"Untapped Resources" for Building Security from the Ground Up

By Viva Bartkus Joint Force Quarterly 93

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Dr. Viva Bartkus is an Associate Professor of Management at the University of Notre Dame. This article would not have been possible without the extensive collaboration of Professor Emily Block, Mr. Mike Nevens, and Lieutenant General Charles Cleveland, USA (Ret.).

Despite presence of armed forces in Honduras, children rarely leave home, even during daytime, and gangs restrict families’ movements by imposing “invisible borders” between gang territories, 2016 (EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations/Antonio Aragón Renuncio)
Despite presence of armed forces in Honduras, children rarely leave home, even during daytime, and gangs restrict families’ movements by imposing “invisible borders” between gang territories, 2016 (EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations/Antonio Aragón Renuncio)
Despite presence of armed forces in Honduras, children rarely leave home, even during daytime, and gangs restrict families’ movements by imposing “invisible borders” between gang territories, 2016 (EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations/Antonio Aragón Renuncio)
Despite presence of armed forces in Honduras, children rarely leave home, even during daytime, and gangs restrict families’ movements by imposing “invisible borders” between gang territories, 2016 (EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations/Antonio Aragón Renuncio)
Despite presence of armed forces in Honduras, children rarely leave home, even during daytime, and gangs restrict families’ movements by imposing “invisible borders” between gang territories, 2016 (EU Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations/Antonio Aragón Renuncio)
Photo By: Antonio Aragon Renuncio
VIRIN: 190507-D-BD104-007

We knew we were winning when gang leaders started quietly sending their sons and younger brothers to us for jobs.

—Command Sergeant Major Joff Celleri, USA
7th Special Forces Group
San Pedro Sula, Honduras, 2014

Drug cartels and gangs have made Honduras one of the most violent places on Earth. The success of U.S. maritime interdiction operations in the Caribbean has pushed narcotraffickers to adopt strategic land transport routes through Central America, contributing to high levels of gang violence in San Pedro Sula and instability in the Aguan Valley in northern Honduras. The clearest indication of just how bad the Honduran security situation has become is that mothers are sending their 8-year-olds unaccompanied on “the Beast” through Mexico for merely the chance of a better life in the United States. Asked by U.S. Theater Special Operations Command–South in 2014 to develop a more comprehensive theater security plan, Soldiers from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) launched an unconventional partnership with American and Honduran business leaders to generate new and different options. Eighteen months of intense collaboration revealed not only striking insights but also obstacles for the theater security plan. Based on the experience in Honduras and ongoing research, this article argues that, under certain conditions, combatant commands should develop theater security plans that seek cooperation with business from the onset. It further contends that by working with local, national, and multinational businesses, the U.S. military could access former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’s “untapped resources beyond the U.S. Government”1 to create a powerful self-sustaining force to enhance security.

This article has three objectives. First, it examines the implications of the current security threats, described by the 2018 National Defense Strategy as “more complex and volatile than what we have experienced in recent memory.”2 Although civilian-military cooperation is not a new idea, more recent joint doctrine and the Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning (JCIC) expands the U.S. military role in economic security, particularly in areas outside of traditional armed conflict. Second, it argues that successful execution of such an expanded economic security role will require the U.S. military to overcome multiple challenges. When practice in the field attempts to match joint doctrine, the results are rarely effective and sustainable. Moreover, the urgency of theater campaigns prevents military planners from developing environment insights from outside collaborators in the private sector. Third, it describes the USASOC experience in Honduras and other ongoing research to draw out lessons learned about who, when, where, and perhaps most critically, how such unconventional alliances with business should be piloted in the future. If it stimulates debate, it will meet the author’s intent.

