New Army Doctrine Places Stability Operations Equal to Military Combat Power

While military operations may neutralize immediate “kinetic” threats, enduring change comes from stabilizing the unstable and building capacity to self-govern where there is none. Security, humanitarian relief, governance, economic stabilization, and development are critical for ultimate democratization, but more importantly, for peace and security locally and globally. Without competent and comprehensive engagement in these areas of “soft power,” tactical “hard power” operations are simply a waste of time, money, and life.

This week the U.S. Army released a new field manual, FM 3-07 Stability Operations, to adapt the military to these requirements of the modern age. The manual “represents a milestone in Army doctrine,” writes LTG Bill Caldwell in the foreword.

It is a roadmap from conflict to peace, a practical guidebook for adaptive, creative leadership at a critical time in our history. It institutionalizes the hard-won lessons of the past while charting a path for tomorrow. This manual postures our military forces for the challenges of an uncertain future, an era of persistent conflict where the unflagging bravery of our Soldiers will continue to carry the banner of freedom, hope, and opportunity to the people of the world.

FM 3-07 elevates capacity-building to be co-equal with traditional offensive and defensive military operations of Big Army. This doctrinal shift is not new, but also found in the updated Operations Manual for the Army, FM 3-0, Caldwell also oversaw earlier this year.

This field manual is more than a revision to Army thinking and training of future officers. It is a linchpin in effective global engagement by the United States.

The “launch” of this new field manual was done at the Association of the United States Army and a Defense Department’s Blogger Roundtable. On the roundtable call to discuss the document and the doctrine were a (surprisingly) few bloggers and Caldwell and LTC Steven Leonard, the lead author of the manual.

The manual is full of obvious and yet elusive points about stability operations, most of which I won’t get into (but some others do, see the See Also at the bottom of this post). Besides the informational engagement, which I’ll get to in a moment, the doctrine promotes the need for a “comprehensive” approach to stability operations. This is more than an interagency collaboration and more than whole of government. It includes understanding and working with various other agencies, non-governmental groups, the local people, and the media. It is a comprehensive approach that goes beyond both interagency and “whole of government” as it links groups and entities from different governments, non-governmental organizations, and local groups.

As Caldwell described in the foreword:

The comprehensive approach ensures unity of effort among a very rich and diverse group of actors while fostering the development of new capabilities to shape the operational environment in ways that preclude the requirement for future military intervention. It postures the military to perform a role common throughout history—ensuring the safety and security of the local populace, assisting with reconstruction, and providing basic sustenance and public services. Equally important, it defines the role of military forces in support of the civilian agencies charged with leading these complex endeavors.

The manual honestly realizes that the Soldiers (it is an Army document) are public diplomats and must intelligently operate in a local and global information environment where perceptions matter. 

2-74. Stability operations are conducted among the people, in the spotlight of international news media, and under the umbrella of international law. The actions of Soldiers communicate American values and beliefs more effectively than words alone. Therefore, military forces ensure consistency in their actions and messages. They provide the media with prompt, factual information to quell rumors and misinformation. They grant media representatives access to information within the limits of operations security. Finally,
they understand the culture of each audience and tailor the message appropriately.

2-75. No other military activity has as significant a human component as operations that occur among the people. With urbanization, these operations will be increasingly conducted among concentrations of people and thus significantly affect their psyche. Human beings capture information and form perceptions based on inputs received through all the senses. They see actions and hear words. They compare gestures and expressions with the spoken word. They weigh the messages presented to them with the conditions that surround them. When the local and national news media are unavailable or unreliable, people often rely on “word of mouth” to gain information or turn to the Internet, where unverified information flows freely at unimaginable speeds. To the people, perception equals reality. Creating favorable perceptions requires an understanding of the psychological motivations of the populace and shaping messages according to how people absorb and interpret information to ensure broad appeal and acceptance.

It would be nice if text similar to the above makes it into the National Military Strategy and a future revamp of the National Strategy on Public Diplomacy.

After I asked about empowering local media, I asked for details on Erin’s (aka Charlie) post at Abu Muqawama that Caldwell offered a “cultural exchange” (my words) with State whereby one State employee would go to Leavenworth and be backfilled by one Army officer. Caldwell’s response was that General Casey did allocate twenty slots for this, but more could be made available. To date, only AMB Herbst’s CRS folks were participating. Interesting. More details on the exchange “program” are forthcoming.

An interesting point that came out was that USAID funding as a whole of U.S. development funding dropped from 60% to 40% as 22% is now in the DoD budget. This, by all accounts, is wrong and reinforces the uncomfortable reality that American public diplomacy wears combat boots. I expect the media to pick up on that after the transcript of the call becomes available.

The reach out to bloggers was a natural for Caldwell. He’s the general pushing the 4-E’s – educate, empower, equip, and encourage – to adapt each soldier to the modern information age. This includes requiring blogging at the Command and General Staff College, where he’s the commanding officer. In light of that, it should be no surprise that the Combined Arms Center (CAC) has a blog dedicated to this manual: Stability Operations.

Caldwell “gets it” and the U.S. is lucky to have him doing what he’s doing.

What are your thoughts on the manual?

See also: