Conducting stability operations is a core mission for the U.S. military, but the Defense Strategic Guidance and 10 years of war make clear a continuing need to augment the range of such operations with the skills of regional partners and the private sector, a senior defense official said Oct. 16.
James A. Schear, deputy assistant secretary of defense for partnership strategy and stability operations, spoke at the annual summit of the International Stability Operations Association.
The ISOA represents companies that provide services and support to the international community in conflict, post-conflict and disaster-relief operations.
“The direction of the DSG, the Defense Strategic Guidance, is pretty clear. It places great emphasis on building the security capacity of others,” Schear said.
Stability operations, which are usually military operations in civilian environments, include many missions, among them peace operations, combating terrorism, counter-drug operations, population control and nation assistance.
“While we’re seeking to rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region while maintaining our emphasis on the Middle East, as we must, we’re also viewing security cooperation as a way to sustain our defense commitments within Europe and partnerships across all regions,” Schear said.
Opportunities to work with increasingly capable regional partners are multiplying, he said, and public-private partners have cultural and language expertise, and technological innovations that allow U.S. forces to overcome a lack of language expertise — an issue of enduring importance.
The U.S. military will have other looming stabilization operation needs, he noted.
“As the Army expands its emphasis on regional alignment, our ability to train, educate and augment U.S. military forces’ abilities to operate in diverse cultural environments will be critical,” Schear said.
Military training will adjust to address these increasing needs, he added, “but it will not be able to prepare every force for every contingency.”
Schear said his sense is that partnerships with the private sector, as was the case in Iraq and Afghanistan, will continue to be needed to augment military capabilities.
Conflict prevention also will be increasingly important for the State Department and for all departments and agencies, he said.
“In regions where America’s national interests are at stake, we must make the requisite investment now to help us forego the requirement for larger, more expensive and more intrusive operations later on,” Shear added.
The latest State Department Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review clearly states a desire to work with the private sector on conflict prevention, and develop more flexible and cost-effective expert cores that can quickly deploy, he said.
“I would even go further,” the deputy assistant secretary added, “and say not only the U.S. government but our allies and partners will see increasing needs for private-sector expertise and capabilities in areas such as improving governance, monitoring tenuous situations, and providing an immediate-response capability.”
Augmenting partners’ abilities will increase the importance that the United States applies to foreign militaries in this more distributed model of intraregional security, Schear said.
“As is well-established in the peacekeeping domain, public-private collaboration on training is necessary not only to improve our relationships with partners but to build regional conflict prevention and response,” he added.
The department has taken initial steps to implement the strategic guidance on stability operations, including the February Biennial Assessment of Stability Operations Capabilities that Schear said “reaffirms stability operations as a core competency for U.S. armed forces” and gives DOD “a good start in working on a roadmap for future investments.”
The effort’s centerpiece is an ongoing departmentwide joint capabilities-based assessment, called the JCBA, that spans all services and DOD components, he said.
Army leadership has begun a process that will consider military capabilities, gaps and shortfalls to be addressed in retaining perishable stability operations skills, he added, while securing the participation of other departments and agencies to study the government’s ability to conduct the complex missions.
“Over the longer term we’re also intent upon designating a joint proponent for stability operations for the department … writ large,” Schear said.
“That step would move us beyond a purely policy-advocacy role, which my office plays, toward an entity that can bring together as a lead integrator all the activities that feed into the organizing, staffing, training, resourcing and force-generating aspects of this effort,” he added.
Key elements for meeting future mission demands include continued support for the civil affairs community for units that can be sized and task-organized for stability operations-related missions, and the growth of regionally aligned general-purpose forces, he said, which is “already a direction we’re heading in.”
It will also be necessary to retain civil-military teaming and to further develop educational training and exercise opportunities that stress nonkinetic aspects of stabilization and reconstruction, Schear added.
The refinement of critically important niche capabilities such as expertise in transitional law enforcement also will be needed, he said, and U.S. armed forces are required to cover critical gaps.
“As this assessment matures over time and as we seek to implement lessons from the findings of the Joint Staff’s [June 2012 Decade of War, Vol. 1] … I’m confident that we’ll delve further into the questions of legal authorities, force development, force management, interagency participation and public-private collaboration,” Schear said, adding that all are “absolutely vital in retaining our stability operations capabilities.”