The UN uses the term 'Civil Affairs' differently to other, mainly military, institutions. Civil affairs officers in UN Peace Operations are not military officers but are civilian UN staff members who are often at the forefront of a mission’s interaction with local government officials, civil society and other civilian partners in the international community.
Definition: "UN Civil Affairs components work at the social, administrative and sub-national political levels to facilitate the countrywide implementation of peacekeeping mandates and to support the population and government in strengthening conditions and structures conducive to sustainable peace."
There are currently around 500 UN Civil Affairs Officers in 13 UN Peacekeeping Operations worldwide. Civil Affairs components perform one or more of three core roles, depending on the UN Security Council mandate given to a particular peacekeeping mission. In each role the work of Civil Affairs intersects with, supports and draws upon the work of a variety of other actors. Depending on the mandate, the three core roles are:
i. Cross-mission representation, monitoring and facilitation at the local level;
ii. Confidence-building, conflict management and support to reconciliation;
iii. Support to the restoration and extension of state authority.
CA units act as a liaison between the civilian inhabitants of a warzone or disaster area and the military presence, both informing the local commander of the status of the civilian populace as well as effecting assistance to locals by either coordinating military operations with non-governmental organizations (NGOs)and IGO's or distributing directly aid and supplies.
Comprised primarily of civilian experts such as doctors, lawyers, engineers, police, firemen, bankers, computer programmers, farmers, and others, CA special operators provide critical expertise to host-nation governments and are also able to assess need for critical infrastructure projects such as roads, clinics, schools, power plants, water treatment facilities, etc. Once a project has been decided on, a contract is put out at a civil-military operations center for local contractors to come and bid. CA teams will periodically check up on the status of the project to make sure the money is being well-spent.
CA provides the commander with cultural expertise, assesses the needs of the civilian populace, handles civilians on the battlefield, refugee operations, keeps the commander informed of protected targets such as schools, churches, hospitals, etc., and interfaces with local and international NGOs and private volunteer organizations, which provides the commander with a unique battlefield overlay of all civilian activity, ongoing infrastructure projects, and the presence and mission of NGOs in the area.
96% of the Civil Affairs personnel come from the United States Army Reserve and are usually tasked to support regular Army units upon mobilization. This allows combatant commanders to utilize reservists with civilian skill sets such as lawyers, city managers, economists, veterinarians, teachers, policemen, and other civilian occupations who are more knowledgeable and better suited for restoration of stability and reconstruction (nation building) tasks than soldiers from the active military.
The remaining 4% of Civil Affairs personnel are active duty soldiers assigned to the 95th Civil Affairs Brigade, stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, which is a rapidly deployable unit that supports the Army Special Operations Command. Active CA are Civil Affairs Generalists, selected from around the Army.
CA is task organized between four reserve Civil Affairs Commands (CACOMS) which integrate at the strategic and operational level with theater commands and joint/combined task forces (JTF/CJTF). CA brigades comprise these CACOMS and integrate at the corps. At the tactical level, active duty maneuver divisions are augmented by the CA battalions. The four CACOMs are the 350th CACOM, the 351st CACOM, the 352nd CACOM, and the 353rd CACOM.
Typically, a CA battalion will contain a headquarters company, and one CA company for each maneuver brigade. Each CA company contains CA teams (known as CATs) which integrate at the maneuver battalion level. There will usually be one CA team per maneuver battalion. In this manner, the division will have OPCON (operational control) over a CA battalion, a brigade will have OPCON over a CA company and an infantry battalion will have TACON (tactical control) over a CA team. The CA battalion retains ADCON (administrative control) for its elements deployed in theater.
The CA battalion and its subordinate companies and teams become organic parts of their maneuver unit, augmenting the unit's S-9 or G-9 Civil Military Operations Cell, providing cultural expertise, functional specialty expertise, direct support tactical civil affairs, and establishing civil-military operations centers (known as CMOCs, CIMICs or CMCCs, depending on the doctrine in use) and Provincial Reconstruction Teams for the geographic area the maneuver unit is responsible for.
Within the United States Army, Reserve CA units are administered through United States Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command (Airborne), or USACAPOC(A), a subordinate of U.S. Army Reserve Command. USACAPOC(A) contains psychological operations (PO) and civil affairs (CA) units, consisting of Army reserve elements. USACAPOC(A) was founded in 1985. It is headquartered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
On 1 October 2006, USAR Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations units realigned from falling under the United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) to the United States Army Reserve Command (USARC) for ADCON (administrative control). Training and doctrine relating to USACAPOC(A) is still provided by USASOC's subordinate command, the United States Army John Fitzgerald Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School (USAJFKSWCS). Despite this move to USARC, CA continues to conduct periodic special operations missions in support of special operations forces.
•Active Duty Only soldiers in the rank of Sergeant and Staff Sergeant who have a valid Secret Clearance are considered for training. Enlisted soldiers selected to reclassify to Civil Affairs must attend the forty four week Qualification Course (CA SPEC), offered at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. During this course soldiers learn to prepare, execute, and transition CA core tasks, CA operations (CAO), and civil-military operations (CMO). Training is mission oriented and encompasses language and culture, allowing for maximum hands-on use of CAO/CMO doctrinal procedures during practical exercises (PEs) and a culminating exercise (CULEX) that exposes students to realistic operational situations and environmental elements.
•Reserve Enlisted soldiers wishing to reclassify to Civil Affairs must attend the Civil Affairs Reclassification Course which is offered at several posts throughout the country. Currently, training for combat, combat support, and combat service support is organized through regional training commands. The six Civil Affairs schoolhouses report to the 3rd Brigade (CA/PO), 100th Division, located at Fort Totten, New York. These units are the 5th Battalion (CA), 95th Regiment, of Fort Sill, Oklahoma; 5th Battalion (CA), 98th Regiment of Fort Dix, New Jersey; the 12th Battalion (CA), 100th Regiment of Fort Knox, Kentucky; the 4th Battalion (CA), 104th Regiment, of Fort Lewis, Washington; and the 5th Battlaion (CA), 108th Regiment of Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The training conducted is similar to the AIT Course offered for new soldiers, however it is offered over an abbreviated period of four weeks.