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Command, Control, Coordination, and Liaison

Consensus will be important....

Teamwork and trust are essential.

                                             FM 100-5
US military forces conducting peace operations may do so as part of a unilateral US operation or as part of a multinational force led by the US or another nation. This chapter discusses the various command, control, coordination, and liaison requirements for forces conducting peace operations. The command arrangements of US forces committed to a unilateral or multinational peace operation vary with the type of operation (Figure 2-1), the level of US involvement, and the nature of the international organization charged with the operation. FM 100-8 (1) provides details on the various command arrangements that apply to peace operations for forces under national control, dual control, or with a lead nation command structure. The latter is further depicted with national or multinational subordinate formations, allied subordinate formations, or integrated formations. In most instances, elements will operate as part of a joint force. Joint Publication 3-0(2) fully addresses the command relationships for such operations. Other agencies, both government and nongovernment, invariably participate in these operations as well. This chapter addresses coordination and cooperation with such agencies.

Figure 2-1. Types of Command Arrangements


Command is central to all military actions, and unity of command is central to unity of effort. A common understanding of command relationships will facilitate the required unity of effort. Various multinational directives which delineate the degree of authority that may be exercised by a multinational commander and procedures that ensure unity of effort will set forth command relationships. These procedures should include provisions regarding if, when, and how the transfer of authority from national command to multinational command may take place. The authority vested in a commander must be commensurate with the responsibility assigned. Ideally, the coalition or alliance will designate a single military commander to direct the multinational efforts of the participating forces. Command and support relationships will likely include terms similar to those used in US joint relationships, for example, operational control (OPCON), tactical control (TACON), support, coordinating authority, or terms that identify a similar type of authority such as operational command (OPCOM) or tactical command (TACOM). These terms, including NATO terms, are defined in the glossary.


Even though most peace operations have been conducted by a coalition of forces, the US reserves the right to conduct a peace operation unilaterally, as it did in Lebanon in 1958. Frequently, a peace operation that begins unilaterally may transition to a coalition operation. The US operation to provide and protect humanitarian assistance in Somalia began in 1992 as a US-only operation and transitioned to a US-led coalition and, later, UN-led operation. Because the US possesses the unique capability to rapidly deploy by strategic lift, it may find itself initially forced to conduct peace operations unilaterally until a coalition can be assembled.


The US has tried to avoid purely unilateral operations. The operation in the Dominican Republic in 1965 (Figure 2-1), for example, was under the aegis of the Organization of American States (OAS). More recently, Operation Provide Comfort included a coalition of forces from other nations under the sponsorship of the UN. US forces may participate in a US-led coalition such as Operation Restore Hope (Somalia) or a nonUS led coalition such as Operation Able Sentry (FYROM) (Figure 2-2). In either case, US forces will be committed to execute mandates sponsored by the UN or other international or regional organizations such as OAS or the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). These operations may be divided into two categories-- UN- or non-UN-sponsored.

The effectiveness of multinational operations will be improved by--

  • Establishing rapport and harmony among senior multinational commanders. Only commanders can develop such a personal, direct relationship. The keys are respect, trust, and the ability to compromise. The result will be successful teamwork and unity of effort.

  • Respecting multinational partners and their ideas, culture, religion, and customs. Such respect (consideration and acceptance) shows each partner's importance to the alliance or coalition.

Historical Perspective

In 1900, the US Army participated in the first multinational operation since the Revolutionary War in the Boxer Rebellion in China. In Peking, foreign legations from several nations were besieged by members of the secret anti-foreign society known as the Righteous, Harmonious Fists--the Boxers. British Admiral E.H. Seymour headed a coalition of British, German, Russian, French, American, Japanese, Italian, and Austrian forces to rescue the foreign legations. The US contingent commanded by MG Adna R. Chaffee was composed of two infantry regiments, a cavalry regiment, a Marine battalion, and a field artillery battery. A multinational force eventually forced the Boxers out of Peking.

