By, with, and through: the theory and practice of special operations capacity-building
Heisler, Anthony F.
Fox, William P.
Gregg, Heather S.
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This thesis presents a theory of how U.S. special operations forces (USSOF) build partner capacity. Building partner capacity (BPC) is a cornerstone of America’s post-9/11 security strategy and a signature mission of USSOF. However, USSOF lacks a theory that articulates how capacity is built or the keys to its success. This thesis explores BPC from the top down, through national security documents, doctrine, and case studies. It identifies that BPC is not a single act, but rather a series of tactical, operational, and strategic engagements carried out over an extended period of time in a dynamic and unpredictable partnership environment. The partnership environment is the aggregate of factors and conditions that influence the partnership and ultimately bound capacity-building potential. Given these antecedent conditions, USSOF requires a BPC enterprise to provide the continuous synchronization, vertically from the policy level to the tactical level and horizontally with the partner nation, to ensure the right skills and equipment arrive in the right place, at the right time, for the duration necessary to achieve the capacity-building objective. This thesis constructs and examines the BPC enterprise, the actors that can bring it to life, and offers seven principles likely to be associated with capacity-building success.
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