and vast uncertainties. They help sustain America's role in Civil affairs soldiers are confronted with a rapidly changing world and vast uncertainties. They help sustain America' s role in safeguarding and strengthening democracies and open markets worldwide.
Volume 11, Number 60
Civil Affairs Soldiers Are Crucial to Peace
Prepared remarks of H. Allen Holmes, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, for the 1996 Worldwide Civil Affairs Conference, Washington, June 20, 1996.
Good morning. It's always a pleasure to continue my office's
strong and cordial association with the civil affairs community. As
you know, we in SO/LIC [special operations and low-intensity conflict]
regard you as a critical element of the SOF [special operations
forces] family -- especially in today's complex national security
environment where military operations are marked by significant civil-
military considerations and requirements for civilian interface. Our
military forces are increasingly being called upon to perform
important postconflict activities such as stabilizing an area
following tactical operations, helping to jump start a nonfunctioning
or nonexistent government and facilitating an effective transition of
responsibilities to other U.S. government agencies or international
I would like to extend my warmest thanks to the leadership and
the membership at large of the Civil Affairs Association for their
longstanding support of the civil affairs force. Your leadership has
served over the years to help preserve and advance this vital DoD
capability. It is in large measure the result of your efforts that the
civil affairs structure has remained as strong as it is today. ...
This year marks the beginning of SO/LIC sponsorship of the Civil
Affairs Conference. It is my hope that this conference accomplishes
three things. First, that it provides insight into the increasing role
of the civil dimension in military operations. Second, that it
addresses specific items of interest to this community, many of which
will be tackled in the workshops. And third, that it provides an
opportunity for regional CinC [commander in chief] representatives to
update and exchange information with trace units.
The world confronting the civil affairs community today is one of
rapid change and vast uncertainties. Democracy and freedom are the
foundations of our republic. Unfortunately, the promise of freedom
remains unfulfilled in much of the Third World. Poverty persists.
Postcolonial governments are still evolving and searching for a means
of effective governance. Centuries-old ethnic and religious
animosities and border disputes remain unresolved. Some seek power or
wealth for personal gain without regard for those who try to survive
the chaos they inflict.
Now, as before, the role of the United States in the world is to
safeguard and strengthen the community of democracies and of open
markets. In fulfilling that role, the national military strategy calls
on the armed forces to perform three sets of tasks: peacetime
engagement, deterrence and conflict prevention, and fight and win.
Within the SOF and conventional force participation in that national
strategy, civil affairs soldiers play a significant role in peacetime
engagement, conflict prevention and, after the battle is won, in
securing the peace.
Two years ago, I stood before you in Portland and reported that
we were close to official approval of the Defense Department's civil
affairs policy directive. Today, I am pleased to report that that
directive, signed in June 1994, has significantly increased your
visibility and improved the general understanding of what you can do
as a force and diplomacy multiplier.
The directive created for the first time an official mandate for
civil affairs operations and provides the framework for service and
joint doctrine and operational planning. Additionally, it established
SO/LIC as the focal point for interagency coordination for civil
affairs support with other U.S. government agencies and international
and nongovernmental organizations. It also assigned specific
responsibilities to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and to
the commanders in chief to ensure that civil affairs planning is
integrated into military operations planning. Incorporated within
the directive is the authority to develop civil affairs policies for
conventional as well as special operations missions -- making civil
affairs capabilities more apparent and available for a variety of
operations, some of which could be in support of other U.S. government
agencies or even regional force packages.
The real significance of the directive is that it has made
policymakers more sensitive to the fact that peace operations have a
civil dimension, that civil objectives are separate from military
objectives and that there is a need for coordination between civilian
and military operations, especially as we transition from a military
to a civil operation.
Applications of particular relevance to your specialty today
include peacekeeping, humanitarian intervention, postconflict
stability, civic action, refugee control, humanitarian demining
operations and the restoration of government. These operations will
require delicate civil-military coordination with local government
officials, U.N. and other international representatives and private
voluntary organizations that may be providing aid to the local
If anyone ever needed to be convinced of the need for these
civil-military skills, they need only recall the conflicts and crises
in Rwanda, Haiti and Bosnia to demonstrate the need for effective
civil-military operations. It may seem incredible, but these
operations with major civil affairs play have occurred since we last
broke bread together!
Humanitarian assistance and other civil-military operations have
become significant missions for the Defense Department. They address
the grinding impact of poverty and disaster, both natural and man-
made. They help friendly governments provide for basic human needs and
promote the establishment of effective government on which stability
rests. Such actions are bolstered by civil affairs operations that
help in the development of governmental and societal infrastructure.