Figure 2-2. US and OAS Relationships

  • Assigning missions appropriate to each multinational partner's capabilities. Multinational partners' opinions should be sought during the planning process. National honor and prestige may significantly impact mission assignment.

  • Ensuring that multinational partners have necessary resources to accomplish their assigned missions. Cross-leveling among partners may be required.

  • Ensuring concerted action through liaison centers. The ability to communicate in a partner's native language is important because it enhances and facilitates liaison.

  • Enabling all partners to operate together in the most effective manner and to make the most efficient and economical use of resources. Standardization agreements are the result of rationalization, standardization, interoperability (RSI) efforts in alliances. These agreements may be appropriate for rapid adoption by coalitions.

Figure 2-3. Command Structure for Operation Able Sentry

  • Ensuring all multinational members' efforts are focused on a common goal to produce unity of effort.

  • Knowing and understanding the capabilities of multinational partners as well as or better than you know the belligerent parties--from movement and maneuver to logistical support.


The great majority of US peace operations will be part of a UN peace operation. Their multinational character merits particular attention. National interests and organizational influence may compete with doctrine and efficiency. Consensus is painstakingly difficult, and solutions are often national in character. Commanders can expect contributing nations to adhere to national policies and priorities, which at times complicates the multinational effort.

United Nations-sponsored operations normally employ a force under a single commander. The force commander is appointed by the secretary general (SYG) with the consent of the UN Security Council. The force commander reports either to a special representative of the SYG or directly to the SYG. While the force commander conducts day-to-day operations with fairly wide discretionary powers, he refers all policy matters to the special representative or SYG for resolution.

The force commander's staff will be multinational. Its national membership may sometimes be based on the percentage of troops on the ground. It is normally composed of a personal staff, a military staff, and a civilian component. The composition and functions of the personal and military staff correspond closely to those found in US forces. The international civilian staff is augmented with local civilians hired to provide basic logistics and administrative skills.

Multinational operations are divided into two categories--UN- and non-UN-sponsored.

In any multinational operation, the US commander retains command over all assigned US forces. The US chain of command runs from the National Command Authorities (NCA) to the theater CINC. The chain of command, from the President to the lowest US commander in the field, remains inviolate. Subject to prior NCA approval, a multinational force commander may exercise appropriate and negotiated OPCON over US units in specific operations authorized by a legitimizing authority such as the UN Security Council in UN operations. In addition to these control considerations, support relationships and arrangements may often be more appropriate to peace operations.

The degree of OPCON exercised over US units must be coordinated and agreed to between the superior multinational force commander and the US theater CINC who provides the US forces subordinate to the multinational force. This agreement must be in consonance with the NCA criteria for peace operations command and control arrangements. These criteria establish limits to the OPCON that may be exercised over US units. Within these limits, a foreign UN commander cannot--

  • Change the mission or deploy US forces outside the area of responsibility agreed to by the NCA.

  • Separate units, redirect logistics and supplies, administer discipline, promote individuals, or modify the internal organization of US units.

Arrangements for support in these operations may vary from one nation being responsible for all logistics and support, to various participating nations being responsible for particular aspects of an entire operation, to the sponsoring authority providing equipment and supplies. Logistics responsibilities are normally negotiated at the time of force formation and should reflect an appreciation of various national capabilities as well as proportionality. Simplicity is an important asset to consider in all peace operations. Facility requirements should be minimized to avoid any perception of permanency but be consistent with the anticipated duration of operations and the health and welfare of the troops.

Historical Perspective

US forces have served under temporary OPCON of foreign commanders in operations during the Revolutionary War, the Boxer Rebellion, World War I, World War II, the Cold War (NATO), and Operation Desert Storm and in UN operations since 1948. In Operation Desert Storm, a US brigade from the 82d Airborne Division was placed under OPCON of the French 6th Light Armored Division. Their mission was to screen the western flank of coalition operations.

