Project on Defense Alternatives

Review of Selected UN Staff Reform Proposals

Project on Defense Alternatives
Carl Conetta
Charles Knight

Propelled by the inadequacy of United Nations staffing arrangements for the expanded peacekeeping missions of the 1990s, the United Nations announced in May 1994 a reorganization of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO). 1 The key feature of this reorganization is the division of the department into two major sections: (i) the Office of Planning and Support and (ii) the Office of Operations, each headed by a new assistant secretary general.

The Office of Planning and Support is divided into a Planning Division and a Field Administration and Logistics Division. The Planning Division is headed by a military flag officer who is dual-hatted as Deputy Military Advisor to the Undersecretary. Its main mission is to be a planning service, but it also houses civilian police, de-mining, and training units. The Field Administration and Logistics Division manages financial, logistical, and personnel requirements of United Nations peacekeeping operations.

The Office of Operations is divided into three regional sections to which the individual country missions report. It also has a special electoral unit to help organize and monitor elections. Under the new arrangement, each country mission will be assigned at least one military officer, but continue to be headed by a civilian. Directly reporting in the new arrangement to the Undersecretary for Peacekeeping are an executive office, a Policy and Analysis Unit, the Situation Center, and the Military Advisor (who also reports to the Secretary-General). 2

Several of the following reform proposals predate these recent UN reforms; hence, some of the suggested measures or their equivalents have already found their way onto an agenda for implementation. However, we examine these proposals in all their key parts because they often form integrated programs whose intended aims cannot be appreciated through a partial review.

1. US Institute for Peace Study Group Reform Proposal

An international study group constituted in 1992 by the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) identified a variety of goals to guide the development of a more effective UN staff. 3 These goals pertain to several key problem areas: (i) mandate development, (ii) planning and management of operations, (iii) communication and coordination among the various authorities, offices, and agents involved in peacekeeping, and (iv) the provision of information vital to planning and management.

Mandate development: The USIP study group suggested the formation of a UN military staff to advise the Secretariat on the military requirements associated with a proposed operation. Key to this function would be the identification of a strategy that would ensure the achievement of political objectives, as determined by the Security Council, within given resource constraints. The strategy would inform the development of a sensible mandate and of a clear statement of operational limits and rules of engagement.

Planning and management of operations: The proposed staff or subsections of it (i.e., task forces or field headquarters) should be able to effectively plan and manage all aspects of field operations with special attention to previous shortfalls in the areas of deployment, support, and field communications and logistics.

Communication and coordination: Special efforts at coordination and communication should focus on linking (i) the centers of political and military authority, (ii) the field command and UN headquarters, and (iii) the various aspects of field operations: military, political, and humanitarian.

Scope of intelligence activities: Intelligence efforts should focus on providing UN political and military authorities with early warning of potential crises, detailed information on developing crises, and very timely and precise information on the progress of field operations.

The USIP study group report suggests that the proposed military section of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations have several key elements:

  • an Operations Center,
  • a Military Advisor to the Secretary-General,
  • planning and intelligence staffs, and
  • ad hoc task forces that would assume direct responsibility for planning individual operations.

The Operations Center would serve the information needs of all the UN departments and offices involved in "planning, monitoring, and communicating with field operations" and in the "ongoing collection and processing of information." 4

The planning staff would gather under its authority much of the peacekeeping planning and management functions previously distributed among different UN departments. Noting that "the diffusion of responsibility over all the various components critical to peacekeeping. . . makes effective management extremely difficult," the study group advises that "issues organically related to the functioning of the peacekeeping activity, such as personnel, logistics, and support functions, be moved to the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO)." 5

According to the study group's recommendations, responsibility for planning specific operations would pass to a staff task force early in the planning process. This task force could draw additional personnel from the national armed forces participating in the operation. The designated field commander and field staff personnel would begin participating in the task force at the earliest possible opportunity -- although the task force itself would remain alongside the operations center and military advisory staff in New York. Once force deployment and operations were underway, the task force would provide the critical interface between UN political authorities and the field commander and staff. The task force would also link closely to UN political and humanitarian departments involved in the operation. 6 However, military command authority -- within the limits set by multinational coalition operations -- would rest with the field commander, not the New York-based task force.

