Key OSC Terms of Reference

Security Cooperation is not something you simply learn in a four-week course.  It is something that is learned through doing, through researching, through experience, and through lessons learned.  In a previous post, I highlighted some of following terms as those I thought were the most important for an OSC to understand. Post-RSWG and pre-STRWG I think it is important to revisit those terms, add in new ones, and give more details to each. Instead of listing them out I want to compartmentalize them to ensure OSCs understand how each of these words or phrases fit together.  I’ve also added a few that are catchphrases for you to drop every other paragraph during a brief.  In the end, using these words will make you sound like you know what you are doing. Backing them up with facts about your partner nation and contextualizing those facts to the people around the U-shaped conference room of folks, will show that you do know what you are doing!

Key OSC Terms of Reference:

Security Cooperation, Security Assistance

Line of Effort, Intermediate Military Objective, Country Level Objective, Exercises, Operations, Engagements, Posture, Presence, Agreements

Executive Directive, Generating Force, Operating Force

Security Force Assistance, Capacity, Capability, Capability Package, Defense Institution Building, Institutional Capacity Building


COM: Chief of Mission, the authority of a U.S. Ambassador, a person.

COCOM: The authority of a Combatant Commander, an authority derived from a person.

CCMD: (DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms) “combatant command — A unified or specified command with a broad continuing mission under a single commander established and so designated by the President, through the Secretary of Defense and with the advice and assistance of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Also called CCMD.” A Unit.

CCDR: (DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms)combatant commander — A commander of one of the unified or specified combatant commands established by the President. Also called CCDR.” A person.

Component: The military service unit assigned to the CCMD (USARAF, NAVAF, MARFORAF, etc.). A unit.

Security Cooperation or Security Assistance or both?

Security Cooperation: (JP 3-20) “Security cooperation (SC) encompasses all Department of Defense (DOD) interactions, programs, and activities with foreign security forces (FSF) and their institutions to build relationships that help promote US interests; enable partner nations (PNs) to provide the US access to territory, infrastructure, information, and resources; and/or to build and apply their capacity and capabilities consistent with US defense objectives. It includes, but is not limited to, military engagements with foreign defense and security establishments (including those governmental organizations that primarily perform disaster or emergency response functions), DOD-administered security assistance (SA) programs, combined exercises, international armaments cooperation, and information sharing and collaboration.”

Security Assistance: (JP 3-20) “Group of programs authorized by the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961, as amended; the Arms Export Control Act of 1976, as amended; or other related statutes by which the United States provides defense articles, military training, and other defense-related services by grant, lease, loan, credit, or cash sales in furtherance of national policies and objectives, and those that are funded and authorized through the Department of State to be administered by Department of Defense/Defense Security Cooperation Agency are considered part of security cooperation.”

Say Security Cooperation when referring to DoD actions and Security Assistance when referring to DoS programs and you’ll be safe.

Combatant Command Campaign Plan

Theater Strategy: (JP 3-0) “An overarching construct outlining a combatant commander’s vision for integrating and synchronizing military activities and operations with the other instruments of national power in order to achieve national strategic objectives.”

Campaign Plan: (DoD Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms) “A joint operation plan for a series of related major operations aimed at achieving strategic or operational objectives within a given time and space.”

Line of Effort: (JP 5-0) “line of effort. In the context of joint operation planning, using the purpose (cause and effect) to focus efforts toward establishing operational and strategic conditions by linking multiple tasks and missions. Also called LOE.”

Intermediate Military Objective: No doctrinal definition that I could find. (U.S. Army War College Campaign Planning Handbook)Describes the milestones to achieve the TCP’s objectives. Serves as the basis for tasks to subordinate organizations and requests to other partners to accomplish tasks.”

Country Level Objective: No doctrinal definition that I could find. This is the objective in your country that supports the IMO and accomplishes the LOE.

Exercises: (JP 3-20) “Combined exercises and training involve bilateral or multilateral exercises and/or training of US forces in tandem with Partner Nation forces, and unlike most SC activities, the primary purpose of combined exercises and training is generally to enhance or maintain US force readiness.”

Operations: (JP 3-0) “1. A sequence of tactical actions with a common purpose or unifying theme. (JP 1) 2. A military action or the carrying out of a strategic, operational, tactical, service, training, or administrative military mission.”

Engagements: This one has numerous definitions.  For OSCs, it is Senior Leader Engagements, Military to Military events, Conferences, or Seminars.

Posture, Presence, Agreements: This one also has numerous definitions. For OSCs it is a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), Acquisition and Cross Sharing Agreement (ACSA), or if there is a U.S. military base or contingency location in your country. 