The U.S. Military Role in Economic Security

Although by no means exhaustive, the following joint publications (JPs) imply a significant economic security role for the U.S. military:

  • JP 3-20, Security Cooperation
  • JP 3-08, Interorganizational Cooperation
  • JP 3-03, Joint Interdiction
  • JP 3-07, Stability
  • JP 3-29, Foreign Humanitarian Assistance
  • JP 3-57, Civil-Military Operations
  • JP 3-28, Defense Support of Civil Authorities
  • JP 3-07.3, Peace Operations.3

The 2017 National Security Strategy dictated that “to prevail, we must integrate all elements of America’s national power—political, economic, and military . . . the United States must develop new concepts and capabilities to protect our homeland, advance our prosperity, and preserve peace.”4 JP 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States, defines instruments of national power as diplomatic, informational, military, and economic.5 As a matter of course, military campaigns already enforce economic restrictions in the case of sanctions, embargoes, and no-fly zones. Yet civil-military cooperation can also assist in positive objectives such as economic development.

The expansion of U.S. military responsibility into economic security initiatives rests on extensive academic and field research. Leading scholars have shown how economic growth diminishes the threat of war, while poverty and hopelessness create the underlying conditions for conflict.6 Evidence from cross-country analysis demonstrates that societies where work is valued and available show higher rates of satisfaction and indicators of welfare and lower rates of violence and conflict. One of the multiple ways business provides a stabilizing force is that large-scale economic activity absorbs disenfranchised young men who may otherwise gravitate toward violence in the absence of other viable opportunities.7 Moreover, thriving businesses and markets provide the opportunity for the formation of networks, norms, and trust among members of previously warring tribes, ethnicities, and religious groups. Business provides a safe haven to develop social capital among members of different communities, which could then provide the glue to hold together societies when the inevitable triggers of violence occur.8

Under most conditions, the Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) take the lead responsibility for economic initiatives, with combatant commanders mainly rendering support. U.S. military cooperation with USAID is extensively codified.9 Under certain circumstances, however, combatant commanders must take the lead responsibility for economic measures. These circumstances include when hazardous security conditions prevent the work of civilian humanitarian aid organizations. Such circumstances also rest on the support of the chief of mission. To illustrate, combatant commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan utilized special operations forces (SOF), Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs), and the Commander’s Emergency Response Program (CERP) for economic reconstruction priorities. As a consequence, as one SOF general officer commented:

With the recent approval by the Chairman of the Joint Concept for Integrated Campaigning, I consider critical economic efforts as an example of the new roles the U.S. military will have to play outside of traditional armed conflict. . . . In other words, how can the U.S. military work itself out of a job earlier and achieve real strategic success in these human centric conflicts that have become the norm for the first part of this century? . . . We need a well-built intellectual bridge between war and peace and business is one of the key spans that needs building.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses crowd after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader known as Timoleón Jiménez signed peace accord, September 26, 2016 (U.S. State Department)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses crowd after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader known as Timoleón Jiménez signed peace accord, September 26, 2016 (U.S. State Department)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses crowd after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader known as Timoleón Jiménez signed peace accord, September 26, 2016 (U.S. State Department)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses crowd after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader known as Timoleón Jiménez signed peace accord, September 26, 2016 (U.S. State Department)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon addresses crowd after Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and FARC leader known as Timoleón Jiménez signed peace accord, September 26, 2016 (U.S. State Department)
Photo By: U.S. State Department
VIRIN: 190507-D-BD104-006

Challenges: Addressing Who, When, and Where

The question is no longer why the U.S. military should take an economic security role, but rather why it is not executing on that role better. The first of two obstacles to overcome is that even when commanders attempt to execute against their economic security responsibilities, more often than not they do not achieve their long-term stabilizing objectives. In areas under threat of conflict, USAID and other aid programs rarely generate sustained economic impact; only business generates long-term sustainable economic activity. Indeed, achievement of long-term strategic goals of regional stability requires the substitution of business self-interest for the goodwill of USAID-funded projects.

To illustrate the challenge, take the Village Stability Operations (VSOs) in Afghanistan. VSOs embedded small teams of Soldiers into strategically important villages to coordinate initiatives to improve local governance, protect communities where they live, and enable economic development. There is no more thoughtful analysis of such operations than David Kilcullen’s regarding what he christened as the “Kunar model.”10 His insights rest on the program of road construction in Kunar in 2006–2008, which integrated local civilian and military leaders and coordinated overlapping initiatives in establishing good governance, protecting local populations, and economic development. Directly engaging local communities in planning, construction, and even protection of the road mattered more than the road itself. The process of building the road improved governance and established trust. That trust encouraged more cooperation by previously wavering populations, and thus ultimately improved security.

