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Peacetime Contingency Operations

. . . to attain this end it is necessary to . . . avoid all passive and inflexible methods.
Mao Tse Tung

This chapter discusses the principles of peacetime contingency operations. It lists certain operational considerations, and describes important types of operations and factors involved in their planning.

Peacetime contingency operations are politically sensitive military activities normally characterized by short-term, rapid projection or employment of forces in conditions short of war. They are often undertaken in crisis avoidance or crisis management situations requiring the use of military instruments to enforce or support diplomatic initiatives. Peacetime contingency operations include, but are not limited to--

  • Shows of force and demonstrations.

  • Noncombatant evacuation operations.

  • Rescue and recovery operations.

  • Strikes and raids.

  • Peacemaking.

  • Unconventional warfare.

  • Disaster relief.

  • Security assistance surges.

  • Support to US civil authorities.

Military efforts in peacetime contingency operations complement political and informational initiatives. This distinguishes peacetime contingency operations from contingency operations in war, which are often conducted for purely military objectives. Clear command relationships and communications procedures must be established by agreement, because the lead organization varies according to the type of mission. An understanding of these matters is necessary to ensure smooth coordination of the effort.

Peacetime contingency operations are politically and time sensitive. They use tailored forces, are usually short in duration, and joint or combined in scope. Military forces employed in peacetime contingency operations will normally use service-specific tactical doctrine or joint tactics, techniques, and procedures (JTTP) in the execution of their mission. A basic tenet is to rapidly project military forces consistent with the factors of METT-T in order to bring the contingency to an immediate close under conditions favorable to the United States. The forces employed should be chosen from designated contingency forces who have planned and trained to execute these types of operations. The time available will rarely allow any other forces to train to the required standard necessary for the successful conduct of the operation.


Three principles are uniquely important to peacetime contingency operations--coordination, balance, and planning for uncertainty.


The military forces cooperate with other government and private agencies to manage sensitive situations. For example, the military provides advice to other participating agencies on the capabilities and limitations of its resources. Military public affairs officers provide background briefings to the news media. They arrange for journalist pools, explain operational security requirements and encourage cooperation with them.


Military commanders must consider both the combat readiness of their troops and the volatile environment in which they function. This requires a balance of required and specialized training of forces and political awareness within the chain of command. The commander must provide for the security of his force within the constraints of the unique ROE and the political sensitivity of each situation. Since national policy goals determine military requirements and military force composition, the commander requires clearly stated objectives and operational parameters in order to balance his security needs with national policies. A balance must be struck between political goals and the scale, intensity, and nature of military operations supporting those goals.

Planning for Uncertainty

Situations filled with uncertainty require detailed but flexible planning, incorporating the principles of coordination and balance. This requires a full awareness of the political and social realities of the area in dispute. In such cases, logistic and intelligence support planning must be comprehensive.


Commanders give particular attention to the following areas in the planning and execution of peacetime contingency operations:

  • All-source intelligence.

  • Command and control.

  • PSYOP, civil affairs, and public affairs plans.

  • Logistics support.

  • Other constraints.

All-Source Intelligence

Success requires proper intelligence preparation of the battlefield. All available collection assets focus on the priority intelligence requirements of the mission. Planners must anticipate requirements and prepare useful products capable of rapid updating.

Types of information which must be readily available include--

  • Accurate maps.

  • Dispositions and order of battle of all forces, both friendly and hostile.

  • Area-specific factors (including cultural values which impact on target selection or conduct of the operation.)

  • City plans with complete details of utilities.

  • Personality profiles of local officials.

  • Details of specific ports, airports, roads, and bridges.

Command and Control

The unified CINCs and their component commands are best able to plan and execute peacetime contingency operations along established command lines. This ensures that the commander who plans the mission executes it, thus avoiding unnecessary confusion.

