Building Effective C4 in Contingency Operations
By Michael Brian Morrison
The key to any successful multinational, civil-military peace support operation is in achieving not only efficient command and control within a military coalition, but also effective cooperation and coordination between the military and all the civilian agencies involved.
A single-issue peace support operations game-seminar, held 9-13 December 2002 in Bangkok, Thailand with representatives of 23 nations present, highlighted this fundamental idea. The focus of this jointly sponsored United Nations/United States Pacific Command event, hosted by the Kingdom of Thailand, was the detailed examination of the critical “C4” issue.
Participants identified a number of important observations, which are certainly worthy of note for anyone involved with planning and executing future peace support operations. The purpose of this article is to share their observations so that a broader audience may benefit from their work.
Military Command and Control
The primarily military audience first examined establishing effective military command and control within a coalition. The following eight observations were considered significant aspects of that process:
Good Basic Communications are at the Core of Effective Command and Control.
- Passage of information is important – ensuring all recipients understand the message is the overriding consideration.
- Comprehension of key messages is essential if dire consequences from unnecessary misunderstandings are to be avoided.
- The audience is diverse – own forces, parties to the conflict, local population, national audience, international community, etc. Effective means of communicating with all parties must be established.
- Effective communications generates trust.
Comprehension of Commander’s Guidance is Paramount in Achieving Effective Command and Control. The Military Commander’s Concept of Operations and Intent must be effectively communicated to everyone at all levels. Communication itself is not enough to ensure success – it needs to be effective communication. Action must also be taken to ensure that everyone understands the Commander’s Guidance. The Commander, Headquarters staff and subordinate leaders all play an important role in this process. Personal involvement of the commander, confirming comprehension at all levels of the military structure, is a critical component of this process.
Leaders play a Key Role in the Command and Control Process and Need-Specific Skills. First and foremost all leaders need to be good communicators. Leaders must also possess the ability to generate understanding. The leadership at all levels needs to be willing to be educated by those working with them and for them – they possess critical knowledge which is vital to leaders in making the right decision at the appropriate time. All leaders must be capable of using their subordinates effectively if a sound command and control structure is to be generated.
Commonly used War-fighting Coordination Mechanisms are Effective in Peace Support Operations. Exchanging liaison officers or teams, developing standard operating procedures, regular formal briefings, use of both formal and informal communication means and other common war-fighting command and control techniques are well suited to peace support operations. They have application not only within a multi-national military force but also at the civil-military interface. There it is critical that the military does not attempt to force military solutions on their civilian partners. Military commanders and staff should always carefully analyze the circumstances found in their unique theatre of operations and attempt to develop mutually acceptable coordination and cooperation mechanisms with their civilian partners.
It is Essential to Identify the Key Communication Links within all Agencies and Nurture the Capabilities to use them for the Required Purposes at the Appropriate Time.
- Who is Important in Theatre? There will be lots of people from a wide variety of organizations who will want to communicate with military commanders and their principle staff officers. Only a few of these people will be keys to effective action within the peace support theatre of operation. It is essential that those personnel are quickly identified and that a good professional working relationship is developed with them as soon as possible – they do not have to be your friends.
- Are there Other Key Points of Contact? In the United Nations, lead-nation and contributing nations to a military coalition, there will be key contacts with decision making authority who you may need to reach quickly in critical situations. It is vital that you identify them ahead of time and establish a clear communications link for future use if an emergency situation develops which would involve them.
Well-crafted Training can be a Command and Control Enabler.
- Key command and control issues should be introduced early in the training program.
- Comprehension of all aspects of the UN mission, specific tasks for the military force and standard operating procedures should be a key training objective.
- Training to ensure comprehension of Rules of Engagement and Use of Force issues can enhance the effectiveness of the military component initially and throughout the mission.
- Cultural sensitivity and awareness can be developed in training sessions before an operation.
- Involvement of the Force Commander is essential to achieve command and control training success.