Critics of VSOs quickly attacked Kilcullen’s model as a failure. Despite some $80 million in USAID funds for road construction and development, the Kunar security situation deteriorated rapidly after 2008.11 What this debate missed was the question of how to make the security gains sustainable beyond the completion of the Kunar road or comparable efforts. Many observers acknowledged the importance of ongoing funding for such initiatives. However, improvements in the security situation last only as long as the economic activity necessary for increased employment. Economic activities like the Kunar road construction funded by USAID are, by their very definition, unsustainable. American taxpayers will not continue to fund such projects indefinitely; at some point their goodwill will run out. Once the funding ends, so does the associated economic activity. Once the economic activity ends, so does its inherent stabilization through the employment of military-aged males. Unlike USAID funds to build a road or similar projects, the approach proposed here emphasizes business opportunities that will earn sufficient revenues and profits to generate self-funding operations. Once again, only business generates long-term, sustainable economic activity.

The second obstacle is that even though JP 5-0, Joint Planning, and JCIC direct commanders to develop a comprehensive understanding of the environment prior to framing the problem and ultimately planning the theater campaign, experience in the field indicates that, more often than not, planners fall short of doctrine. The pressures on integrated campaign planning are such that adding another critical element such as business is unlikely to gain widespread adoption. This extra effort—expanding beyond traditional community development methodologies to assessing sustainable business opportunities and building ongoing business relationships in the field—will not be warranted everywhere. The upfront investment in skills and time would be too great. And thus, it is critical that the conditions for such an expansion of the concept of “joint” be specified and circumscribed. Such an incremental investment of time and personnel should only be made when “the juice is worth the squeeze.”

Thus, the approach to business from the onset of campaign planning must be part of a larger enduring U.S. military commitment to the region. The decades-long commitment to Plan Colombia would certainly be a case in point. Arguably, the greatest challenge facing the Colombia Peace Accord is the reincorporation of Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) ex-combatants into Colombian society and the economy. For that, hundreds, perhaps thousands, of FARC-EP ex-guerrillas need jobs. It is a race to establish livelihoods in the resettlement zones before the FARC-EP melts back into the jungle to narcotrafficking, extortion, and other criminal activities.

Moreover, those commanders who employ Security Force Assistance Brigades (SFABs) or SOF elements should take the lead in reaching out to local and international business, as they possess both the authorities and the skills. When security concerns prevent civilian nongovernmental organization (NGO) economic development efforts, the U.S. military taking the lead in economic security initiatives is critical. Without doubt, the most critical condition is the chief of mission’s endorsement.

Challenges: Addressing How

In the design of integrated campaigning, the JCIC expands the operating environment by showing when and where additional allies are needed across the competition continuum below armed conflict. It begins with a recognition that both military and nonmilitary activities are essential to achieve acceptable political goals; military power alone is insufficient. Following through on critical economic initiatives can serve to “improve,” “counter,” and “contest” competition below armed conflict. JCIC lays out a disciplined approach for working with nonmilitary powers.

Yet for all its comprehensiveness, the JCIC provides remarkably little direction to combatant commanders on how to improve understanding of the operational environment such that they achieve “empathy” with all actors in the sector or how to harness the economic instruments of national power. The USASOC experience of working with business in Honduras on the theater security plan illustrates valuable lessons. The bottom line is that generating transformative options for long-term security through partnerships with business requires sustained commitment, coproduction of strategies between business and the U.S. military, and investment in novel capabilities.

Self-interest drives business. As Adam Smith declared over 200 years ago in the Wealth of Nations, “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own self-interest. We address ourselves not to their humanity but to their self-love, and never talk to them of our own necessities, but of their advantages.” Business expects each individual to determine and pursue his or her own personal self-interest.