The USIP study group proposals imply some limits on the UN's institutional influence over peace operations: Although the UN staff would retain within its purview the development of mandates for the full spectrum of peace operations, regional organizations or lead countries would act as subcontractors for peace enforcement operations, bearing principal responsibility for their planning, management, and conduct. The USIP proposals would also limit the UN's institutional influence in "traditional" peacekeeping operations in several ways. First, most of the DPKO's regular military section staff would comprise seconded military officers. Second, the staff task forces, which bear principal responsibility for designing peacekeeping operations and managing their support, would come together on an ad hoc basis, drawing on the military staffs of nations participating in the action. The responsibilities of the regular military section staff, including organic and seconded personnel, would be limited largely to:

  • providing the Secretariat with routine strategic intelligence;
  • keeping an inventory of member-state peacekeeping assets and monitoring their quality;
  • setting long-term goals and coordinating efforts to improve the peacekeeping capabilities of the UN community;
  • assisting the Security Council and Secretariat in the development of mandates; and,
  • facilitating communication between political and military authorities, and among military and civilian offices.

Even this rather modest roster of tasks and functions would, in the study group's view, require that the UN's peace operations headquarters be "robustly rebuilt". In considering how best to manage the more complex peace operations -- such as UNTAC, UNOSOM, and UNPROFOR -- until the necessary UN reforms are complete, the study group examines the option of "removing managerial control from the Secretariat structure in New York and transferring most of the duties to the field representative, who would then be given broad latitude to operate with better responsiveness to conditions on the ground." 7 The inspiration for this proposal is the "viceroy system" utilized by colonial powers "prior to the age of rapid, secure communications -- a bygone age that resembles the level of Command, Control and Communications (C3) capabilities in the UN's New York headquarters." 8

Under the viceroy system, substantial authority over the military, political, and civil aspects of an operation would devolve to the UN's designated field representative. The report notes that a viceroy system in its fullest expression would imply "the absence of a coherent, sovereign authority in the territory in which the United Nations has chosen to intervene." Hence, the report sees the system as most appropriate for two types of contingencies: those involving "newly liberated colonies where sovereign authority is still taking shape" and those involving "failed states." In the study group's assessment, these two types will encompass many of the contingencies requiring a UN response in the new era. 9

The report also develops a rationale for using this approach as more than just a stopgap measure: Combined with the "lead nation" concept, whereby a single member state assumes predominant responsibility for an operation, the viceroy system could strengthen command unity and facilitate coordination among a field operation's many parts. The report concludes that this combination "could alleviate many of the problems peacekeepers now face and many of the reservations the US military may have in taking part in peacekeeping operations." 10

2. Proposals by John Mackinlay and Jarat Chopra

In several articles and studies John Mackinlay and Jarat Chopra have drawn attention to a disturbing dynamic evident in recent peace operations: the responsiveness, cohesion, and stamina of UN field forces have tended to degrade in response to field conditions that require forces to have just these qualities. 11 More than simply reflecting the greater complexity, size, and volatility of recent contingencies, this dynamic also derives from a defective approach to conducting and supporting field operations. In assessing these flaws and suggesting corrective measures, the authors work outward from the vantage point of the field commander, noting that it is in the field headquarters that "all the tensions and fracture lines of a fundamentally flawed instrument converge." Mackinlay identifies several "drag factors" that impede the effectiveness of UN field commanders:

  • fluctuating and unclear political demands emanating from UN headquarters in New York,
  • insufficient control over necessary force support assets,
  • the relative autonomy of individual national contingents, and
  • poor coordination among the military and nonmilitary elements of UN field operations.

Regarding the relationship between the field commander and the UN political center, Mackinlay suggests that "a political/military buffer is needed in New York to separate and, if necessary, translate raw, sometimes highly politicized statements generated by international debate from operational policy." 12 In his view, a revived Military Staff Committee (MSC) could serve this function by complementing and informing the political "give-and-take" of Security Council debate with negotiation and debate among national military authorities.

