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Civil Affairs Soldiers Are Crucial to Peace
Prepared Remarks of H. Allen Holmes, assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, 1996 Worldwide Civil Affairs Conference, Washington, Thursday, June 20, 1996

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

role masterfully.

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

more effective.

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

doing more.

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.


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