In its most basic definition, business produces and sells goods and services within an economic system of markets for goods, labor, and capital. Motivated by profit, every business requires both some form of investment and customers who value its production. Besides increasing employment, business also creates webs of relationships with employees, bankers, customers, and suppliers. It provides a legitimate avenue in society for the ambitious to advance—those with energy, foresight, and willingness to take risks, and launch and build businesses. If these profitable avenues are closed, such individuals could develop into leaders of illicit networks.

One implication from these business observations is that, although many factors contribute to understanding the operating environment, the rapid expansion or widespread collapse of businesses in an economic sector can serve as a leading indicator of potential instability. The contention here is that opening the aperture to include the interest and perspectives of business can generate such insights and thus strengthen combatant commanders’ integrated campaign planning across the continuum of competition.

“The Honduras Play”

In 2013, USASOC launched a pilot program to develop creative approaches to security. As its initial civilian partner, USASOC chose the University of Notre Dame’s interdisciplinary Business on the Frontlines (BOTFL) program. Over the previous decade and across 30 countries, BOTFL students and faculty had worked with local companies and multinational corporations such as General Electric and Newmont Mining, international humanitarian organizations such as Mercy Corps and World Vision, and the local Catholic Church to harness the dynamism of business in rebuilding war-torn societies before they tip back into conflict. Although other business schools work in developing economies, Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business was chosen for its focus on and success with the business and economics of conflict, asking more of business to build peace and prosperity. To this unique partnership with USASOC, Notre Dame faculty and BOTFL alumni civilian volunteers brought their business expertise and relationships from their employment at Intel, Amazon, United Airlines, PricewaterhouseCoopers, private equity/venture capital firms, and the Special Olympics. USASOC commanders asked the joint team to explore whether it was possible to overcome the staggering differences in process, mindset, and even language to foster military-business cooperation.

To address the Theater Special Operations Command–South objective to develop unconventional options for the theater security plan, a team of 13 Soldiers and 8 civilians was commissioned. The Honduras premission preparation was different from conventional approaches: not only crossing traditional boundaries within the U.S. Army but also consciously blurring the lines between military and civilian teammates. More specifically, Soldiers immersed themselves in introductory finance, accounting, operations, and marketing at Notre Dame, as well as international law and peace studies. The team then proceeded to Silicon Valley, where it immediately utilized its new business skills both to work with senior high-tech executives on consulting projects and to launch its own e-commerce businesses, ultimately pitching its business ideas to venture capitalists. One key takeaway from this experience was that most Soldiers have limited experience of what it takes to run a successful business. As one seasoned Silicon Valley private equity investor relayed after meeting with the Soldiers, “Their dedication, commitment, and hard work immediately earned my respect. But their questions on business were beyond naïve.” Without a better understanding of this major part of society, Soldiers will not imagine the possible common ground with potential business partners during their toughest deployments, let alone possess the language and facility to build necessary relationships.

The joint team spent real time together developing a common language to foster civil-military dialogue and to identify opportunities. Commanders gave the joint team the freedom to identify knowledge gaps and then seek expertise to address them. To illustrate, recognizing their own ignorance regarding the inner workings of major Honduran gangs, the joint team interviewed incarcerated gang members in Los Angeles prisons and the Catholic priests who are working toward rehabilitating them. The Soldiers traveled to Los Angeles thinking about security threats, while the business civilians were simultaneously thinking about jobs for young uneducated men. The interviews revealed how both possessed an inaccurate lens to analyze the underlying problems. More specifically, gang members described how their criminal participation involved far more about identity, which the Catholic priests further corroborated by identifying tattoo removal as the highest priority for rehabilitation. And thus, the joint team uncovered critical insights into the operating environment that would have proved impossible for either business or the Soldiers independently.

