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CHIPS Articles: CAPOSSO — Improving Civil Affairs Planning and Execution in the AFRICOM AOR

CAPOSSO — Improving Civil Affairs Planning and Execution in the AFRICOM AOR
By Sharon Anderson - July-September 2012
A lack of critical civil information in remote areas on the African continent can cause myriad unintended consequences for senior decision makers at U.S. Africa Command. The United States devotes significant resources to civil affairs efforts globally, but what happens when the best of intentions to improve the quality of life for a disadvantaged population doesn’t have the desired or optimal outcome? That’s where CAPOSSO comes into play, CAPOSSO, or Civil Affairs Planning Operations in Steady State Operations, is a Joint Concept Development and Experimentation project sponsored by the Joint Staff J7.

U.S. Africa Command submitted the project to improve strategic engagement in its area of operations explained Margery "Kim" Frisby, an analyst in the Joint Staff’s Joint Development Solution Evaluation Deputy Director for Joint and Coalition Warfighting office located in Suffolk, Virginia.

"U.S. AFRICOM has a population-centric mission, they are not doing kinetic targeting they are doing engagement strategy, engagement systems analysis, to get non-kinetic effects. They were having a difficult time getting the civil domain information, what we sometimes call 'green' and 'white' information, from the tactical level at the Joint Special Operations Task Force Trans-Sahara (JSOTF-TS) and the Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF–HOA) to try to get the information available to the AFRICOM headquarters staff, particularly its planning processes. That was the original basis of the project," Frisby said.

Since the disestablishment of U.S. Joint Forces Command in August 2011, the Joint Staff J7 picked up the experimentation formerly conducted by JFCOM’s Joint Concept Development and Experimentation Directorate (J9), and the Joint Staff’s J7 team is very excited about the CAPOSSO project, Frisby said.

The solutions architecture for the project is based on a premise initially strategized by then-Maj. Gen. Michael Flynn when he served as Deputy Chief of Staff, Intelligence (CJ2), for the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to defeat the counterinsurgency. In his pivotal paper written for the Center for a New American Security, "Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan", Flynn defined processes and the concept of analyzing unclassified information through fusion cells to improve intelligence collection and analysis, Frisby explained.

"I don’t know if you have read the 'Fixing Intel' piece — or what we call the Flynn Indictment — that Flynn wrote when he was in Afghanistan and Iraq. The premise of his analysis is that the intel community had a habitual 'tendency to overemphasize detailed information about the enemy at the expense of the political, economic and cultural environment that supports it.' Because civil affairs professionals are key members of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) and other stability operations, they observed a lot of things happening on the ground as they built wells or developed power stations or whatever they were doing to help in reconstruction and stability efforts. Early in the war, some of that information never got the proper attention, and was never reported up, but what they saw became key to the counterinsurgency (COIN) strategy because they were able to observe things that the regular troops didn’t because of what they were doing required close contact with the local population," Frisby said.

"In Fixing Intel, Flynn talks about how the information flow needs to be reversed from the traditional 'top-down' approach. In his paper, Flynn writes, 'The soldier or development worker on the ground is usually the person best informed about the environment and the enemy,'" Frisby concluded. "This means that everyone, particularly civil affairs professionals, has a role in Joint Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (JIPOE)."

Doctrinally, civil-military operations (CMO) staff and civil affairs (CA) representatives are supposed to provide expert advice and assistance to the JIPOE coordination cell by evaluating the areas, structures, capabilities, organizations, people and events of the operational environment. They also are the main advisers on rule of law, economic stability, governance, public health and welfare, infrastructure, and public education and information. Finally, CMO and CA experts assist in obtaining support for the JIPOE effort from the host nation (HN), intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and the private sector.

