooperation engagements using the framework of operational design as outlined in JP 5-0.11 One caveat is worth noting. This methodology does not reflect how any of the combatant commands currently plan for SC activities. It is simply a proposal. A prerequisite for applying this methodology is an understanding of the strategic direction as articulated in the combatant command’s GEF- and Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP)-directed contingency planning requirements, the goals of the Country Teams, and the actual and potential threats within the area of responsibility (AOR)—all of which are the first two steps in operational design—understanding the strategic guidance and the environment.
The first four steps of the proposed methodology continue with the second step of operational design: understanding the environment.
Identify Current Partners. The methodology starts with identifying the nations that have been long-time allies and partners with the United States. It would be an interesting exercise to start this methodology with a blank sheet of paper, but this would not reflect reality. The United States must acknowledge the advanced and sophisticated relationships it has established over the past several decades. While forging new relationships is something the United States will continually strive for (for reasons outlined below), established relationships cannot be ignored. In many cases these allies have proved their reliability as good partners. The question regarding the level of resourcing of SC activities with these allies and partners is determined later in the methodology.
Determine Those Nations with a Geographic Strategic Advantage. In this step the planners determine which allied or friendly nations are positioned geographically to support specific national security objectives. Examples include nations that border nations hostile to the United States and its interests and nations that provide sanctuary to violent extremist organizations and do not have the capacity to deal with the situation. Some of the nations identified in this step will overlap with those determined in the first step.
As part of this step planners should answer three questions that orient on achieving GEF- and JSCP-directed objectives. This focus is consistent with the direction in the DSG regarding force and program development. Specifically, the fifth principle in the DSG states, “[I]t will be necessary to examine how this strategy will influence existing campaign and contingency plans so that more limited resources may be better tuned to their requirements.”12 The third question helps planners identify where DOD resources could be used to support other interagency partners’ interests and strategic objectives consistent with current authorities and Federal law.
1. Which nations are in a position to support combatant command contributions to global campaign plans that affect the AOR? JP 3-0 describes a global campaign as “one that requires the accomplishment of military strategic objectives within multiple theaters that extend beyond the AOR of a single [geographic combatant command].”13 For the global campaign plans, the combatant commands contribute to the success of the plans but will generally not have the ability to achieve the national strategic endstate.
2. Which nations are in a position to support combatant command regional contingency plans? The combatant commander develops plans to “account for the possibility that steady-state activities could fail to prevent aggression, preclude large-scale instability in a key state or region, or mitigate the effects of a major disaster.”14 This analysis should not be restricted to the AOR. There will be situations where a combatant command will need some type of support or access to nations that lie outside the AOR.
3. Which nations are in a position to support other departments of the U.S. executive branch? While DOD and joint doctrine specifically define Security Cooperation as the U.S.military engaging with foreign security force elements, military engagements with other aspects of a foreign nation’s society could provide essential support in achieving U.S. interests as articulated in an Integrated Country Strategy (ICS), formerly the Mission Strategic Resource Plan. The ICS outlines U.S. interests and goals and provides combatant command planners engagement opportunities for military forces in support of the Country Team.
Once the combatant commander’s planners identify the nations with the potential for contributing, they must reconcile the list with those designated in the Leahy Laws, which prohibit U.S. engagement with nations due to human rights abuses or other factors.15 From this analysis the planners will develop a list of nations (hereafter referred to as focus nations) that are potential candidates and eligible for SC engagement.