Marine Corps landing support specialist with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force–Southern Command guides CH-53E Super Stallion on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, July 10, 2015 (U.S. Marine Corps)
Marine Corps landing support specialist with Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force–Southern Command guides CH-53E Super Stallion on Soto Cano Air Base, Honduras, July 10, 2015 (U.S. Marine Corps/Abraham Lopez) Photo by Lance Cpl. Abraham Lopez

Despite the violence in San Pedro Sula and the Aguan Valley, local businessmen and expatriate Hondurans in Miami described exciting business prospects. However, the security risks associated with operating in either region essentially prohibited investment. As one potential investor in San Pedro Sula put it, “Why invest in a business when any extra profits will just be extorted?” The region presents a catch-22: Businesses could contribute to stability and economic alternatives to the illicit drug trade, but the region needed security in order to entice investment.

What the joint team found was that although the basic business investment equation balancing risk and return was correct, the math was wrong. Through collaborative approaches that reinforced security, governance, infrastructure, and information transparency of markets, Soldiers and business could make the security cost side of the investment equation variable, not fixed. As a consequence, investment opportunities could become more attractive than business leaders currently believe. The joint team’s insights revealed key unrealized benefits for both partners. For businesses, those who contribute to enhanced security in unstable environments would earn decisive advantages and, ultimately, profits. For the U.S. military, these businesses represented potential partners who embody a persistent presence and stabilizing force.

To test these insights further, the joint team proposed novel mission plans. First, it launched innovative security plus business initiatives to take back one barrio in San Pedro Sula in a sustainable fashion from criminal gang domination. Second, it leveraged agriculture and tourism opportunities in the north coast to strengthen peasant farmers, campesinos, to withstand pressure from sophisticated narcotrafficking organizations. Indeed, before embarking on this unique effort, few military leaders would have predicted that Soldiers would be working alongside investors in textiles, agriculture, and tourism industries, for example. Nevertheless, textiles, farming, tourism, and Soldiers share critical common ground around security.

In San Pedro Sula, the focus was on tying together the existing, courageous “points of light” in Honduran society to reinforce governance, security, and economic initiatives. Coordinating the efforts of leaders in vocational training, micro-finance, civic, and religious organizations not only supported the safety, functioning, and transparency of markets for goods, services, and lending but also created nascent and informal community governance structures. Solidifying the local market for labor quickly became the priority to enabling the private sector to hire suitable young men and giving them a reason to invest in themselves and their communities.

Over time, however, the joint team’s thinking evolved regarding how to drive a wedge between communities and criminals. SOF expertise was critical to undercut the appeal of gangs and narcotraffickers, discredit their messages to young people, expose their motives, and convince the rest of the population to voluntarily hand over, or at minimum, isolate those who intimidate them. Yet the challenges of local law enforcement to protect Hondurans were deeply rooted and substantial. One junior police officer inadvertently described the challenge: “When both my wife and I need to go to work, the girlfriend of the gang leader living next door looks after our kids.” Although such efforts were constantly daunted by local corruption, these capacity-building initiatives relied on investments in police training and equipment to overcome significant structural barriers.

Nevertheless, without the help of their civilian business teammates, the Soldiers did not perceive how they could multiply the impact of their security initiatives through associated business decisions. In a relatively simple example, the San Pedro Sula police force required new uniforms. A team member, a senior noncommissioned officer, immediately phoned the U.S. Army’s 7th Special Forces Group headquarters in Florida to requisition the necessary uniforms. His business teammates counseled otherwise. Honduras has a longstanding textile industry with skilled tailors and seamstresses producing low-cost apparel for the American market. Why not purchase the police uniforms from local textile companies? The large-scale order would encourage these local businesses toward more production, with the second- and third-order effects being increased employment, wage payment, and local consumption.

In the north coast, the joint team ran straight into another example of the instability associated with the rapid collapse of a region’s major industry. More specifically, African palm oil production dominates the local economy. However, in recent years, the two largest global producers, Malaysia and Indonesia, have dumped their production on international markets, thereby causing the price for African palm oil to collapse below what the campesinos need to feed their families. As a consequence of domestic political decisions taken by governments on the other side of the world, hundreds of campesinos in northern Honduras were thrown out of work. Yet northern Honduras has a significant competitive advantage: the natural deep-water port in Trujillo. The race for the team then became to enable the campesinos’ transition to new and more profitable export crops through tying them into the global food supply chain by building relationships with U.S. agricultural multinational companies.