As the senior military commander within the theater, the CINC is responsible for all US military activities within his area of responsibility (AOR) and, in this capacity, he determines other US departments and agencies with which he must interface. Regularized relationships with these agencies in peacetime facilitate the conduct of all contingency operations. The ambassador is the President's personal representative in each country. CINCs develop close personal relationships with each ambassador and country team in their AORs. It is imperative that CINCs plan contingency operations in full cooperation with the ambassador and country team to ensure that all military actions support US interests.

Peacetime contingency operations are normally undertaken during crisis situations. The unified CINCs and their component commands, therefore, plan and conduct them using established crisis action procedures. The CINCs, JCS, services and other agencies practice these procedures during exercises to ensure that the system will be responsive when required in actual situations. The procedures are flexible and respond to the demands of rapidly changing situations. The commander tailors his force by task organizing and obtaining augmentation for specific capability requirements. For additional information on crisis action procedures, see JCS Pub 5-02.4.

Special command and control considerations may arise because SOF teams under the control of the CINC's Joint Special Operations Command operate far from their parent commands while supporting the needs of the ambassador and his country team. In these instances, military and diplomatic authorities must arrange for their support, plan for their extraction if they become at risk, and determine whose control they would revert to during a contingency operation.

PSYOP, Civil Affairs, and Public Affairs Programs

PSYOP, civil affairs, and public affairs programs can exploit enemy vulnerabilities and target audiences whose support is crucial. They are suited to both short-term and longer-term involvements. To be effective in short-notice operations, these programs require continuous preparation, regional expertise, and consistent coordination between civilian and military authorities.

Logistics Support

Logistics support plays an important role in peacetime contingency operations. Logistical requirements may dominate the mission and place extraordinary demands on support forces. The missions are likely to begin on short notice, under unique circumstances, and in austere environments. Typically, the numbers and types of available aircraft and ships will be limited. Planners must include comprehensive logistical support packages in peacetime contingency operations.

Other Constraints

The United States conducts peacetime contingency operations for specific, limited purposes. Their scope must be closely defined and targets and areas of operations specifically designated. The most prominent expressions of these constraints are found in the statement of the mission and the rules of engagement (ROE). Commanders must clearly communicate ROE to their forces in orders and in their statements of intent. The NCA determine the criteria for the use of tactical forces in peacetime. The mission, threat, and US, domestic, and international laws shape each operation. Host nations and other countries can also impose constraints affecting force deployments. This environment requires the utmost patience, training, and dedication of the force. Protecting the force while observing the restrictive ROE that typify LIC place great demands on leadership.


A discussion of the major types of peacetime contingency operations follows.

Shows of Force and Demonstrations

Forces deployed abroad lend credibility to a nation's promises and commitments, increase its regional influence, and demonstrate its resolve to use military force as an instrument of national power. In addition, the NCA orders shows of force or demonstrations to bolster and reassure friends and allies. These operations can influence another government or political-military organization to respect US interests or to enforce international law. Examples include--

  • Forward deployment of military forces.

  • Combined training exercises.

  • Aircraft and ship visits.

  • The introduction or buildup of military forces in a region.

The mission of shows of force and demonstrations must be well defined and clearly understood. An effective show of force must be demonstrably mission-capable and sustainable. The requirements for sustainment are adequate C3, intelligence, interdepartmental and international liaison, and ready and responsive forces. Logistical arrangements for these operations should be the same as if the mission were to be accomplished by the use of force.

Political concerns dominate shows of force and demonstrations. Military forces conduct these operations within delicate legal and political constraints. The political will to employ actual force--should a demonstration of it fail--is vital to the success of these operations. Actual combat is not their goal. The force coordinates its operations with the country team or teams. Prior to commitment, the chain of command should certify that the force understands the national purpose, ROE, and inherent risks of the operation.

Noncombatant Evacuation Operations

Noncombatant evacuation operations relocate threatened civilian noncombatants from locations in a foreign or host nation. These operations normally involve US citizens whose lives are in danger. They may also include selected host nation natives and third country nationals.