Positive Utilization of the Power of Media. One of the most powerful communication tools available for use in a peace support operation are the media. The media are not a peacekeeping partner in the manner in which you would look at the military or a humanitarian organization. However, the media will certainly always be a player at critical times and can have a significant impact on the ultimate success or failure of any peace support operation. Military commanders and spokespersons must develop the skills necessary to use the power of the press in a positive manner – making them a force multiplier in peace operations.
The Importance of Effective Briefings. A good briefing can be invaluable developing understanding not only within a multi-national force but also with the people and organizations surrounding it. Good briefings are an effective means of educating both subordinates and superiors and are an ideal conduit to provide the rationale for a decision already made or perhaps more importantly for a decision or action about to be taken. The effects of poor briefings on critical issues can be catastrophic.
Coordination and Cooperation of Civilian Agencies
The eight principles above, identified as being vital to establishing effective military command and control, are also applicable - with minor modification - in achieving efficient cooperation and coordination between all civilian agencies involved with a peace support operation. It goes without saying that these principles also apply in the process of creating and operating a civil-military interface that will work well.
Creating an Effective Civil-Military Interface
Throughout the seminar, considerable discussion took place on the vital issue of generating and maintaining an effective civil-military interface. From the military perspective, in order to generate a cooperative civil military environment, and one that would result in a well-coordinated overall effort of all the agencies involved with a peace support operation, the following considerations were thought to be paramount:
- Recognizing that diplomatic and other civilian efforts may be as important, if not more important, than the military effort in achieving overall mission success.
- Developing a mutual understanding of the legitimate tasks, capabilities and limitations of all the partners involved with the peace support operation is an essential process.
- Realizing that some support to civil components needs can be a major force multiplier in achieving primary military objectives which are normally security related.
- Understanding that military commanders will need to make informed decisions on all civil-military matters if the military are to effectively contribute to overall mission success.
- Comprehending that in most circumstances the mission will not be able to accomplish all the military and civilian tasks imposed by the mandate in the desired time frame.
- Establishing priorities for appropriate military involvement in civilian-led activities will be a key process.
Mission Transition - A Critical C4 Period
The seminar-game scenario utilized a United Nations-sanctioned, lead-nation, multinational military force structure that operated parallel to an existing UN mission, ala Afghanistan circa 2002. This structure was used to allow the problem of military transition to a United Nations generated, led and funded force to be examined in detail. Seminar participants highlighted the following as C4 issues needing attention during such a transition period:
- The operational environment will change – a new mission mandate and military tasks must be carefully developed to ensure they are appropriate for the new operational setting.
Effective early planning requires key assumptions be made.
- Suitable C4 arrangements and associated communication mechanisms need to be established early.
- Continuous coordination between the new Force, the Multi-National Force in place, the United Nations and all the nations involved is essential during this period.
- Re-evaluation of the need for a Chapter VI or VII mandate is a critical factor.
- Changes to Use of Force regulations must be
- Rules of Engagement issues can be a difficult part
- Support arrangements (logistics, finance, personnel, etc) will all be different in a UN-led force.
- Some key Multi-National Force staff should remain in place for a period of time in order to provide continuity in critical areas.
- The Multi-National Force Commander should not stay.
- Command and control relationships are critical to success. In a United Nations-led Force these may be understood differently and may need to be renegotiated.
- Transfer of authority must be carefully managed.
- A greater degree of internationalization will occur in the new United Nations-led force.
- Training standards, interoperability, communications and language may be problems.
- A reconnaissance of the mission area is essential for new United Nations military leaders and key staff members.
- Detailed briefings from in-place military leaders and staff are essential.
Keys to Successful C4 in Peace Support Operations
After a week of detailed examination of command, control, coordination and cooperation issues in peace support operations, seminar participants unanimously agreed that C4 plays a central and vital role in achieving success at every stage in the evolution of a United Nations mission.
Communicating effectively in the broadest sense was clearly the core element to achieving effective C4. In order to communicate effectively, the right C4 mechanisms for the situation at hand need to be in place. Establishing effective C4 in any United Nations peace support operation will be dependent on open and continuous dialogue with all parties, careful and continuous analysis of the operating environment, thorough comprehension of the roles and tasks of all agencies, detailed planning, effective training, transparency of intent and execution and effective leadership at all levels.