It is critical to stress that in this pilot program, Soldiers did not and would not pick individual business winners and losers. They spent zero money, unlike the millions of dollars spent through the PRTs and CERP. Rather, the value of this initiative lay, first, in the diagnosis of the root causes of problems; second, in proposing solutions to test; and third, in assisting Soldiers to develop fledgling relationships with new local allies in business.

As benefits the world of gray in which the joint team operated, its solutions were far from elegant. They were messy, precarious, and pragmatic. All depended on the trust developed with local Hondurans based on working side by side. Local and international businesses proved quite willing to “fail fast.” They experimented with new initiatives, rewarded those employees who identified failures quickly, and then remedied them on the ground.

Ultimately, business demands simple metrics to track its performance in the marketplace. By analogy, the measures of effectiveness for this joint team and its successors were equally straightforward: reduction in violence, employment of young men, and increased local livelihoods.

Navy engineman, attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron, discusses navigation with Honduran servicemembers during Southern Partnership Station 2014 (U.S. Navy/Rafael Martie)
Navy engineman, attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron, discusses navigation with Honduran servicemembers during Southern Partnership Station 2014 (U.S. Navy/Rafael Martie)
Navy engineman, attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron, discusses navigation with Honduran servicemembers during Southern Partnership Station 2014 (U.S. Navy/Rafael Martie)
Navy engineman, attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron, discusses navigation with Honduran servicemembers during Southern Partnership Station 2014 (U.S. Navy/Rafael Martie)
Navy engineman, attached to Coastal Riverine Squadron, discusses navigation with Honduran servicemembers during Southern Partnership Station 2014 (U.S. Navy/Rafael Martie)
Photo By: Rafael Martie
VIRIN: 190507-D-BD104-004

Conclusion

The USASOC experience in Honduras indicates that to build security from below, this alliance between the U.S. military and business must tip the scales to improve the risk-return calculation associated with business investment. It must also provide the security return on the investment of the military’s resources and time. Operating in unstable environments presents business with additional costs such as employee protection, work stoppages, and extortion. High security costs push potential business expansions into unprofitability. Yet in Honduras, the scales needed only to be tipped modestly, through reducing security costs, to encourage those investors already contemplating new business launches to make the required investments. Except in rare circumstances, however, business alone cannot affect the needed security for economic expansion. Thus, when developing theater security campaigns, the U.S. military will find powerful and willing local allies in business in enhancing security from the ground up.

For the U.S. military, the first steps toward forging such a civilian alliance will require no more resources or personnel. The approach does require a shift in mindset, training, and planning. Conversion of common ground into alliance will require combatant commanders to open the aperture when assessing the facts on the ground in order to imagine new possibilities, identify and approach potential new business allies, and jointly develop creative approaches to enhancing security.

Commanders who employ SFABs and SOF should take the lead to seek cooperation with business at the onset of their campaign planning. Implementation will require at least two phases of partnering. First, when developing theater security campaigns, business partners like BOTFL bring to bear problem-solving, data-gathering, analysis, and creativity to identify and frame business opportunities and figure out why these business opportunities are not being pursued already. Second, once the business opportunities are clear, attention turns to building relationships with civilian partners—such as local business, NGOs, and multinational corporations—that possess the required skills and resources to pursue them. As business ventures drive self-funding operations through earning revenues and profits and provide jobs for military-aged men, they represent a powerful self-sustaining force to enhance security.

Theater security campaigns aligning security and business efforts must be focused to be successful. Furthermore, this approach works if (and only if) macro-governance issues are at some minimum workable level. Some rule of law, currency stability, and functioning civic infrastructure are necessary preconditions. Few businesses can function in the middle of an insurgency or civil war. Moreover, this approach requires consistent policy, unity of effort, and long-term commitment; it takes longer than 6 months to build a business. Similarly, such theater security campaigns require multiple rotations to make security gains sustainable. Without coordination of innovative governance, security, and business efforts, adversaries will simply attempt to co-opt local businesses for their nefarious ends. Yet all the efforts of the U.S. military toward improved governance and security will be wasted unless businesses are created both to provide jobs to disenfranchised young men and to build social capital among communities.