"In population-centric mission areas, like AFRICOM with its diverse national and cultural environment, civil domain information is essential to ensure decision-quality information reaches the commander. So that became the nexus of the project. Then we wanted to focus on what has been very successful in the Iraq and Afghanistan AOR, the fusion center, the fusion cell concept to bring together all the functional people in one place so they can do an analysis and determine what information is the most important to whatever the mission plan is. So we are really focused on standing up what is called a Joint Civil Information Fusion Cell, or JCIFC, as the primary solution in the CAPOSSO project so that AFRICOM can implement an analysis strategy that can help inform that nonkinetic or engagement strategy," Frisby said.

The composition of civil affairs teams is determined by the combatant commander's request for forces. Whatever their mission is will determine the kind of training teams receive. The CAPOSSO project will also be a catalyst to improve civil affairs training by establishing a standard course on the Joint Knowledge Online (JKO) enterprise training system, Frisby said.

"Right now, part of the problem is as each rotational unit prepares to go into the AOR, they do their own predeployment training that augments the CA basic training they get, but it is not standardized. So part of the deliverables for this project is to standardize those tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and then develop a JKO course that provides the joint umbrella piece for standardizing that training, especially when it comes to civil affairs reporting. Right now there is no joint, standard reporting format, and we want that rotational unit to leave that data there for the next rotational unit coming in instead of taking it with them. That, of course, leaves a training, and really an understanding, gap that we are hoping the project can help resolve," Frisby said.

Navy Lt. Geoff Weber, an information dominance officer from MCAST, the Maritime Civil Affairs and Security Training Command, said that training from a joint curriculum would improve training for the maritime civil affairs community. MCAST Command was formed in 2009 from the merger of the former Maritime Civil Affairs Group and Expeditionary Training Command, under the guidance of Navy Expeditionary Combat Command and is homeported onboard Dam Neck Annex, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

"MCAST is the Navy component of the joint civil affairs community; kind of the new kids on the block. We have largely modeled our training after what the Army has done so successfully for many years; however, we add that maritime flavor to it. When Kim had mentioned that CAPOSSO is looking at possibly establishing Joint Knowledge Online, JKO training, of course, our command is very interested in that, we don’t believe in recreating the wheel… But even more importantly, CAPOSSO is going to make our teams downrange considerably more mission effective because they do not currently have the information required to make the best decisions. They do what they can. Much of that information is not sitting in a global repository and is passed from team to team which is simply unsatisfactory. So the CAPOSSO is looking at what are the standard [report] formats and basically improving and documenting our processes to dominate, it’s kind of a buzzword, but really to support ‘decision superiority," Weber said.

Although the Navy Lessons Learned database, as well as JLLIS, the Joint Lessons Learned Information System, can assist in planning a civil affairs mission, often teams need more detailed information, Weber explained.

"We often look for very specific tactical data regarding civil infrastructure [the] benchmarks of civil affairs forces. Our forces navigate the operational environment to confirm the status of a number of U.S. government projects in foreign nations, perhaps at the request of USAID or the State Department, and then make recommendations on future engagements to create a desired effect. There have been some collaboration efforts that have moved us along this information sharing processes, one of which was an Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) joint test and evaluation for Joint Civil Information Management (J-CIM)."

The Special Operations Command (SOCOM)-led J-CIM test, which ended in 2011, organized its efforts around identifying the joint TTPs necessary to standardize the collection, consolidation and sharing of civil information in the field.

"The CAPOSSO project has taken the outputs from the J-CIM test to assist in assessing the needs of disadvantaged populations, but first and foremost what needs to be established are some objective measures for those TTPs to determine the effectiveness of the operation through proper analysis of structured data," Weber explained.

"We never had a place to document this before. Certainly, there have been a myriad of reports attempting to document the effects, but we need a structured way of reporting, for example, to assign a geospatial reference to a particular project and a particular time to facilitate temporal analysis — that hasn’t happened. I have been beating a drum on this for a while; we require an authoritative, globally accessible and structured repository of this information so when my team leaves and another one comes in, and we may not be relieved by another Navy team, it may be an Army team that is following us into theater, they can reach into this source of information instead of jumping through hoops to request data we retain on an external hard drive that no one else has access to — that's just unsat," Weber said.