Lack of adequate logistical support for UN operations is a common complaint. Mackinlay locates part of the problem in the institutional separation of logistics and peacekeeping functions in the field -- the former often falling entirely under the authority of the Chief Administrative Officer. Mackinlay argues that the UN has failed to understand that "logistics ... at the operational level are a [peacekeeping] support function." 13

Another commonly cited difficulty is that of achieving a unity of effort in the field among different national contingents, who may individually remain oriented toward their national command authorities. This was troublesome enough in the traditional peacekeeping operations of the Cold War period -- most of which were less complex and volatile than today's efforts. Given the increased level of threat and instability characteristic of recent contingencies, the relative autonomy of national contingents can have deadly consequences. And as Mackinlay points out, "the reluctance of countries to delegate authority over their national contingents rises in direct proportion to the threat." 14 This hamstrings the field commander's ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstances. "The bottom line," Mackinlay concludes, is that "the UN's capability to respond effectively decreases" as field conditions grow more demanding and dangerous. 15

Exacerbating "unity of command" problems is the increasing reliance on "offshore forces," which may fall entirely outside the field commander's authority even though they may carry the responsibility for vital functions, ranging from intelligence to air support to force extraction. Mackinlay concludes that "a major operational decision by the UN can be reversed by a more coherently established coalition or by nations that individually provide the offshore element of the force. In this way, nations exercise their idiosyncratic control regularly and sometimes with breathtaking disregard for the fragility and overall cohesion of the force." 16

Finally, Mackinlay draws attention to problems of coordination among the diplomatic, military, humanitarian, and civil components of UN operations. Although these agents may all operate in the field under UN auspices, their individual "chains of command" may converge only in distant offices or not at all. Nevertheless, these agents are heavily dependent on each other for their success, and sometimes even for their survival. But lacking good coordination, their "synergy" may be of a negative sort, as they place unanticipated demands and limitations on each other. In Mackinlay's view,

Coordination across the elements of the force would be easier if UN structure and procedures existed for that purpose. However, so far in every force the staff has had to improvise agreements and ad hoc meetings to bring together the strands of different activities into a single strategy with a common purpose. The plan thus achieved is then reinterpreted at a lower level in each district by a similarly convened group representing the essential elements of the force. 17

Mackinlay concludes that "if a multifunctional force is to succeed, as opposed to simply survive in a reactive manner, the commanders must be able to plan for success and exercise the leadership necessary to organize the variously motivated elements towards achieving the same long-term objective." 18 To address these requirements, Mackinlay proposes the development of (i) a UN staff corps, which would ensure better prepared leadership, and (ii) a joint coordination cell in the field, which would serve to draw together the various aspects of UN activity at a level close to the action. 19

UN Staff Corps: The UN's recent practice in complex operations has been to borrow a staff element from a participating member state that would serve for the duration as a field headquarters or at least provide an initial headquarters nucleus. In some cases, such as UNTAC, the staff nucleus, which was Australian, could not build-out fast enough or sufficiently and was, thus, overwhelmed. In other cases -- such as UNPROFOR and UNITAF (in which NATO and the US Marine Corps, respectively, provided headquarters elements) -- the field staff was more robust and stable, but this came at the expense of a smooth and adequate integration of those national contingents and civilian agencies that lacked a prior relationship with the headquarters agent.

Mackinlay's proposed staff corps would serve to improve planning and serve as a basis for field headquarters that are inclusive, cohesive, and well-integrated with the UN system as a whole. Complementing a regular, standing staff in New York (which would include both UN personnel and seconded officers) would be a stand-by reserve of seconded officers. Reserve staff would shadow the regulars and, when the need arose, provide the nucleus of a field headquarters. Prior to the Security Council issuing a mandate for an operation, this staff group would be part of a task force responsible for reconnoitering the field and assisting in mandate development and operational planning. Once national contingents for the operation have been chosen, the staff group would brief and cooperate with the field commanders. Prior to deployment of the main force, this group would establish a headquarters nucleus in the field.

Clearly, Mackinlay's proposed approach would improve the continuity of staff and planning, and it would facilitate coordination between New York and the field. Moreover, because the regular and, especially, reserve staff would comprise seconded officers, some basis would exist for facilitating the interface of the field staff and national contingents. Of course, to realize this benefit, the national composition of the field headquarters nucleus would have to mirror that of the field force.

