– Executive Summary –

State and local jurisdictions have been challenged to develop comprehensive homeland security strategies. While progress has been made since 9/​11, many improvements have centered on disaster prevention and response. Other areas of homeland security lack consensus in methodology, and leaders employ a wide variety of methods to protect citizens.

Perhaps homeland security agencies need not reinvent the wheel. The U.S. military has developed a formal methodology for stabilizing foreign environments across the range of conflict. Stability operations strategy is unique in military strategy, as it emphasizes collaboration with community stakeholders to restore order. The strategy provides a framework for balancing conventional military power with cooperative initiatives. Stability operations strategy has been examined throughout numerous foreign deployments, and is designed to address systemic issues with a long-term commitment of resources. Given these traits, stability operations strategy can be a useful approach toward unifying homeland security initiatives.

According to the U.S. Army’s stability operations field manual, the strategy is designed to synchronize, coordinate, and integrate civil, government, and military operations.[1] The military uses civil affairs personnel to execute stabilization strategy. Their job can be described as armed social work—building relationships with public and private stakeholders to achieve stability objectives. The U.S. Army’s civil affairs field manual also describes its suitability for supporting domestic authorities within the United States.[2] Indeed, contemporary homeland security efforts demonstrate significant civil-military collaboration in supporting domestic authorities. Given this precedent and the desire for community-focused policies, civil affairs’ execution of stability operations strategy is most relevant for homeland security consideration.

The pursuit of domestic tranquility is undoubtedly complex. Stability operations strategy suggests organizing homeland security efforts toward specific objectives: unity of effort, conflict transformation, legitimacy and rule of law, and security interests. Civil affairs’ twelve principles of joint operations also provide a strategic guide for state and local homeland security initiatives:

  1. Objective: ensure stakeholders share a clearly defined and attainable purpose supporting primary stability tasks.
  2. Offensive: maintain the initiative toward addressing systemic issues.
  3. Mass: leverage the benefits of collective capability from a wider spectrum of resources.
  4. Economy of force: prioritize resources toward key objectives, with fewer assets dedicated to secondary efforts.
  5. Maneuver: shift collaborative resources to support homeland security objectives.
  6. Unity of command: for every activity, ensure a clearly defined organizational command structure.
  7. Security: prevention efforts should prepare for the unexpected, and respond to critical incidents.
  8. Surprise: be creatively proactive in protecting and engaging the public.
  9. Simplicity: stability operations strategy for homeland security should be clear and uncomplicated.
  10. Perseverance: ensure practitioners have the commitment necessary to achieve homeland security objectives.
  11. Legitimacy: develop rapport with the community to help maintain stable neighborhoods.
  12. Restraint: emphasize institutional patience, and balance use of force with soft power strategies.[3]

Some communities do not feel their government responds adequately to their needs. In these cases, the twelve principles may provide some clarity for evaluating existing methods. Many jurisdictions continue to search for a strategy to unify homeland security efforts and meet public expectations. Leaders should innovate and adapt existing models rather than invent anew.

Stability operations strategy provides a reasonable blueprint for organizing collaborative homeland security efforts into six primary stability task sectors: civil security, civil control, essential services, support to governance, support to economic and infrastructure development, and information management.

Current approaches to homeland security should be improved. Given these demands, stability operations strategy offers a template for engaging communities and developing partnerships for homeland security initiatives. Particularly given continued trends toward civil-military collaboration, the commonalities between stability operations strategy and homeland security initiatives are worth considering in state and local jurisdictions.


Department of the Army. Civil Affairs Operations (FM 3-57). Washington, DC: Department of the Army, October 2011. http://armypubs.army.mil/​doctrine/​DR_pubs/​dr_a/​pdf/​fm3_57.pdf.

———. Stability Operations (FM 3-07). Washington, DC: Department of the Army, October 2008. http://usacac.army.mil/​cac2/​repository/​FM307/​FM3-07.pdf.

[1] Department of the Army, Stability Operations (FM 3-07) (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, October 2008), http://usacac.army.mil/​cac2/​repository/​FM307/​FM3-07.pdf.

[2] Department of the Army, Civil Affairs Operations (FM 3-57) (Washington, DC: Department of the Army, October 2011), http://armypubs.army.mil/​doctrine/​DR_pubs/​dr_a/​pdf/​fm3_57.pdf.

[3] These are adapted from the twelve principles of joint operations found in Department of the Army, Civil Affairs Operations (FM 3-57), 1-8 – 1-11.

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