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Vera ZakemEmily Mushen
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Civil affairs (CA) and civil-military operations (CMO) have been an important area of United States military operations for much of the nation’s history. While the application and manifestation of CMO have changed over time, civil affairs personnel have always conducted activities aimed at coordinating integration between military and non-military instruments of power. Such activities range from humanitarian assistance operations, to civil governance, to infrastructure improvements. U.S. joint doctrine defines CMO as follows:

Civil Military Operations are the activities of a commander performed by designated civil affairs or other military forces that establish, maintain, influence, or exploit relationships between military forces and indigenous populations and institutions (IPI), by directly supporting the attainment of objectives relating to the reestablishment or maintenance of stability within a region or host nation (HN).

Civil-military operations are relevant at all levels—strategic, operational, and tactical—and across the range of military operations. CMO tasks include population and resource control, foreign humanitarian assistance, nation assistance, support to civil administration, and civil information management. Historically, members of the armed forces have taken on these and similar responsibilities with little to no training in CMO. Today, the U.S. military maintains a cadre of forces dedicated to civil affairs. Those that are general purpose forces (GPF) reside primarily in the reserve component (RC) and can be found in largest numbers in the United States Army and the United States Marine Corps (USMC). However, the proponent for civil affairs is the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the Special Operations Forces (SOF) community maintains an important and highly developed civil affairs capability, which primarily resides within the active component.

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Unlimited distribution. Specific authority: N00014-11-D-0323.


  • Pages: 28
  • Document Number: COP-2015-U-010995
  • Publication Date: 7/8/2015
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