Determine Who Else Can Help.Determine if others are engaging (or are willing to engage) to achieve similar SC objectives in the combatant command’s AOR. This analysis should be conducted from two perspectives. The first is to determine if other agencies of the U.S. Government are working with a focus nation. A way to decide that is through the recently constituted Promote Cooperation series of meetings initiated by the combatant command and hosted by the Joint Operational War Plans Division of the Joint Staff J5. These meetings are designed to foster interagency perspectives and contributions to combatant command planning efforts. Representatives from the other executive branch agencies participate in the Promote Cooperation meetings. These participants have discovered that DOD is not necessarily the only U.S. Government entity working to achieve specific national security objectives within a focus nation.16
Another way is through the “3-D Planning Methodology” and meetings being held periodically and representing the efforts of “Diplomacy, Development and Defense,” which are, respectively, the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and Department of Defense.17
The second part of this analysis is directed at nations with an interest in the focus nation due to interest symmetry with the United States, longstanding relationships (for example, former colonies), or other interests such as potential markets or natural resources. This step is consistent with the DSG notion of a “‘Smart Defense’ approach to pool, share and specialize capabilities as needed to meet 21st century challenges.”18 Unfortunately, getting others to help do one’s national security work is not always the best way to approach a problem. While the interests of the United States and those of another part of the U.S. Government or another nation may be closely aligned, a body of knowledge known as principal-agent (P-A) theory explains why country X (an ally of the United States—the agent) building partner capacity in country Y (a focus nation) may not achieve the desired result.19
Another drawback in relying on other nations to achieve some of the combatant commander’s SC objectives is the focus of the SC activity. The United States may accrue some benefits in building relationships and gaining access to a focus nation through proxies, but this may be possible only when the United States is acting as a member of an alliance or coalition. There are certainly challenges in working with others, but there are also potentially great benefits in acknowledging their capacity-building efforts. For instance, cooperation in military rotary-wing training is taking place between Colombian helicopter instructors and Mexican army pilots that is focused on combating drug cultivation and smuggling. This is a fortuitous externality of U.S. efforts to build the capacity of Colombia’s airpower via “Plan Colombia” during Bogota’s 20-year war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.20 Accounting for these types of activities in SC planning would enable combatant command planners to focus scarce SC resources elsewhere.
Identify Willing Partners. Will a nation identified in the first three steps be willing to support or welcome combatant command SC efforts, and if so, how? As mentioned above, the interests of nations rarely align completely. The planners, with the assistance of the Country Team, could determine the willingness of the nations identified in the first three steps to work with the U.S. military or its allies to achieve some or all of its objectives through its security cooperation activities.
Define the Specific Objectives of SC. The next two steps may be considered “defining the problem,” in operational design terminology. Once the planners determine the willing partners, the next part of the analysis addresses the specific objectives of the SC engagements and how the potential partners can support the three priorities outlined in the second step. Does the United States seek to improve military-to-military relationships to influence policy decisions, gain peacetime and contingency access to the country, build capacity for internal defense, or build capacity to deter a neighboring nation from aggressive acts? Defining the specific SC objectives for each focus nation will help planners ultimately determine the ways and means necessary to achieve the desired effects. As a final check, planners must ensure that the SC objectives specifically relate to and increase the likelihood that the United States and its partners can prevent conflict or, if necessary, execute global and regional contingency plans.
Evaluate the Likelihood of Success. In this step, which is similar to wargaming, planners assess the likelihood of success in working with a focus nation to achieve the specific objectives determined above. As part of this evaluation, the planners must account for other perspectives that may influence U.S. military SC efforts. There are no guarantees that any SC efforts will yield the desired effect, but planners must conduct this assessment.
In addition to the focus nation’s Country Team and the combatant commander’s intelligence collection and analysis capabilities, other tools are available to assist planners in assessing the likelihood of success. One is the State Department’s Interagency Conflict Assessment Framework (ICAF). At the request of a focus nation’s U.S. Ambassador, the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations in the State Department assembles a team of predominantly U.S. Government experts and conducts a workshop in the Washington, DC, area to assess the focus nation. The team then deploys to the focus nation and conducts an assessment of conditions there through an extensive program of interviews with all segments of its society. One outcome of the ICAF assessment is an identification of factors that drive conflict within the nation as well as mitigating factors. While relatively new in the State Department, Army Field Manual 3-07, Stability Operations, provides an overview of the ICAF.21 The results of an ICAF assessment could help planners evaluate the likelihood of success of potential SC engagements.