A national contingent consists of a nation's entire contribution--its units as well as its staff officers in the force headquarters. National contingent commanders report directly to the force commander. National contingent commanders act in an advisory capacity to the UN force commander and his staff on contingent matters.

Each unit commander is ultimately responsible for accomplishing his mission, is responsible to the force commander, and is responsible to his national chain of command. US units normally maintain a direct line of communications to an appropriate US headquarters--normally the theater combatant commander. Other participants in a coalition can be expected to maintain similar lines of communication (see Figure 2-4).

The national contingent commanders are responsible for disciplinary action within their own contingents and according to their national codes of military law. Authority for national contingent commanders to carry out their national laws in the host nation's territory should be included in the agreement for the peace operation. When US military unit commanders cannot resolve a matter with the UN commander, they will refer the matter to a higher US authority. Such matters include orders that are illegal under US or international law or are outside the mandate of the mission to which the US agreed with the UN. They also include guidance and constraints placed on US commanders by the US CINC. See Appendix A for further details on UN operations.

Figure 2-4. Generic Multinational Command Structure

Extract of General Principles (3) Chapter X - Strategic Direction and Command of Armed Forces

Article 39

The command of national contingents will be exercised by commanders appointed by the respective member nations. These contingents will retain their national character and will be subject at all times to the discipline and regulations in force in their own national armed forces.

Article 40

The commanders of national contingents will be entitled to communicate directly with the authorities of their own country on all matters.


While the UN is the organization most likely to undertake peace operations, a number of regional organizations may perform this function or the UN may designate a specific organization as its operational agent. Organizations such as NATO, the Organization of African Unity, the OAS, and Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) have performed a variety of functions related to peace operations, to include monitoring of elections. They also execute peace operations within their areas of interest.

Each of these organizations will have different operational concepts and organizational procedures. In the case of NATO, these concepts and procedures are well-established and US forces are accustomed to operating within those guidelines. In the case of other international organizations, these guidelines may not be as well established or may be nonexistent. Operations conducted under the aegis of such organizations will necessarily be more ad hoc in nature. In each of these operations the precise nature of the command relationship between the US forces and the international organization is subject to mutual resolution.


Humanitarian assistance should be directed toward the relief of immediate, life-threatening suffering.

Figure 2-5. Civil-Military Operations Center

Commanders must consider the presence and capabilities of NGOs and PVOs and coordinate and cooperate with their efforts. Commanders can establish a CMOC. The CMOC may perform liaison and coordination between the military support structure, NGOs and PVOs, other agencies, and local authorities. The Humanitarian assistance Figure illustrates players that may interact with a CMOC. Commanders must understand that NGOs and PVOs have valid missions and concerns, which at times may complicate the mission of US forces. Relationships with nonmilitary agencies are based on mutual respect, communication, and standardization of support. Such organization are to be supported where feasible in compliance with the mandate and military objective (see Appendix B for further discussion of related organizations).

The Humanitarianism and War Project of the Thomas J. Watson, Jr. Institute for International Studies at Brown University, developed a set of eight principles that figure prominently in deliberations by practitioners of humanitarian assistance. Commanders should be aware of the possibility of specific dilemmas and tensions as they conduct peace operations in support of HA.


1. Relieving Life-Threatening Suffering: Humanitarian action should be directed toward the relief of immediate, life-threatening suffering.

2. Proportionality to Need: Humanitarian action should correspond to the degree of suffering, wherever it occurs. It should affirm the view that life is as precious in one part of the globe as another.

3. Nonpartisanship: Humanitarian action responds to human suffering because people are in need, not to advance political, sectarian, or other agendas. It should not take sides in conflicts.

4. Independence: In order to fulfill their mission, humanitarian organizations should be free of interference from home or host political authorities. Humanitarian space is essential for effective action.

5. Accountability: Humanitarian organizations should report fully on their activities to sponsors and beneficiaries. Humanitarianism should be transparent.

6. Appropriateness: Humanitarian action should be tailored to local circumstances and aim to enhance, not supplant, locally available resources.