Under ideal circumstances, there should be little or no opposition to an evacuation; however, commanders should anticipate possible hostilities. In the LIC environment, this type of operation usually involves swift insertion of a force and temporary occupation of an objective followed by a planned rapid withdrawal. It uses only the force required for self-defense and the protection of the evacuees.

Military, political, or other emergencies in any country may require evacuation of designated personnel as the situation deteriorates. The Department of State will initiate requests for military assistance and obtain necessary clearances from other governments. This assistance can include basing and overflight authorizations, and the use of facilities essential to performing the evacuation.

If he anticipates trouble, the chief of the US diplomatic mission should direct the early withdrawal of dependents and nonessential personnel by ordinary transport. If this has already occurred, only a minimum number of personnel will normally require emergency military evacuation. Thorough planning will ensure that US, host nation, and international media understand the intent of the operation. This enhances security and the dissemination of positive information.

The evacuation may take place in a benign environment, face a threat of violent opposition, or require combat action. The specific situation determines the type of evacuation required. The evacuation force commander has little influence over the local situation. He may not have the authority to preempt hostile actions by military measures; yet he must be prepared to defend the evacuation effort and provide protection for his forces. Thus, the key factor in noncombatant evacuation planning is a correct appraisal of the political-military environment in which the force will operate.

An understanding of the role and status of host nation security forces is important. Host nation resources can provide essential assistance to the operation. These politically sensitive operations are often monitored or controlled at the highest level. Diplomatic and legal restraints limit military actions to only those activities which permit the evacuation to proceed without hindrance. Care of civilians and the maintenance of order at the evacuation site will be the ground forces commander's responsibility.

Airlift operations demand close cooperation among the airlift control element, the ground forces commander, and the diplomatic mission. Aircraft commanders supporting the evacuation should coordinate flight information with the appropriate sovereign airspace authorities to the maximum extent possible. However, positive airspace control may be difficult and airspace control systems may be inadequate. In cases where sovereign authorities are unable or unwilling to either approve or deny clearance, individual aircraft commanders must operate at their own discretion, using caution proportionate to the circumstances to minimize risk. If no effective airspace control exists, the airlift commander should assume airspace control responsibilities and keep the diplomatic mission and ground forces advised on the progress of the airlift.

Commanders should remember that noncombatant evacuation operations can quickly turn into peacemaking or peacekeeping operations, and plan for these contingencies.

Rescue and Recovery Operations

Rescue and recovery operations are sophisticated actions requiring precise execution, especially when conducted in hostile countries. They may be clandestine or overt. They may include the rescue of US or friendly foreign nationals, and the location, identification, and recovery of sensitive equipment or items critical to US national security.

Hostile forces can oppose rescue and recovery operations. On the other hand, these operations may remain unopposed if the potentially hostile force is unaware of them or unable or unwilling to interfere. Stealth, surprise, speed, and the threat of overwhelming US force are some of the means available to overcome opposition. Rescue and recovery operations require timely intelligence, detailed planning, deception, swift execution, and extraordinary security measures. They usually involve highly trained special units, but they may also receive support from general purpose forces.

Strikes and Raids

The United States executes strikes and raids for specific purposes other than gaining or holding terrain. Strikes and raids can support rescue or recovery operations or destroy or seize equipment or facilities which demonstrably threaten national collective security interests. They can also support counter-drug operations by destroying narcotics production or transshipment facilities or supporting a host government's actions in this regard. Strikes and raids are the most conventional of peacetime contingency operations. The principles of combat operations apply directly. The unified CINC normally plans and executes them.

Strikes are attacks by ground, air, and naval forces to damage or destroy high-value targets or to demonstrate the capability to do so. Raids are usually small-scale operations involving swift penetration of hostile territory to secure information, seize an objective, or destroy targets. Strikes and raids end with a planned withdrawal. Successful strikes or raids can create situations which permit seizing and maintaining the political initiative.