In Rwanda, civil affairs units ran three civil-military operation
centers throughout the country. They coordinated and ensured the
secure distribution of food, shelters for the refugees and their
ultimate repatriation. In Haiti, the civil affairs-managed civil-
military operations center acted as the nerve center for coordination
with U.S. civilian agencies and for requests for military support from
U.S. and international nongovernment organizations, the Haitian
government and its population.
Civil affairs personnel also provided invaluable assistance in
restoring the legitimate government to power. Thirty-four civil
affairs officers served as ministerial advisers in 12 ministries,
which included education, public works, transportation, commerce and
public health. They created, often from scratch, institutional
guidelines for the ministries which they supported -- establishing
emergency preparedness systems, developing budgets and creating a
model for a working government. Civil affairs performed this classic
In perhaps their most pervasive foray into the murky world of
restoring government functions, civil affairs officers, in spite of
constant distractors, literally reconstructed the judiciary system of
Haiti. Ambassador [William L.] Swing praised the ministerial advisory
team for their responsiveness, maturity and successful accomplishment
of this critical mission.
Civil affairs also worked exceptionally well as part of the
special forces A-teams. Civil affairs soldiers accompanied many
special forces detachments into the Haitian countryside and
coordinated many civic action projects. For example, they helped
restore electric power to a number of towns and organized the local
citizenry to rebuild roads and bridges. Increasingly, the value that
civil affairs soldiers add to these teams is gaining recognition. An
AID [Agency for International Development] official told me that the
special forces teams that had civil affairs members attached were much
In Bosnia, IFOR [implementation force] civil affairs personnel
are proving to be invaluable. They overcame the challenges of having
to establish themselves, sell themselves and produce a product in an
internal environment that may have been more hostile than the external
environment. The appointment of a high representative demonstrates the
understanding that the civil dimension is as important as the military
Civil affairs activities in the Sarajevo and the French/British
sectors have been unparalleled successes. CA soldiers got the water
restarted in Sarajevo. They reopened the phone lines between Serbia
and the war-torn areas of the Bosnian Federation. They are encouraging
civil industry back into the area and are facilitating the election
process. Civil affairs units also fixed an electrical connection,
which repaired the "odorizer" at Sarajevo's natural gas plant. This
put an end to the frequent gas explosions caused by undetected gas
leaks, which were killing dozens of innocent civilians.
For three years, my office has run a humanitarian demining
program that assists countries in establishing long-term indigenous
infrastructures capable of educating the population to protect
themselves from land mines, eliminating the hazards of land mines and
returning mined land to its previous condition. I believe the time has
come for your force, in particular, to add its considerable value to
the new mission of humanitarian demining.
Land mines are an enormous problem in Bosnia. It will likely take
20 years to clear the estimated 6 million land mines in that country.
The role of civil affairs in demining in Bosnia is twofold. First, CA
soldiers are providing information about the whereabouts of minefields
to the mine action center in Sarajevo.
Second, CA units, alongside PSYOP [psychological operations]
forces, are supporting a substantial mine awareness campaign as part
of IFOR to reach and inform large audiences of young people about the
land mine threat. The campaign involves the distribution of articles
with mine awareness slogans and the future distribution of a comic
book with a mine awareness theme using the Superman character.
Despite these successes, however, the full potential of civil
affairs has not been realized in Bosnia. This has been partially due
to many senior officials (U.S. and otherwise) not understanding the
capabilities of civil affairs to not being able to follow our own
civil affairs doctrine but having to execute a NATO doctrine and to
security policies which did not always allow civil affairs personnel
to do what they do best -- getting out among the people.
In addition, we in the civil affairs community must be more vocal
in ensuring that you are properly utilized. To emphasize the need to
fully utilize civil affairs potential, a senior official who recently
returned from Bosnia reported that civil affairs are only achieving a
fraction of their potential role. I agree. Civil affairs could be
Specifically, we need to re-examine the appropriate timing needed
to introduce civil affairs into any operation. Civil affairs was a
late arrival in Sarajevo, mainly due to the mandated last-minute
change moving IFOR headquarters from Zagreb [Croatia] to Sarajevo.
Civil affairs elements should have been in the lead units.
Policymakers tend to forget that civil affairs personnel are not only
important after an operation but before and during as well.
We need to address planning shortfalls. For Bosnia, there were a
number of civil affairs plans. There was a civil affairs plan, based
on the Vance-Owen peace plan [U.N. envoy Cyrus Vance and European
Community mediator Lord David Owen] and a number of very general
campaign plans. But there was not a detailed, comprehensive IFOR civil
affairs document which delineated an overarching strategy and specific
objectives and tasks. We continue to work with the Joint Staff to
determine how continuous civil affairs operational planning can be
As I mentioned earlier, demining is one of the most fundamental
humanitarian missions that the United States can be involved in, and
special operations forces have demonstrated that they have an
important role to play. U.S. military demining teams have evolved from
a special forces mission to one that notionally includes PSYOP and
civil affairs personnel. Civil affairs personnel were recently
incorporated into demining teams to ensure greater interface with the
local community so that the most productive and valid areas to demine
could be determined.
