SSR support to German Armed Forces Staff College planning exercise

07/03/2016 - 11/03/2016

Target country


  1. 17-18 February 2016: Receive the annual visit from the German Armed Forces Staff College (FuAkBw) to DCAF. Up to 15 OF3 (majors) will take part in the visit to International Geneva.
  2. 8-11 March 2016: Following on from initial support on SSR design and planning to the FuAkBw in November 2015, FuAkBw wishes to expand its understanding of SSR design and planning considerations in its March 2016 planning exercise. The planning exercise will run over the course of three weeks, involving Headquarters staff officers ranking from captains to brigadiers. The exercise will apply the Comprehensive Operational Planning Directive (COPD) to a NATO planning scenario. After assessing the NATO Commander's orders and reviewing Military Response Options (MROs), the exercise will design and elaborate a project. Part of the plan will integrate elements for preventing or de-escalating conflict, providing early warning and early action by building resilience, partly through the role of the military in SSR.
  3. 31 October - 1 November: Lead the Theory of Change sub-group for SSR as part of the OF5 Operational Thinking course, which gathers Germany's top 20 full colonels together to advance their military education.

Mandating organisation / agency / department / ministry

Target organisation type(s)

Mandate outputs / products

SSR advice to the military planning process.

Outcome objectives of mandate

  1. Increased understanding of the holistic nature of SSR:
    • linkages between political, strategic, operational and tactical levels of planning, design and implementation;
    • linkages with other security, development, humanitarian, and peace process actors and programmes;
    • balancing accountability and effectiveness through adequate governance, oversight, and integrity mechanisms at complimentary levels of institution building;
  2. Development of initiatives to improve military planning processes for building in monitoring and assessment considerations at the design phase, and thus increasing chances of sustainability;
  3. Increased understanding of the applicability of an SSR theory of change to military planning and mission command.

Start date


End date



The exercise used the Comprehensive Operational Planning Directive. Week one was Mission Analysis, with Campaign Design coming this week, and the last three weeks of the 6-week exercise delve into implementation (using the Tytan scenario in Horn of Africa.) It was extremely useful to be embedded with J2, 3, 5 and 9, but with J5 in particular, and to see exactly what pieces of information they need at what points in order to affect which decisions. J5 was completely into looking at planning guidance objectives (reconstitute the Host Nation security forces), pinpointing the decisive conditions which will make or break the achievement of objectives, and the supporting effects needed to achieve the Decisive Conditions.

J5 (and others) needed therefore to know:

  • Comprehensive SSR Assessment. SSR needs to be based on as comprehensive and holistic an assessment as possible, done jointly with the Host Nation, probably with a multilateral lead. Does such an assessment exist already? (eg those done in CAR, and Guinea Bissau, and Madagascar). If so what role can a supporting military play in implementing some of the recommendations therein? The absence of such an assessment triggers a whole load of decisions to be made about how to do one, who to do it, what role the military plays, and what skills are needed to deploy to do this, and when, including warning orders, and Friendly Force Info Requirements (FFIRs) etc.
  • Perception of Host Nation Forces. An understanding of how Host Nation forces are perceived, and what is considered the problem with them, is paramount to understanding what would be appropriate initial reform measures
    • quantitative measures - is it simply a matter of rightsizing, more soldiers, less officers, recruiting and retention?
    • qualitative measures
      • basic craftsmanship - classic training needed in shooting, section/platoon/company attacks, operational planning etc?
      • professionalism and leadership - if the Host Nation forces are part of the problem due to human rights abuse and corruption, then giving them training on how to shoot straight and on operational planning is not going to reassure the local population about the Host Nation or our own intentions, and could in fact make things worse on all fronts by legitimising the problem, etc.
  • Initial Reform Measures. Whilst train and equip alone can be counter-productive, if there is political will for change, then what reform measures (training, infrastructure, recruitment, education in leadership, etc) can be done to achieve immediate supporting effects...(eg initial Dutch-Burundi programme).
  • Reform Skills Requirement. Depending what reform measures can be deployed will affect who is brought in to support such measure, i.e. providing a battalion to support SSR does not mean it should be a Bn of infantry soldiers - in most cases a mixed battlegroup minus concept would need to be SNCO and officer heavy, with considerable experience in training, advice, and mentoring.
  • Reform Space. Most reform needs to be done out of battle. In ongoing hot stabilisation scenarios, what physical and political space could be secured to allow reform of at least part of the Host Nation armed forces. How many can be released for training at a time (section, platoon, company size etc)? What length of training is needed before they can be recycled back into service (6 weeks, 3 months, 6 months etc)? What examples exist to do this...Liberia, Ukraine, etc?
  • Long Term Change Enablement. Then there are issues to do with longer term institutional, educational, career management, and oversight reform which will likely require an understanding of legal underpinnings and opportunities for change...How will success be sustainable? When it is fully locally owned, ideally from the outset, and incorporates mechanisms for future reform.
  • Measures of Success. What needs to be put in place at this early stage to be able to measure effect, and to provide early warning indicators of potential risks as well as opportunities? Traditional craftsmanship testing after training is straightforward, but what about for training and education in leadership? Do infrastructure changes help to improve morale, a sense of duty, pride in the Unit, an ability to learn, team spirit, comradeship? How are attitudes to diversity and gender mainstreaming in the armed forces changing, if this is a stated objective of reform? How is the local population's perception of the armed forces changing as a result of reform efforts?
  • Supporting Effects for Decisive Conditions. The sort of effects that the SSR objective of the operation needs to achieve will be things like:

o    Strengthen Host Nation Forces(along physical, intellectual, and moral components, ie training in leadership, as well as in planning; equipment provision and management; and infrastructure husbandry)

o    Reassure local population

o    Deter  adversaries

In some ways, this is the reverse order of the Clear, Hold, Build policy of American COIN.

Specific Lessons Identified