Joint Coordination Cell (JCC): This proposal seeks to concentrate in a field center or "cell" the coordination efforts of the various agencies -- diplomatic, military, civil, and humanitarian -- participating in an operation. Coordination would occur closer to the action and, thus, would better reflect and be more responsive to developments on the ground. "The purpose of the cell," writes Mackinlay, "is to create a focus of information and facility exchange which can also be used for coordination."

By creating a Joint Coordination Cell at the highest level, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General can assist the work of the agencies and NGOs, and by doing so exercise an unstated, but nevertheless effective coordinating influence on all their activities. The cell must be established at the highest level and under the direct authority of the Special Representative. 20

This approach would work best if political, civil, and humanitarian bureaus and organizations could adopt something like the military organizational principle of investing a local executive with predominate authority over the details of a field operation. A Joint Coordination Cell could then influence all aspects of the field operation quickly and in some detail -- within the general parameters set by central authorities.

3. The "Chapter VII Committee" Proposal

In a 1993 report and proposal, Jim Whitman and Ian Bartholomew of Cambridge University's Global Security Program address the problem of ensuring the political legitimacy of United Nations military operations. 21 The authors believe it is essential for reasons of both political legitimacy and military effectiveness that the United Nations put some institutional distance between the Secretariat and peace enforcement operations, while strengthening the organization's overall political control of such operations when they occur under UN authorization.

[G]enuine legitimacy ... derives not only from satisfying established legal and moral precepts and achieving a sufficient international consensus, but also from the utilization of clearly-defined lines of political control and accountability that demonstrably transcend national interest. 22

Whitman and Bartholomew argue for erecting institutional barriers between the use of restraining military force in traditional peacekeeping and the use of coercive military force typical of a Chapter VII operation. They state that "... such delineation is necessary if traditional peacekeeping is not to become a debased currency." 23

[A]s the practice of peacekeeping extends in terms of scale, complexity, and military risk, resort by the United Nations to coercive measures whose military effectiveness [ie, military effect or success] is not plainly matched by their political legitimacy also threatens to undermine the consensual and impartial nature of traditional peacekeeping, potentially diminishing its future utility as an instrument of conflict resolution. 24

In order to achieve institutional delineation, they construct parallel structures for the two types of operations. They advocate keeping the peacekeeping structure in its current form. However, to ensure stronger UN guidance for coercive enforcement operations they propose creation of a Chapter VII Committee serving under the Secretary-General. In the authors' view, this arrangement would preserve the accountability of the Secretary-General to the Security Council while permitting a delegation of responsibility for the direction of coercive military operations. In this way the Secretary-General can "remain fully engaged without the need to relinquish the impartiality that his position uniquely confers and demands." 25

The proposed committee would function mainly at the military strategic level, and it would comprise senior military staff representatives from the fifteen member nations on the Security Council. 26 The main task of this body would be to assist the Security Council in framing "Chapter VII resolutions that properly balance a desired political outcome with the military means required (and available) to achieve it." 27 The Chapter VII Committee would provide the missing link in the chain of command between the political authority in the Security Council and the United Nations field operations. This, they believe, will achieve what is "a structural necessity for all democratically-controlled national military commands, namely the alignment of authority with accountability." 28

Central to the authors' proposal is the contention that the conduct of UN military enforcement operations should and will be delegated to coalitions of "military competent states" or regional collective security organizations, such as NATO. They believe that "operational inflexibility and continuous cost" argue against the creation of standing or standby United Nations forces. Conversely, reliance on forces contributed by member states increases the need for a responsive and competent UN command and support structure; otherwise nations will not put their forces at risk. 29

Because they do not foresee the United Nations having its own military forces, they do not believe that a formal military command structure need be attached to the Chapter VII Committee. Although the Security Council would be expected to appoint an operational field commander for each mission, full command would remain with the nations contributing contingents. Nevertheless, they propose the creation of an International Military Support Staff to serve the Chapter VII Committee. Among the suggested tasks of this support staff are: monitoring the status of national forces available to United Nations operations; collection and analysis of operational intelligence; contingency planning; development of standard operating procedures (SOPs); logistical, financial, and administrative coordination of operations; and the development of a core training curriculum. For the longer term, Whitman and Bartholomew propose that the Chapter VII Committee and its staff could serve as the "foundation for a fully professional permanent United Nations military staff." 30