Civil affairs teams usually partner with the U.S. State Department, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), local governments and nongovernmental organizations.

"Obviously, we prefer to share information, but to do so effectively requires good formatting and network bridges. I think sharing information with them is an end state within the DoD and the U.S. government that we seek to attain. We are working toward it, but we are far from it," Weber said.

"Inherent to the problem is working with an enormous amount of unstructured data and turning it into meaningful information. We like to say we are data rich and information poor, otherwise known as D-R-I-P or DRIP. The data is there, but until we have codified and agreed upon processes, reports and databases, we are not dominating the information. From an MCAST perspective, warfighters are very excited about CAPOSSO to make all our operations considerably more effective," Weber said.

But building a global repository is not an immediate goal of the project.

"We are trying not to go directly to the technical solution right away," said Frisby, "we are trying to do the non-materiel requirements up-front. The main thrust is, and one thing that became very successful in the AOR, is a concerted effort to do that whole of government approach by starting with trying to fuse the J-codes in the AOR, to put the information in one place, give them the same information sharing tools so they have the same information, can analyze it, and understand the consequences of other ongoing missions across the AOR, otherwise known as fusion.

"This is going back to Flynn, he said everyone should be able to provide intel with some analysis in 'Fixing Intel.' He most recently wrote: 'Integrating Intelligence and Information, Ten Points for the Commander', in which the first precept is: 'learn about and build fusion cells,'"Frisby said.

Simply put, according to Flynn, fusion is about focusing intelligence and information collections systems, and about the speed of responding to the task, precision in addressing the problem with the best available capability, and understanding what the expected outcomes should be.

"The idea of fusion cells and centers started within DoD," Frisby said, "but the departments of Justice and Homeland Security have actually codified it; we have not done a good job putting into doctrine. I see the effects of CAPOSSO going beyond AFRICOM and the civil affairs realm. When you have a small success like this [CAPOSSO] you can build on it: standing up fusion cells across other combatant commands. AFRICOM is not just going to look at the results of the experiment as findings and recommendations; AFRICOM is going to integrate this fusion cell within its headquarters structure, to complement a Fusion Center that its J3 has stood up this month.

"Fusion started in the Special Operations Command in the last 10 years; they had to figure this out to defeat the counterinsurgency. SOCOM is the joint proponent for civil affairs operations… We want to get these lessons learned codified and get them working for us and make them part of doctrine. The exciting aspect of the Joint Staff J7 now is that it has the joint lessons learned, joint doctrine and joint training integrated together. The disestablishment of JFCOM became a forcing function to combine these functions together so they can collaboratively improve joint force development," Frisby said.

The CAPOSSO architecture is the first of its kind in creating a step-by-step process in developing an organizational framework for a fusion cell or fusion center operations for civil affairs activities. The design makes it easier for information to inform intelligence to be properly analyzed and readily available. Information will not get lost as it is reported up to the highest level because it will be documented in a standardized process and format, making it easier for intelligence analysts to have comprehensive feedback from troops on the ground.

"Fusion started in Iraq in 2005 with the primary purpose of taking all the disparate information from the battlespace and fusing it all together — the key groups pulling information from Special Operations Forces, conventional forces, black and white SOF, and bringing in the interagency and getting them working together and sharing that information," said Michael Henry, irregular warfare architect in the Joint Staff J6 Deputy Director C2I Capability Development office in Norfolk.

"It wasn’t done before; no one knew what the other commanders were doing in other geographic areas of the battlespace even after a big operation, even with the targeting information. Gen. (Michael) Flynn went to Afghanistan set up the fusion cells based on geography, and he said to keep it unclassified and make it as sharable as you can. He established the information in one repository, no matter where it came from, classified at the appropriate level that then could be fused into lethal targeting as well. When he started having successes he then brought in all the battlefield owners together so they could understand the dynamics of the different cultures, different tribes, [and] their needs, whether they needed a well or a road, and the economics in the region. Do they really want to target something or do they just need jobs," Henry said.