Two other tools may have utility for planners in assessing the likelihood of success of SC engagements in a focus nation. The first is the United Nations Development Programme Human Development Reports. These annual reports present “the global debate on key development issues, providing new measurement tools, innovative analysis and often controversial policy proposals.”22 The other tool is the Fund for Peace Failed States Index (FSI). The Fund for Peace publishes this index annually, analyzing 178 nations in 12 categories based on “levels of stability and pressures they face.”23 The purpose of the FSI is “to create practical tools and approaches for conflict mitigation that are useful to decision-makers.”24 The FSI database goes back to 2005, and this information could help planners identify trends as potential indicators of success in SC efforts.
Make Thoughtful Choices. In operational design terms, this is the step where the combatant commander articulates the operational approach. With the above information, the commander is in a position to make thoughtful choices on the type, location, and frequency of SC activities while balancing the choices between engaging with countries that could directly support U.S. national security objectives and maintaining relationships with long-time allies and partners. In other words, by making the thoughtful choices mandated by the DSG, the commander must balance operational risks with fiscal realities while remaining mindful of political risks that include “the ability and will of allies and partners to support shared goals.”25
Once the combatant commander makes thoughtful choices on where and how often to engage in SC activities, detailed planning on SC engagements must be conducted. One task is to determine the means required to execute the choices. The means currently come from a variety of sources including the State Department, OSD, other combatant commands, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, and private sector defense contractors, among others. A comprehensive treatment of SC resources and authorities is beyond the scope of this article but is a critical component in planning SC engagements once the focus nations and specific engagement objectives are defined. One good example of how a combatant command accounts for SC resources is the U.S. European Command Handbook of Theater Security Cooperation Resources.26
Assess the Effectiveness of the Thoughtful Choices. From the ways determined above and the means available, the combatant commander will execute the plan and continue to assess the results and reframe where appropriate. This assessment will help planners define (or redefine) the type and desired frequency of all SC engagements and provide input to revisions of the commander’s TCP.
There are a few notes worth mentioning regarding the above methodology. It is described in a linear fashion but is not a linear process. Analysis and conclusions in any step may drive planners to reconsider their analysis from a previous step. This is no different from the caveats outlined in JP 5-0 regarding the JOPP.27
The above methodology will require a substantial effort by the combatant commander’s planning staff. There are other ways to allocate SC resources. One is to divide the effort and resources evenly between the allied and friendly nations in the AOR. This method may be attractive to U.S. Ambassadors and defense attachés because all parties have access to a portion of the SC resources, and it is relatively simple to articulate and execute. The drawback is obvious: there may be little relationship between directed objectives and the expenditure of SC resources. Furthermore, planners should consider a number of factors not mentioned in joint doctrine during SC planning.
Does the focus nation’s view of civil-military relationships matter in SC planning? The authors believe it does. Of the three objectives of SC, only capacity-building is relatively straightforward and may be unaffected by the relationship between the focus nation’s government and its military. The civil-military relationship in the focus nation may affect SC efforts to develop and strengthen relationships and ensure peacetime and contingency access. If the focus nation’s government is dependent on the military to maintain power (or may actually be the military), the influence the military might have on policy decisions could be significant. In this situation, SC activities may yield strong relationships at the policy level, leading to improved relationships and increased peacetime and contingency access.
Some focus nations may have civil-military relationships similar to that of the United States, where civilian control of the military is the accepted practice. In this situation, SC efforts to build relationships and ensure access through military-to-military engagement may not yield the desired effects simply because the focus nation’s military might have little or no voice in policy decisions. Unfortunately, there is no absolute method to determine how effective SC activities are or have been in strengthening relationships and ensuring access. In most cases the United States will never know how successful it was until a crisis arises. However, understanding the military-to-government relationship in the focus nation could provide a sense of how much influence military-to-military contacts will ultimately have on policy decisions in a crisis when the desired SC objectives are predominantly relationships and access.