In Cambodia, civil affairs are doing much more than assisting
with demining operations. For example, finance teams are working with
the Royal Cambodian armed forces to establish pay scales, software
programs, accounting systems and budgets.
A civil affairs unit has also supported a Khmer Rouge defector
program. A U.S.-trained Cambodian civil affairs unit orchestrated the
recent transport and distribution of 23 tons of U.S. humanitarian
assistance to former Khmer Rouge soldiers and their families. The U.S.
ambassador to Cambodia was present during the delivery of the goods to
defectors who had endured 25 years of hardship. This project is one of
the most effective programs the Cambodian government has to peacefully
end the conflict with the Khmer Rouge. The small amount of goods
provided by our government will garner benefits that far outweigh the
cost as word of the decent treatment of defectors spreads to other
Khmer Rouge units.
Another mission area in which civil affairs could find themselves
more involved is the consequence management phase of a terrorist
incident involving a weapon of mass destruction. Among the critical
post-Cold War challenges for the United States and for the Defense
Department is to prevent the re-emergence of the nuclear danger that
characterized the Cold War. The demise of the Soviet Union greatly
reduced the nuclear threat to the United States. Nevertheless, the
proliferation of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction poses a
growing threat to U.S. and global security.
Hard-core terrorist groups are becoming more adept at killing,
with ever more sophisticated weapons. The proliferation of weapons of
mass destruction, especially when coupled with ballistic missile
technologies, which continue to be sold illicitly to many developing
nations, is furthering regional instability. Today, many Third World
nations are not third-rate threats, especially from the technological
point of view.
In a recent exercise that played out the consequence management
aspects of a terrorist incident involving a weapon of mass
destruction, civil affairs caught the attention of the exercise CinC.
He and his staff determined that CA indeed had a potentially crucial
role to play in helping the host nation provide its citizens and local
authorities with guidance after the terrorist incident, during the
messy consequence management phase. This is a new thought on the use
of civil affairs. We haven't worked out the details, but, of course,
you will have suggestions to make through your commands. Suffice it to
say that this is a new and appropriate mission area that holds
considerable potential for civil affairs.
Overall, civil affairs is making headway. You are playing a
growing role in the planning and execution phases of operations.
However, there is still a long road ahead. During peacetime, the value
of civil affairs has historically not been well understood, and on
occasion you have had to fight for your very survival. I believe that
those days are not over.
The civil affairs community has four fundamental challenges.
First, you need to be more aggressively involved in charting your
future course. This includes having a greater understanding for
peacetime engagement and taking the lead in developing novel
approaches that will be useful to the Defense Department in the new
Second, civil affairs must be integrated into operational
planning sooner. Educate the CinCs and the units you support and the
planners you work with so that you will get the call early. Third,
concentrate on assessing and advising on the civil dimension. These
assessments provide baseline information, identify strengths and
weaknesses of the civil sector and indicate where civil-military
operations would be most effective.
But the days of cursory surveys are over. You must do more than
take an area or infrastructure inventory. CinCs and interagency
decision-makers look to you for advice on government programs,
functional specialties and cultural sensitivities. You must be able to
give solid advice that runs the entire gamut of civil-military
Lastly, given your expanding missions in a time of reduced levels
of defense resources, you must maximize your utility to the national
command authorities and the theater commander –- or often, the
ambassador -- you support. Many of the challenges and burdens of
future operations will depend on your professional expertise and your
ability to assess the civil dimension. Maintain the credibility of
those diverse functional skills in your units so that when called, you
have the skills needed to be effective. You must have truly well-
grounded functional specialties so that you can make valid assessments
of various areas of the civil dimension.
In conclusion, let me say that your contributions to the
department have significantly increased your visibility and improved
the general understanding of what you do as a force multiplier and a
diplomacy multiplier. You have clearly demonstrated the value that you
add to our nation's security across the spectrum of conflict and in
peacetime. Your extraordinary sense of duty and volunteerism have been
I believe that the future for civil affairs is a promising one.
The nation will continue to need your vital services in the years to
come. Our challenge together is to continue to educate and inform and
to keep the force strong and ready for whenever and wherever the
opportunity to serve arises. Secure the victory.
Published for internal information use by the American Forces
Information Service, a field activity of the Office of the Assistant
Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs), Washington, D.C. Parenthetical
entries are speaker/author notes; bracketed entries are editorial
notes. This material is in the public domain and may be reprinted
without permission. Defense Issues is available on the Internet via
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