Official Highlights DoD Role in Supporting Global Stabilization Efforts


The Defense Department has redefined its goals in global stabilization and security efforts and is focusing on transitional, small-scale stabilization working by, with and through its partners, a defense official said today.

Mark Swayne, deputy assistant to the secretary of defense for stabilization and humanitarian affairs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, participated in the keynote plenary on the Stabilization Assistance Review at a stabilization symposium held at George Washington University.

The Stabilization Assistance Review is an interagency effort with the State Department, the U.S. Agency for International Development and DoD to identify ways the United States can leverage diplomatic engagement, defense and foreign assistance to stabilize conflict-affected areas.

The review took place last year; the secretaries of State and Defense and the administrator of USAID signed it in February.

‘Redoubling Efforts’ With Partner Elements

Swayne pointed out DoD is not the lead agency in stabilization efforts, but rather it supports efforts of the State Department and USAID. The effort supports the objective in the National Defense Strategy to enable U.S. interagency counterparts to advance U.S. influence and interests, he said.

“We are redoubling our efforts to make sure that we are a good partner working with the other elements,” Swayne said, “because whenever we have an area where we deploy, soldiers, sailors, airmen [and] Marines, we want to make sure that any victories or any gains that they make on the ground are sustained.”

He added, “Working with our interagency colleagues will do that.” For example, he noted, USAID and State Department personnel are being supported in northeastern Syria by DoD elements.

Seeking Small-Scale Stabilization Ability

DoD lacks a global authority to conduct stabilization activities on its own, Swayne said, adding that DoD has asked Congress to give the department small-scale stabilization ability.

After the defeat in 2016 of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in Manbij, Syria, DoD personnel were the only U.S. government officials on the ground there. DoD could have started a stabilization effort and then handed it over to State or USAID, if DoD had the authority, he explained.

DoD’s new stabilization policy, which is a revision of DoD Directive 3000.05, clarifies DoD’s core responsibilities during stabilization as security, basic public order and the immediate needs of the population, he said. If proposed fiscal year 2019 legislation is enacted, DoD will establish a Defense Support to Stabilization program and a program office at the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, he said.

The $25 million fiscal year 2019 DSS program would take advantage of existing interagency mechanisms and information technology infrastructure to ensure efficient and effective program execution, according to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. Stabilization activities are separate from humanitarian assistance, the office points out.

Those activities may include efforts to establish civil security, provide access to dispute resolution mechanisms, deliver targeted basic services and establish a foundation for the voluntary return of displaced people, DoD officials said.

(Follow Lisa Ferdinando on Twitter: @FerdinandoDoD)