4. "Sword and Olive Branch" Proposal

During 1993 and early 1994, a group of US military officers attending the National Security Program of Harvard University's JFK School of Government drafted a report proposing "a rigorous, comprehensive, and professional system for integrating military force considerations in the direction, planning, and implementation of peacekeeping and peace enforcement." 31 The report, The Sword and the Olive Branch: Military Advice for United Nations Peacekeeping, reviews the recent experience of UN peace operations and identifies a number of key problems, which include the institution's

  • inability to anticipate the need for military force,
  • failure to articulate the military conditions necessary to achieve political goals,
  • failure to identify achievable military objectives,
  • lack of a planning capability that can match military means and ends,
  • failure to articulate clear success/failure criteria,
  • failure to articulate appropriate rules of engagement (ROE), and
  • lack of adequate feedback mechanisms to ensure operational adjustment. 32

The report concentrates on designing military advisory structures for those missions that have been called "aggressive," "forceful," "enhanced," or "non-traditional" peacekeeping. 33 The authors state:

At the root of the United Nations's failure in recent operations is the incompatibility between the increased use of enforcement actions in non-traditional peacekeeping and the command and control arrangements that evolved during the traditional peacekeeping of the Cold War era. 34
The authors believe that non-traditional peacekeeping requires articulation of political goals, military objectives, and "means-ends matches that are the hallmark of successful national government planning." 35 As they see it, the successful conduct of traditional peacekeeping operations has not required the United Nations to create new military conditions in the field as a prerequisite for the achievement of political goals. Instead, the United Nations has relied on standard operating procedures (SOPs) and restrictive rules of engagement (ROE) that were thought helpful in resolving conflicts. However, in recent years, as the Security Council has passed more assertive and ambitious resolutions, "the United Nations has been experiencing a growing means-ends mismatch for its operations ... reliance on ROE in lieu of operational guidance has caused uneven and confusing execution in the field." 36 37

The principal elements of the Sword and Olive Branch proposal, some of which anticipated the UN reforms now underway, are

  • Revitalization of the MSC as a military advisory and liaison body,
  • Provision of the Secretary-General with a full-time military advisor,
  • Creation of a separate Military Planning and Operations Division within the DPKO,
  • Conversion of the situation center into a fully staffed operations center, and
  • Relocation of the Field Operations Divisions to the DPKO as a fully empowered logistics and acquisition office.

The proposed reforms of UN military planning would begin with revitalization of the MSC, which the 1994 reorganization of peacekeeping failed to address. The authors believe that an active MSC is needed to provide strategic direction to the Security Council. "As long as the MSC remains defunct, critics will point to this fact as an indication of lack of commitment to UN peacekeeping." 38

A revitalized MSC would advise the Security Council on the use of force and serve as the highest military advisory body in the United Nations, with responsibility and authority to impart technical advice to lower-echelon political-military staffs. The nature of the MSC remains consultative, therefore the authority to assign command and control to military forces would remain with the Security Council.

Addressing the concerns raised by Whitman and Bartholomew, the authors also propose the ad hoc expansion of the MSC beyond the P5 by inviting the participation of member nations that contribute forces to particular United Nations operations. They would also consider representation by non-permanent members of the Security Council.

An MSC with membership drawn from all force-contributing nations could take the lead in the development and publication of a United Nations peacekeeping doctrine that sets forth fundamental principles guiding the direction of strategic actions. Standard operating procedures, which now center more on how to operate in the United Nations environment than on combat, could be elaborated to help integrate United Nations forces. Once developed, the MSC would ensure that the doctrine was continually evaluated for effectiveness and application. 39
Training would remain primarily a national responsibility, but it would be structured to conform to United Nations standards. The MSC would act to coordinate staff training in multinational venues.

