The Stabilization Assistance Review and Burden Sharing

Members of NATO-ISAF DCOS-STAB, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Donors Conduct a Coordination Meeting with the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water to Coordinate Projects – 2011

Members of NATO-ISAF DCOS-STAB, US Army Corps of Engineers, and Donors Conduct a Coordination Meeting with the Afghan Ministry of Energy and Water to Coordinate Projects (2011)

The Stabilization Assistance Review and Burden Sharing

“A Construct for Leveraging
Stabilization Actors and their Capabilities”

This is the third article in a three-part series published in SOF News and focused on implementing the Stabilization Assistance Review. It builds on the two previous articles; Implementing the Stabilization Assistance Review (SAR) and Stabilization Environments and the Range of Military Operations. The Stabilization Assistance Review will likely have a significant impact on how the Department of Defense (DoD) participates in stabilization activities. Embracing a common theme from the current administration, the Stabilization Assistance Review says that “there is no public appetite to repeat the large-scale reconstruction efforts of the past”; and goes on to proffer a requirement for, “a more purposeful division of labor and burden-sharing with multilateral bodies…”. The review recommends that DoD be relegated largely to a supporting role, and it is unlikely that the department will see the large funding streams authorized during the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq such as the Commander’s Emergency Response Program, and the Afghan Infrastructure Fund. For those of us within DoD who wish to continue to be active participants in stabilization, but are faced with significantly reduced stabilization funding, we will need to embrace the burden sharing concept articulated in the Stabilization Assistance Review by leveraging other stabilization actors to our advantage.

The 2019 NDAA did not include any Defense Support to Stabilization (DSS) language or associated funding. The failure of congress to include DSS in the 2019 NDAA is certainly not helpful, but neither is it a show stopper. DoD, either in the lead (usually a non-permissive environment) or in a supporting role (permissive environment), can continue to be a major player in stabilization activities. Whether executing our core stabilization tasks as articulated in DODI 3000.05 “Stability Operations” and the soon to be released DODD 3000.05 “Stabilization” of providing security, public order, and immediate needs; or by conducting our reinforcing stabilization tasks which include targeted basic services and critical infrastructure repair, DoD can play a significant role. But to do this we must adjust our processes in order to conform to the stabilization burden sharing concept and better leverage the stabilization contributions of various non-U.S. actors (our coalition partners both military and civilian, and to a lesser degree Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO), Private Volunteer Organizations (PVO), and other donors).

The following construct provides a framework for implementing the burden sharing concept. It can be employed in support of our current Joint Operations doctrine (Joint Publication 3-0), and would have its greatest impact during phases 2 “Seize the Initiative”, 3 “Dominate”, and 4 “Stabilize” when DoD might be the lead for stabilization and the environment might preclude DOS and USAID from having a meaningful presence (see figure 1). The construct has four steps; information gathering, requirements determination and prioritization, resource allocation, and synchronization.

Although the construct suggests a sequential execution, the reality is that changes in the environment will cause a constant review and updating of all steps simultaneously. A form of this construct can be executed at any level, strategic to tactical, but the primary location should be within the country that the stabilization activities are taking place. To implement the construct the USG should leverage either an existing Combined Joint Interagency Working Group (CJIAWG) type organization, or establish a CJIAWG if one does not exist. Civil Affairs officers can be particularly useful as members of this group given their in-depth understanding of the human terrain and their access.

In the information gathering step the CJIAWG reviews the DOS, DoD, and USAID strategies and plans for the country in question. This analysis results in the end states to be achieved, the milestones that lead to those end states, and the major areas or sectors within which stabilization activities will occur. This analysis will also produce priorities that will help guide the process. At the same time the group identifies various non-USG stabilization actors co-occupying the same space.

The Burden Sharing Construct applied to stabilization environments and phases of military operations.

During the requirements determination and prioritization step the group develops a list of stabilization projects or initiatives that conforms to the strategies and plans reviewed in previous step. Sources of information can vary widely. Civil Affairs units offer especially insightful information based upon their understanding of the country and their time spent in the field. Each requirement should be submitted with amplifying information to include cost estimates. The initial product is a list of projects or initiatives, broken into sectors. The group then rank orders the list of requirements.

During the resource allocation step there may be select projects that the USG may wish to execute ourselves, so the appropriate department or agency can be aligned with those requirements. Our coalition partners may wish to focus their efforts on a particular area or region of the country, or on a specific sector of stabilization activities such as health care or electrical power. So those resources could be allocated accordingly. In addition, various NGOs and PVOs should also be considered. But the USG leads for coordinating with these organizations are DOS and USAID. They should seek to work with appropriate NGOs & PVOs in order to maximize their capabilities against the list of requirements. A possible lever the USG can use to facilitate cooperation is security. By offering security, these actors might be motivated to support our requirements. But we must understand that these organizations usually seek to keep their position neutral, therefore they tend to distance from the military. Engagements with NGOs and PVOs should be sensitive to this.

The final step of the construct is synchronization of the execution of the stabilization activities. Combat operations may take an extended period of time. The requirement for stabilization activities do not wait for conflict to end. The greater the gap between the end of combat operations and the start of stabilization activities, the greater the opportunity for malign actors to gain a competitive advantage. Therefore the CJIAWG should, to the greatest extent possible, coordinate the execution of stabilization activities with combat operations, ensuring requisite security is in place to support the execution of the projects, and that the stabilization activities are prepared to be executed as soon as practical on completion of the combat operations in order to consolidate gains. All of this information can be captured in a spreadsheet and sorted by priority, sector, implementer, timeframe, etc. as shown in Figure 2.

Stabilization Requirements and Resources Tracking Worksheet

Despite the recommendations outlined in the Stabilization Assistance Review, DoD can be a more active participant in stabilization activities. But to do so we must become more adept at employing a burden sharing approach that leverages the capabilities of all stabilization actors, and reduces the costs to the USG.


Photo and Images. All photos and images provided by the author.

About the Author: Charles Barham is a retired U.S. Army Colonel with 29 years of service (1981-2010).  He also served for four years as a Department of the Army Civilian Management and Program Analyst in the Afghanistan/Pakistan Hands Program (2010-2014).   He currently serves as a Department of the Air Force Civilian Management and Program Analyst at USCENTCOM in an Interagency Planner capacity.

He served for more than three years in Afghanistan as; Assistant Director of the Police Reform Directorate, Combined Security Transition Command – Afghanistan 2006-2007, Senior Socioeconomic Advisor in HQ ISAF-DCOS/STAB under Generals David Petraeus and John Allen 2011, as Deputy Director of the NATO/Afghan Transformation Task Force, HQ ISAF under General Joseph Dunford 2013, and as a Senior Planning, Programing and Budgeting Advisor to the Afghan National Army Special Operations Command.

He has served for over six years in HQCENTCOM in positions including Senior Socioeconomic Advisor and Interagency Planner.  He has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Richmond, a Master of Business Administration from Oklahoma City University, and a Master of Strategic Studies from the U.S. Army War College.

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