7. Contextualization: Effective humanitarian action should encompass a comprehensive view of overall needs and of the impact of interventions. Encouraging respect for human rights and addressing the underlying causes of conflicts are essential elements.

8. Subsidiary of Sovereignty: Where humanitarianism and sovereignty clash, sovereignty should defer to the relief of life-threatening suffering.


Many peace operations are likely to be characterized by a high degree of interagency coordination. Such coordination involves many of the agencies of the US Government, to include the Department of State, USAID, and others. Interagency operations facilitate the implementation of all elements of national power in a peace operation and as a vital link uniting Department of Defense (DOD) and other governmental departments and agencies. Interagency operations are critical to achieving strategic end states of peace operations.

Interagency operations facilitate unity and consistency of effort, maximize use of national resources, and reinforce primacy of the political element. A joint headquarters conducts interagency coordination and planning. For certain missions, the joint headquarters may delegate authority to the component for direct coordination with other agencies. In all cases, the component must ensure appropriate authority exists for direct coordination. Components may, in certain special missions, work directly with or for another government agency. In such cases, direct coordination is authorized and command arrangements are specified based on the situation.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the joint staff coordinate interagency operations at the strategic level. This coordination establishes the framework for coordination by commanders at the operational and tactical levels. In some cases--such as PK--Department of State (DOS) is the lead agency and DOD provides support. In others--such as PE--DOD is the lead agency.

The combatant commander is the central point for plans and implementing theater and regional strategies that require interagency coordination. The combatant commander may establish an advisory committee to link his theater strategy to national policy goals and the objectives of DOS and concerned ambassadors. Military personnel may coordinate with other US Government agencies while operating directly under an ambassador's authority, while working for a security assistance organization, or while assigned to a regional combatant commander.

Coordination among DOD and other US Government agencies may occur in a country team or within a combatant command. Military personnel working in interagency organizations must ensure that the ambassador and combatant commander know and approve all programs. Legitimizing authorities determine specific command relationships for each operation. This command arrangement must clearly establish responsibility for the planning and execution of each phase of the operation.

In addition to extensive US Government agency coordination, commanders must also fully integrate operations into local efforts when appropriate. Such integration requires close coordination with local government agencies and bureaus; local military, paramilitary, or police forces, and multinational partners. A structure such as a mixed military working group comprised of senior officials of the military and other agencies may assist such an effort and include belligerent parties as appropriate.


Unity of effort is facilitated through the use of liaison officers (LNOs). LNOs are used to centralize direction and staff cognizance over planning, coordination, and operations with external agencies or forces. Commanders establish LNOs as the focal point for communication with external agencies. LNOs normally report to the operations officer. LNOs may be able to resolve interagency problems by establishing communications to facilitate control for participating forces and agencies.

LNOs should have sufficient rank and authority appropriate to their level of liaison and be identified early in the planning process. LNO teams should be staffed with sufficient personnel to conduct 24-hour operations. Senior LNOs should travel with commanders while LNO team activities are maintained.

Language qualifications and knowledge of the doctrine, capabilities, procedures, and culture of their organizations are extremely important for LNOs. CA or special operations forces (SOF) teams may be available to serve as LNOs.

The use of contracted interpreters to augment LNO teams may be another option, although in some cases their loyalties may affect their reliability.

1. Multinational Operations

2. Doctrine for Joint Operations,9 September 1993

3. Extracted from General Principles Governing the Organization of Armed Forces made available to the Security Council by member nations of the UN: Report of the Military Staff Committee, 30 April 1947.

1. Quoted by permission of Larry Minear and Thomas G. Weiss, co-directors, Humanitarian and War Project, from Humanitarian Actions inTimes of War.Other widely recognized documents have elaborated humanitarian principles. See, for example, "The Mohonk Criteria for Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies," produced by the Task Force on Ethical and Legal Issues in Humanitarian Assistance, convened by the Program on Humanitarian Assistance World Conference on Religion and Peace, February 1994.

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