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COMPREHENSIVE APPROACH (2/5) ... Planning and conduct of Operations

This is a publication of the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR)


The Comprehensive Approach is the biggest issue in NATO today. For that reason the Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers (CIOR) organized a Symposium, highlighting this subject during its 2010 Summer Congress in August in Stavanger, Norway. The intention was to educate reserve officers on this topic (professional development is one of the objectives of CIOR) as they can bring these messages home to their respective stakeholders in the 36 countries that are members of CIOR. The role of the Reservists as they relate to the Comprehensive Approach was seen as critical to creating valuable insights for a successful end state in current operations.

The CIOR Symposium was held under the Chatham House Rules, meaning that no information or discussion could be subsequently attributed to an individual speaker. Accordingly, the opinions as stated in this article are not specifically referenced to their source.

This will be a series of articles where the Comprehensive Approach will be addressed and elements of this new approach will be explored. 

Comprehensive Approach – Planning and conduct of operations

As discussed in the first article of this series, conducting a military operation within the Comprehensive Approach means that operations are part of a set of lines of progress towards an end-state that the international community wants to achieve.  The military operation will contribute to security in the area of operations and possibly to other fields of progress as well. Such an approach will undoubtedly have an impact on the planning and conduct of the operation.

Planning of a military operation until now meant that the military looked from a Command and Staff point of view to the objective, goals, terrain, weather conditions, the enemy, etc. All came together in a planning cycle whose outcome was the Commander’s decision as to how he wanted to conduct the operation. All was directed towards the military objective.

In the Joint Headquarters, operational planners were already accustomed to having a Political Advisor (POLAD) and a Legal Advisor (LEGAD) in the planning cycle, but everything remained focused on the mission and the military objective.

In the conduct of the operation, every soldier knows the military objective and performs to reach that objective. All actions are in support of the mission – from the soldiers themselves, but also from other – even civil - partners.  Reaching the objective; getting the military job done – that is what we in the military work for. Yes, during the conduct of the operation the Commander is advised by the POLAD and the LEGAD, but these are generally related towards his military objectives, not to other potential objectives.

In the Comprehensive Approach, the whole world of planning and conduct gets turned upside down. There are a multitude of other actors in the area of operations; not only military actors, but a variety of other organizations, some of them directed by the United Nations (UN), others working by themselves or in other kinds of collaboration. All these actors have their own organized planning processes which generally recognize the military as one of the actors in the security-field. Sometimes they plan in a way that is similar to that of the military, but often they don’t.

For military planning to be effective in such a setting, these other actors have to be considered in such a way that they play a role in the planning cycle of the military staff. Conversely, other actors might want to consider giving the military the opportunity to be involved in their own planning.

The Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) in Stavanger Norway, was tasked to perform “try-outs” incorporating a civilian component into the Joint Headquarters Staff. That “try-out” was not a success. It seemed as if the other organizations saw their own staff members as strangers, "delegated" to the military organization and not working for them any more. They were cut off from their resources, and received no planning-oriented information.
During the CIOR symposium in Stavanger, it was suggested by one of our keynote speakers that reserve officers and Non-commissioned members could take up the role of providing a better link between the military and the NGO players. Reservists know the military way of planning, but they also know the civilian world. Some may even work with some of these other actors in their civilian capacities. They better understand both worlds, and from that position, can better communicate with both worlds.

Non-military actors want to work together with the military staff for their own benefit. It could also be the Commander's initiative to offer help or to assist in producing their plans where these parties lack the capability or are simply understaffed.

The Comprehensive Approach can stretch the resources and capabilities of the military staff. Soldiers can drill a well, build a bridge or construct a road, but if they need an energy plan for a country, or a plan for water supply for a region, or if they need to plan the health care needs for a region, that is generally not a core capability of a military force.

That is another way in which reservists can assist. If you can select the right reservists who have the civilian backgrounds to do these jobs, they can bring that competence to the military staff. How, or if, a military commander chooses to bring these competencies to the mission is arguable, but in many cases, such capabilities may be available, but currently may go unnoticed and untapped.

In the conduct of operations the influence of the Comprehensive Approach is even bigger. The military operation is not an operation on its own anymore; it is even possible that multi-polar operations are going on at the same time, and the military operation might not even be in the lead. That implies that the tempo of the operation must be adapted to the tempo of an operation in a non-military field.

It could even be that when a military capability is used to support another operation that a civilian leader might be in charge. That suggests a critical need for “translation skills”.  Not only that the military might not be accustomed to being directed by a civilian, but also that military terms are quiet foreign to the civilian ear. In such circumstances, the outcome might be something less than hoped for.

Here again, the reservist could be of help. Some of them work with civilian authorities in their reservist job (such as in a National Guard setting) and are experienced in  “translating” civilian objectives into military orders and –conversely,  are capable of explaining to civilians what the military can do; how they will do it, and if they are the best solution for getting the job done.
Calling upon our Reserve members to fill in these gaps between military and civilian authorities is a logical step towards completing the common identified goal in the area of responsibility.

The last part of this article is about Lessons Learned and training. The previously mentioned JWC in Stavanger is the centre of the Allied Command Transformation (ACT) that can implement changes in training at the Joint Headquarters level and learn from that. Their Lessons Learned should be communicated to all NATO nations for implementation.

To have staff training together with civilian actors, one will need exercise scenarios and role players. This is a great field of cooperation where the JWC and participant nations can help each other out. And it is necessary to implement the lessons learned. If the lesson learned is that in the operation you are preparing for, one needs the civilian capability of Reserve Officers, one should have this capability in the training setting too. It is not only necessary to have the Reserve Officers trained in staff procedures in time, but also the training of staff on how to deal with this element they never encountered before.  

The same applies for operations. Nations should learn from each other about the necessary capabilities in approaches in the field, from training concepts etc. If this means that you will use more Reservists from now on, you should train with them. Teach military how to use Reservists the best way in the new roles and teach them how to operate in the field where other actors might be in the lead. It will help you perform in training and operation as part of a Comprehensive Approach.

This is the second of a series of 5 articles from CIOR on the Comprehensive Approach, derived from the CIOR Symposium on “NATO’s Comprehensive Approach and the Role of Reservists” held on the 11th of August 2010 in Stavanger (NO).

© 2012 Interallied Confederation of Reserve Officers