But for AFRICOM, information integration isn’t about targeting individuals — it is about fusing all the AFRICOM processes from all the J-codes into a fusion center and making the information flow, Henry explained.

"It had to be low cost, using existing manpower, existing expertise to build those centers of excellence and tied into their processes so you wouldn’t break anything, and using tools they already had so we had greater buy-in. We haven’t had any negative feedback," Henry said.

"It has been such an enthusiastic group, civil affairs is a small community, one with a shallow gene pool they like to say, but they have really come together to fix this problem and it has application not only in AFRICOM but across the joint space," Frisby said.

Frisby pointed to the recent successes of maritime civil affairs, for example, in assisting clearing ports in Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami in 2011 and in Haiti after the earthquake in 2010. "Even though the maritime portion of civil affairs is fairly new, they played a significant role in straightening out the ports in Haiti after the earthquake. There was no one in the Army or Marine Corps that could do that. It was strictly a Navy team. Now, for any coastal or port mission, they play an absolutely critical role even though they make up about 8 to 10 percent of the entire civil affairs community."

"Every fusion center will look a little bit different in each combatant command headquarters, for U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. European Command, for example," Henry said. "But the beauty of it is you put the basics in place (through the solutions architecture), and it [fusion concept in an architecture layout] will work in any staff and for any mission — it can work for logistics."

"You still have to do that mission analysis, but the fusion concept can provide a 60 to 70 percent starting point and then with the individual mission set and very explicit reach beach back for USAID, ambassadors, NGOs, and other partners represented in the fusion cells, you have all the information in one place and when you fuse that together it becomes the civil domain layer of the common operational picture, and many operational missions don’t have that," Frisby said.

The CAPOSSO project is one of the first experiments the Joint Staff J7 has conducted since the disestablishment of JFCOM and Frisby said the staff is energized about its success and the interest it has generated in the other combatant commands.

The Joint Staff’s J7 and J6 codes collaborated on the development of the CAPOSSO architecture and conducted a successful tabletop analytic review of the CAPOSSO project in May. Sponsored by the AFRICOM J5 civil affairs team, and started in November 2011, the yearlong project brought together civil affairs subject matter experts from all the services and several combatant commands to Dam Neck Annex in Virginia Beach.

CAPOSSO, originally scheduled to wrap up in December 2012, has requested an extension through July 2013 to work with SOCOM to integrate a technical solution with the joint combatant command-level requirements developed during the project. This will ensure a complete materiel and non-materiel solution for AFRICOM, and others who may want to adopt CAPOSSO solutions.

In addition to the JKO training course, the final deliverables include a detailed standard operating procedure for JCIFC activity sets, and comprehensive final reports on the project’s gap analysis, solutions and execution. In addition to these deliverables, CAPOSSO will successfully transfer Special Operations Forces best practices to conventional forces, while emphasizing the role of fusion cells for integrating primarily unclassified data to inform intelligence, Frisby said

Sharon Anderson is the CHIPS senior editor. She can be reached at Rebecca Coleman from Joint Staff public affairs contributed to this article.

Army Capt. Phillip Pascarelli (third from right), a civil affairs officer for the 353rd Civil Affairs Command, discusses the proposed architectural design for receiving civil domain information from ground during a tabletop experiment held in May at Maritime Civil Affairs & Security Training, Dam Neck Annex, Virginia Beach, Va. Pascarelli, along with dozens of service members and civilians, are assisting U.S. Africa Command in developing fusion cell solutions for civil information analysis and reporting. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Andy Yoshimura.
Attendees at the tabletop experiment used an U.S. Africa Command architecture design for a request for information process that allows commanders to document and analyze the step-by-step sequence for requesting civil domain information from ground units in an area of operation. The tabletop experiment was held in May at Maritime Civil Affairs & Security Training, Dam Neck Annex, Virginia Beach, Va. Photo by Sgt. 1st Class Andy Yoshimura.
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