News: 'Experiment' in Virginia Beach has global reach
Story by Sgt. 1st Class Andy Yoshimura
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. – Civil affairs specialists visit a village in a remote town in Africa and help install a water well for an overpopulated community – sounds like a great success story, right? But sometimes these missions have unseen consequences. In this scenario, played out during a recent exercise, the new well angered the local population because it eliminated a source of income for local women who earned their living by manually carrying water from a nearby body of water. The scenario is a classic case of lack of civil information among planners.
A lack of civil information in most areas on the African continent can cause a host of unintended consequences for senior level decision makers at U.S. Africa Command. The Civil Affairs Planning Operations in Steady State Operations Joint Concept Development and Experimentation project is trying to establish a new approach to guiding population-centric engagements. Sponsored by the AFRICOM J5 civil affairs team, and started in September 2011, this yearlong project has brought together civil affairs subject matter experts from all services and several combatant commands to Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. From May 7-11, the Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command hosted civil affairs experts for a tabletop analytic seminar. Guided by detailed process mapping architectures, the CAPOSSO event participants engaged in in-depth discussions exchanging ideas on how best to utilize civil information management through the stand-up of a Joint Civil Information Fusion Center at a geographic combatant command level. Under the proposed plan, the JCIFC will receive CA information reports from the tactical level, analyze it for its operational and potential intelligence significance, refine it through reach back to other staff and external organizations, and ensure it is considered before engagements are made for population-centric missions.
AFRICOM’s J5 CA branch chief, Lt. Col. Bryant Love, identified gaps between AFRICOM and Civil Affairs units. The J5-CA Branch, with support from the Joint Staff, is developing procedures , and establishing an enduring process for transferring information that the CA teams gather on the ground to the GCC for analysts.
“In addition to standardizing civil information processes, we are also looking at integrating assessments and population-centric engagement guidance to inform planning, operations and engagements,” said Love. “This experiment is focused on complementing existing systems and staff functions, especially the joint targeting process."
Special operations forces units routinely incorporate CA info in Afghanistan and Iraq. SOF units have learned that the nature of counter-insurgency requires the integration of nontraditional information or civil information with traditional threat reporting according to Love.
“I feel that we will lose a lot of this knowledge,” said Kim Frisby, an analyst with the JCW Joint Development Solution Evaluation Division. “We are really taking the best practices and the lessons learned for the past 10 years and trying to transpose them to AFRICOM and other combatant commands.
“We are taking these ‘lessons learned’ and making sure that they don’t become lessons ‘forgotten’,” added Frisby.
The architectural design is the first of its kind in creating a step-by-step process in developing an organizational framework for fusion cell or fusion center operations. This design makes it easier for intelligence to be available at a glance. Information will not get lost as it is reported up to the highest level. The information will get documented in a standardized process, making it easier for intelligence analysts to have feedback from troops on the ground.
Event attendees from the other GCCs are actively participating, and may be able to take the concept and procedures into different areas of operation. In an area like the U.S. European Command, centrally located with better understood cultures, the type of information that is important for the commander that comes from CA teams will be different than it is in Africa.
Love added that the joint background experience of the over 50 Service and combative command members present during the tabletop experiment coming from different worldwide operations, this project provides a sound process for validating the architectural design in collecting information from the ground units. “Throughout the process everyone is very engaged and the quality of the product is awesome right now and will only get better,” said Love.
Lt. Col. Jose Madera, chief of the Strategic Initiatives Group from the U.S. Army Civil Affairs & Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), attended the experiment to help AFRICOM and the Joint Staff develop their process, and down the road, to help the CA community for missions in their command.
“Because this is a core activity, this is something we cannot run from. We have to be fully involved and invested,” said Madera. “We would like to take back observations that hopefully will influence and inform our way ahead what we do across our command.”
Capt Phillip Pascarelli, a civil affairs officer from the 353rd CACOM, is developing a Civil Information Management cell for his command and attended the tabletop experiment to prepare his section on what the active duty component and AFRICOM are doing. The 353rd Civil Affairs Command which falls under USACAPOC(A) is geographically oriented with the AFRICOM region.
“The basic mission of civil affairs is population centric,” said Pascarelli. “If we are able to improve the quality of the data collected to the command that we are supporting for their decision-making then we have done a good job for that customer.”
“Working with the other services has been great,” added Pascarelli.
In a few months, because of this experiment, GCC’s and other major commands will have an opportunity to know a good deal more about remote villages and regions, which fall within their area of operation. This will enable analysis and decision making to give the help to local populations that they actually need, not what decision makers have assumed they need.