Developing measures of effectiveness for the relationship and access objectives of SC is problematic. Determining the indirect effects of SC is even more difficult. As an example, assume that U.S. SC efforts in focus nation A are designed to build capacity to deter aggression from neighboring nation B, which is hostile to the United States and nation A and their collective interests. How can one measure the effects of the SC activities executed within country A on country B? Is it possible to determine whether the SC efforts in country A will actually deter country B from taking some action counter to U.S. national security objectives? Expending some effort to assess the indirect effects of SC is laudable given that preventing war is a stated mission for combatant commanders in the Unified Command Plan, but determining the actual effect may not be possible.28
One area critics of this article may identify is that this is a stovepiped methodology primarily restricted to DOD efforts to shape the environment in support of campaign and contingency plans. However, security cooperation in DOD policy and joint doctrine is currently defined as U.S. military-to-security force engagements. This is a rather narrow application of one instrument of power, but in their in-progress reviews of plans with the Secretary of Defense, the combatant commanders should explain “how the execution of the [Global and Theater Campaign Plan] has influenced the ability to deter, prevent or shape the execution of contingency plans.”29
While DOD policy, strategic planning guidance, and joint doctrine focus on the military instrument of power, there is much the military can do to support other U.S. Government agencies in accomplishing their missions. Joint doctrine acknowledges these contributions. DOD must drive the process to engage other U.S. Departments through the Promote Cooperation and other venues. JP 3-0 summarizes this challenge: “[Joint force commanders] should maintain a working relationship with the chiefs of the U.S. diplomatic missions in their area.”30 With no unity of command, effective action is achieved through unity of effort fostered by common objectives, goals, and senior leader relationships. One factor working against unity of effort is the different perspectives of a geographic combatant commander and an Ambassador. The focus of a geographic combatant commander, unlike an Ambassador, is regional. The geographic combatant commands have developed procedures to foster these relationships. Based on discussions with several combatant command planners, SC efforts are coordinated at least annually with the Country Teams and the Service components.
Another consideration is the source of SC resources. The majority of each Service’s budget is dedicated to training and readiness. To a large extent this determines which countries receive what resources and what engagement. Another aspect of resources is the magnitude of funds spent on foreign military sales. This also drives engagement and steers the Services directly at nations with money to spend on advanced weapons systems. The Services have much larger planning staffs for SC activities than those at the combatant command level, and they take Service equity into consideration. In addition, the Services execute SC activities for the most part.31
In contemplating thoughtful choices, planners must also consider the effects of planning and executing operations on SC efforts because of the potential for unintended consequences. As an example, SC efforts could result in building the focus nation’s security capacity faster or out of proportion with other key institutions of the nation. Another potential drawback is that SC could create an economically unsustainable security apparatus that could have ruinous effects on a focus nation’s fiscal solvency.
Finally, the biggest challenge for senior leaders in DOD and commanders who have to make those thoughtful choices is having the authority and willingness to say “no.” The 2012 DSG will drive DOD and the combatant commands to take a more discriminating look at how and where the United States spends its defense dollars. This is not to suggest that Washington should abandon its core partners. Few could effectively argue against efforts to sustain long-time friendships or develop new relationships to ensure access or build the capacity of other militaries. However, the new criterion should not be whether any SC engagement is good. Thoughtful choices should find some middle ground where the Nation maintains its relationships with long-time allies and engages with other governments to enhance the prospects of success in directed global or regional planning efforts. Saying no or reducing the level of engagement with a friend or ally will certainly be uncomfortable and may be politically impossible, but in the near term it appears to be inevitable.
Over the past decade the combatant commands have been the beneficiaries of a number of revolutionary processes instituted by the Department of Defense. Some of these include the consolidation of strategic guidance documents in the GEF, Secretary of Defense In-Progress Reviews of campaign and contingency plans, and the requirement for geographic combatant commands to develop campaign plans for steady-state activities within each theater. Strategic guidance and joint doctrine will continue to evolve to enable implementation of the 2012 DSG, but there are still voids that will inhibit coherent global or theater campaign planning. As a continuation of the effort to link military planning activities, this article proposes a methodology to help planners at all levels make thoughtful and, maybe more accurately, tough choices regarding SC activities. While not the definitive solution to the Nation’s engagement challenges, it should generate a dialogue in DOD, the Embassies, and the combatant commands on ways to focus SC resources to achieve national security objectives in this era of austerity. JFQ