In peacetime, the NCA approve strikes and raids. When commanders and their staffs plan these activities, they develop courses of action which meet ethical, legal, political, and technical feasibility criteria. Planners require precise, time-sensitive, all-source intelligence. They develop as many alternative courses of action as time and the situation permit. They carefully weigh each alternative. They must answer the following key planning questions:

  • What is the strategic goal?
  • What resources are available?
  • What is the tactical objective?
  • What are the constraints and restrictions?

Mission execution usually requires a tailored force operating against limited, specific objectives.

Target selection must be the product of careful analysis which fully understands the enemy's center of gravity, confirms its susceptibility to military action, and determines the appropriate military action. Common target characteristics are--

  • Strategically significant objectives.

  • Targets with high psychological value.

  • Key personnel and facilities in hostile areas.

Commanders must weigh the psychological advantages and disadvantages of employing military force in these operations.

Strikes and raids are viable peacetime contingency operations. To be successful, they require the proper focus of planning, organization, training, and equipment. Because of inherent time constraints, these contingency operations need a dedicated, permanent planning cell able to build precise, well-conceived mission plans. Planning cell personnel will require security clearances to all pertinent intelligence data and operational estimates. Cell members must understand unit capabilities and be fully qualified in their areas of expertise. The planning cell serves as the liaison and weapons system planners for the JTF. Written and rehearsed operations and contingency plans can serve as starting points for planning. A streamlined chain of command is an essential organizational requirement for a strike or raid. This chain of command emphasizes responsibility and accountability from the first moment of initial planning to the final moment of mission completion. Command and control requirements for strikes and raids in contingency operations are monitored from much higher levels than during conventional war because of the high political impact of the operation. Tactical operational responsibility and authority remains with the designated task force commander.

Time permitting, strike force personnel should fully rehearse all strikes and raids. The key elements in determining the level of detail and the opportunities for rehearsal available prior to mission execution are time, operational security, and the need for deception. To the fullest extent possible, commanders should disguise rehearsals by conducting them along with routine training. Commanders must introduce support specialists into strikes and raids during the initial planning stages. They must identify these specialists well in advance of operations.


The United States conducts peacemaking operations with its military forces when it is in the national interest to stop a violent conflict and to force a return to political and diplomatic methods. The United States typically undertakes peacemaking operations at the request of appropriate national authorities in a foreign state or to protect US citizens as part of an international, multilateral, or unilateral operation. The peacemaking force does not represent a wholly disinterested power or such a drastic commitment would not be made. However, the interests of the country or countries which provide forces for these operations are best served by a cessation of violence and a negotiated settlement.

The long-range goals of a peacemaking operation are often unclear; therefore, these operations are best terminated by prompt withdrawal after a settlement is reached, or by rapid transition to a peacekeeping operation (see Chapter 4) . Unless the peacemaking force has the necessary power, both military and political, to compel a lasting settlement, it may find itself attempting to govern in the face of opposition from both parties. Extrication from such a situation may be difficult and the force may leave the area having made the situation worse than it was before it intervened.

The political complexities of peacemaking require that the available force be sufficient, but its use be applied with discretion. ROE are apt to be restrictive because the purpose of the force is to establish and maintain law and order. Political considerations influence the size and composition of the force more than operational requirements. The commander must prepare himself to deal with pressures to depart from sound military practice. He may have to adjust his operations to reconcile the conflicting demands of political considerations, mission accomplishment, and protection of the force. The commander uses PSYOP, intelligence, communication, and maneuver to achieve a decisive concentration of power at the critical time and place.

The mission requires that the forces be appropriate to the environment. The commander must understand the constraints and political sensitivities of this environment and should recognize that local law and customs will often influence his actions. Peacemaking is difficult and unusual. It requires--

  • Consistent mission analysis.

  • Clear command and control relationships.