Security Force Functions

(JP 3-20 Appendix B, specifically B-6 below)

Executive Directive: (JP 3-20) “The executive function includes strategic direction that provides oversight, policy, and resources for the Foreign Security Forces generating and operating functions.” For example Ministry of Defense officials and high level Chief of Defense Officials.  You would use aspects of Defense Institution Building to assist with this function.

Generating Force: (JP 3-20) “Generating forces refer to the capacity and capabilities of the FSF [Foreign Security Forces] to organize, train, equip, and build operating force units.” For example Officer or NCO Academies, Basic Training Academy, Peacekeeping Center of Excellence, ranges or training areas, or the logistics SSA that receives and distributes equipment to the force.  You would use aspects of Institution Capacity Building (ICB) to assist with this function.

Operating Force: (JP 3-20) “The operating function employs military capabilities through application of joint functions of movement and maneuver, intelligence, fires, force protection, sustainment, and C2 during actual operations. Operating forces are responsible for collective training and performing missions assigned to the unit.” You will use every form of SC or SA to assist with this function.

The new Joint Publication 3-20 does a good job laying out the sub areas of Security Force Functions.  When identifying capability gaps and developing the capability packages you should target several of the areas below.


Security Force Assistance (SFA)

Security Force Assistance: (JP 3-20) “The Department of Defense activities that support the development of the capacity and capability of foreign security forces and their supporting institutions.”

A slight difference most people confuse: Capacity or Capability?

Most people use these two words interchangeably, but they are very different, although similar.  The best way to explain the difference is to read this article:

Capacity: There isn’t a DoD definition, but Merriam-Webster’s will do just fine: “the potential or suitability for holding, storing, or accommodating; an individual’s mental or physical ability.”

Capability: (CJCS Guide to the Chairman’s Readiness System) “The ability to execute a specified course of action. (A capability may or may not be accompanied by an intention.)”

Military capability:

(CJCS Guide to the Chairman’s Readiness System) “The ability to achieve a specified wartime objective (win a war or battle, destroy a target set). It includes four major components: force structure, modernization, readiness, and sustainability.”

(DASD Thomas Ross) “An ability to achieve a specific military operational objective that is supported, enabled, and sustained by all relevant defense systems at the institutional, strategic, operational, and tactical levels.”

Force structure: “Numbers, size, and composition of the units that comprise our defense forces; e.g., divisions, ships, air wings.”

Modernization: “Technical sophistication of forces, units weapon systems, and equipments.”

Unit readiness: “The ability to provide capabilities required by the Combatant Commanders to execute their assigned missions. This is derived from the ability of each unit to deliver the outputs for which it was designed.”

Sustainability: “The ability to maintain the necessary level and duration of operational activity to achieve military objectives. Sustainability is a function of providing for and maintaining those levels of ready forces, materiel, and consumables necessary to support military effort.”

Capability Package: There isn’t a USG definition of this phrase. Some articles use the DOTMLPF-P system as a guide.

(NATO: Translating Capability Requirements into Capability Packages) “A combination of national and NATO funded capital investments, O&M cost, manpower and other associated costs, which, together with the military forces and other essential requirements, enables a NATO Commander to achieve a specific Military Required Capability.”

Defense institution building (DIB): (JP 3-20) “Security cooperation conducted to establish or reform the capacity and capabilities of a partner nation’s defense institutions at the ministerial/department, military staff, and service headquarters levels.”

Institutional Capacity Building (ICB): (National Defense Authorization 2017, section 333) In order to meet the requirement in paragraph (2)(B) with respect to a particular foreign country under a program under subsection (a), the Secretary shall certify, prior to the initiation of the program, that the Department is already undertaking, or will undertake as part of the program, a program of institutional capacity building with appropriate institutions of such foreign country that is complementary to the program with respect to such foreign country under subsection (a). The purpose of the program of institutional capacity building shall be to enhance the capacity of such foreign country to exercise responsible civilian control of the national security forces of such foreign country.”


If you’ve read through all of this (maybe not!) then you are probably confused and/or tired right now.  Don’t worry, most people can’t run through this list with a full understanding of all the terms.  It is helpful to have an understanding of the lexicon we are expected to know.

Questions you can expect to hear at the STRWG:

Do they have the capacity for this?

What capability is this giving them?

Can they sustain this?

Is there a DIB portion to this? (FYI – most people are confusing DIB with ICB when referencing the section 333 requirement.  DIB = ED, ICB = GF/OF).

Helpful Service specific references

NWP 3-07.20, Navy Support to Security Cooperation

Field Manual 3-22, Army Support to Security Cooperation.

Marine Corps Interim Publication 3-33.03, Security Cooperation.

Air Force Doctrine Annex 3-22, Foreign Internal Defense.

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