If the conversion of mutual self-interest in security into a viable alliance with business had been easy, the U.S. military would have already accomplished it. The USASOC experiment in Honduras ran into a number of obstacles. Many the joint team overcame, but some proved insurmountable. More specifically, the question of legal authorities consumed the attention of not a small number of judges advocate general, although in the end they did secure the necessary authorities. By contrast, this novel alliance did not survive the retirement of critical commanders. Business leaders build their enterprises for the long term and expect their partners to be there. It is beyond the scope of this article to address the disconnect between the U.S. military’s promotion, command, and mobility cycles and the need for a longer term relationship with businesses on the ground. Perhaps it suffices to point out that the JCIC acknowledges this dilemma: “Improvements in relationships occur over long periods of time. Therefore, they are often undervalued when measured on an event-by-event cost-benefit basis.”

Yet in the long term, the most significant obstacle to adopting such a novel expansion of the concept of “joint” may be overcoming the U.S. military’s bureaucratic risk-averse culture. From an external perspective as a partner who usually works at the speed of business, the sheer number of roadblocks—what one general officer called the “undeciders”—was striking. Simply getting the joint team into Honduras with some flexibility of maneuver was no small achievement.

The best reason for the U.S. military to embrace this proposed creative approach to theater security campaigning and seek alliances with business is that when this works, we will not have to fight our way in to secure strategically critical areas again and again. Working with business on integrated campaigning must be a focused part of a larger enduring commitment to the region by the U.S. military. As one SOF general officer commented, “10 percent are just the bad guys. Leave them for my 75th Ranger Regiment.” For the other 90 percent, all but the most vile adversaries are probably reconcilable under some conditions. The dignity associated with a good day’s work in local businesses represents one of those critical conditions. Indeed, the joint team charted its progress in Honduras once gang leaders began to quietly send their little brothers and sons to local businesses for jobs, as those jobs represented a way out of gang life. JFQ

Notes

1 Secretary of Defense Robert Gates speech (2008), “We as a nation must devote more resources to what has been called ‘soft power,’ the elements of national power beyond the guns and steel of the military—from diplomacy to economic development and assistance, institution-building, strategic communications, and more. One of the keys to this effort, I believe . . . is to find untapped resources outside of government.”

2 Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America: Sharpening the American Military’s Competitive Edge (Washington, DC: Department of Defense, 2018).

3 Joint Publication (JP) 3-20, Security Cooperation (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, May 23, 2017); JP 3-08, Interorganizational Cooperation (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, October 12, 2016); JP 3-03, Joint Interdiction (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, September 9, 2016); JP 3-07, Stability (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, August 3, 2016); JP 3-29, Foreign Humanitarian Assistance (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, January 3, 2014); JP 3-57, Civil-Military Operations (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, September 11, 2013); JP 3-28, Defense Support of Civil Authorities (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, July 31, 2013); and JP 3-07.3, Peace Operations (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, August 1, 2012).

4 Summary of the 2018 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America.

5 JP 1, Doctrine for the Armed Forces of the United States (Washington, DC: The Joint Staff, March 25, 2013, Incorporating Change 1, July 12, 2017).

6 Paul Collier, The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries Are Failing and What Can Be Done About It (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007).

7 Jan Osburg et al., Assessing Locally Focused Stability Operations (Washington, DC: RAND, 2014).

8 James Coleman, Foundations of Social Theory (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1990).

9 USAID Policy on Cooperation with Department of Defense (Washington, DC: U.S. Agency for International Development, 2015).

10 David Kilcullen, The Accidental Guerrilla: Fighting Small Wars in the Midst of a Big One (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).

11 Gilles Dorronsoro, Afghanistan: The Impossible Mission (Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 2011).