  • Effective communications facilities.

  • Joint and combined force liaison.

  • Effective public diplomacy and PSYOP.

Unconventional Warfare

Unconventional warfare is a series of military and paramilitary operations conducted in enemy-held, enemy-controlled, or politically sensitive territory across the conflict spectrum. It includes, but is not limited to, guerrilla warfare, evasion and escape, subversion, sabotage, and other operations of a low visibility, covert, or clandestine nature. UW may be prosecuted singly or collectively by predominantly indigenous personnel, is usually supported by external sources, and can occur during all conditions of war or peace. US military support to UW operations can include the use of both SOF and general purpose forces, for example, CSS support for guerrillas. Unlike most peacetime contingency operations, UW is usually a long-term effort.

Techniques and tactics for certain UW operations are similar to those employed in support for insurgencies. However, support for insurgency differs from that for UW. Insurgency accomplishes strategic aims directly; UW often supports larger campaigns, typically conventional campaigns. The difference is significant because it affects the operational and strategic design of these operations. For example, operations in support of insurgency give priority to infrastructure and political development, while UW emphasizes military actions.

Disaster Relief

Disaster relief operations provide emergency assistance to victims of natural or manmade disasters abroad. They are responses to requests for immediate help and rehabilitation from foreign governments or international agencies. They may include refugee assistance, food programs, medical treatment and care or other civilian welfare programs.

In the LIC environment, disasters can worsen an already unstable situation. When properly orchestrated, US participation in disaster relief can have significant, positive effects. The military can provide the logistic support to move supplies to remote areas extract or evacuate victims as needed, provide emergency communications or conduct direct medical support operations.

Military elements involved in disaster relief operations have various missions. They assess the damage, the extent of the disaster, and the host nation's ability to deal with the emergency. They execute assistance programs developed by the Department of State or US Agency for International Development. Army CS and CSS as well as Air Force CS units play major roles in these operations. Combat arms units can provide additional support, if needed.

Security Assistance Surges

The United States accelerates security assistance when a friendly or allied nation faces imminent threat. In these surges, operations usually focus on logistical support. Geography, the magnitude of the logistics effort, and time limitations determine airlift and sealift requirements. US support to Chad in the early 1980s and to Israel in the 1973 Yom Kippur War illustrate this type of peacetime contingency operation. Geographical limitations, compounded by political constraints, forced the use of airlift and ground transportation in Chad. The Yom Kippur War demonstrated the importance of airlift in the initial stages of conflict, and the follow-on strength of sealift. These examples illustrate principles which numerous, less-visible, security assistance surge operations in Thailand, Korea, and El Salvador have reinforced.

Support to US Civil Authority

Support to US civil authority includes those activities carried out by military forces in support of federal and state officials under, and limited by, the Posse Comitatus Act and other laws and regulations. Congress and the courts traditionally view requirements for military support in civilian domestic affairs as situation-specific. They generally restrict military support to situations involving disaster assistance, civil disorder, threats to federal property, and other emergency situations. Congress has also defined drug trafficking, illegal immigration, and customs violations as threats to national security warranting military operations.

Military forces may be involved in a variety of actions taken to detect, disrupt, interdict, and destroy illicit drugs and the infrastructure (personnel, materiel, and distribution systems) of illicit drug trafficking entities. Such actions will always be in support of one or more governmental agencies such as the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Border Patrol of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, Department of State, or the Drug Enforcement Agency.

Military support to counter-drug operations can include--

  • Mobile training teams.

  • Offshore training.

  • Advisory personnel.

  • Logistic support (materiel, maintenance, resupply, and transportation).

  • Civic action.

  • Informational, detection and surveillance operations.

  • Intelligence support.

When military forces are employed as a unit in a counter-drug mission, that operation assumes the characteristics of a traditional conventional military operation. In those instances, military forces will be under the control of a unified CINC.

05-24-1996; 11:06:14

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