The reforms of 1994 moved many of the planning functions previously shouldered by the Military Advisor's office to a new planning division. The head of this new office is a flag officer who is "dual-hatted" as Deputy Military Advisor. The authors believe that this reform, while improving on previous conditions, still pulls the military advisors in too many directions. They propose instead that the Military Advisor and his deputy be dedicated to the counsel of the Secretary-General and the MSC. The officer who serves as Chief of the Planning Division should be the chief military advisor to the Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping. Both the offices of the Military Advisor and the Chief of the Planning Division should be sufficiently staffed to fulfill their responsibilities. The authors advocate that the Military Advisor serve as the link between the MSC and the Planning Division.

Regarding the responsibilities of the planning staff, The Sword and the Olive Branch states that it should

be responsible for ensuring that operational plans match the strategic direction received from the Secretary-General through the under secretary. It is here that military considerations should be incorporated in the planning for force, equipment, logistics, and budgetary requirements. The military planning staff would be responsible for developing detailed contingency plans, doctrine, and training requirements. SOPs and ROE would be established by this staff. The military planning staff serves the critical function of ensuring that military objectives match the political goals they are intended to achieve, and that those military objectives are clearly articulated to the UN field commander. 40

The Sword and the Olive Branch calls for the addition to the DPKO of a full-fledged operations center. This would serve as the United Nation's node for "political and military direction as well as intelligence and current operational information." 41 The authors believe that a true operations center is necessary for effective command and control of United Nations operations. With a professionally staffed information cell within an operations center, the United Nations would have multiple sources of information, allowing it to better appreciate where facts end and the political bias of information providers begins. 42

5. The "Blue Helmet" Proposal

In 1993 a group of US officers, also at the National Security Program of Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, authored a report entitled A Blue Helmet Combat Force, advocating creation of a standby force for United Nations peace enforcement missions. 43 Although the UN Charter provides for the designation of standby forces in Article 43, the authors argue that one reason this provision has never been implemented is nations' reluctance to commit forces permanently to the United Nations. Commenting on the Agenda for Peace, the authors state, "The major objections to Boutros-Ghali's proposed standing force were in reaction to his call for the creation of Article 43 agreements." 44 Instead of invoking Article 43, however, the Blue Helmet report proposes that the UN community can embrace the spirit of Chapter 43 through the less formal mechanism of Memoranda of Understanding (MOUs).

The authors also contend that if the United Nations is to exercise more effective control over the enforcement operations that member states conduct in its name, it must incorporate a new office or body capable of providing strategic direction to these operations. As an alternative to the invigoration of the Military Staff Committee, which the authors view as politically problematic, Blue Helmet proposes adding a Council of Ambassadors between the Security Council and the Military Advisor. This, however, would not be a substitute for the MSC, because its main function would be to provide political direction. To further improve the military direction of enforcement operations, the authors support the proposal put forward by General Indar Jit Rikhye for a United Nations general military staff that would report to the Military Advisor. 45

The Blue Helmet report proposes that a Standby Force be based on the model of US corps. It would comprise approximately 55,000 troops, which the authors assert is the smallest operational Corps that can sustain combat operations. The Corps headquarters would have 3,000 personnel, including command, signal, and military police elements. The Corps support command (COSCOM) would have 12,000 troops, including transportation, fuel, medical, quartermaster, and maintenance elements. Combat units in the Corps would include a Mechanized Division of 15,000 troops, a Motorized Division of 10,000, an Airborne Division of 10,000, and an Armored Cavalry Regiment of 5,000. Force multiplier units could be added as required.

The Corps would have integrated command, control, communications and intelligence (C3I) capabilities, reliable logistics, common training, and the capacity to coordinate with United Nations planning and administration staff. The report recommends that the force be airlift capable and sufficiently ready to deploy personnel on 72 hours notice.

Composition of the Corps would include no more than five national forces with at least one from a nation not serving on the Security Council. However, the need for a rapid, global deployment capability limits the lead role to the permanent members of the Security Council. According to the authors:

One permanent member of the Security Council would be responsible, on a rotating basis of two to four years, for providing the Corps HQ, the Corps Support Command (COSCOM) and the Mechanized Infantry Division. 46
Moreover, force cohesion dictates that the state providing the Corps HQ also provide the Support Command. This does not mean that other nations could not provide some specialized support units, either to meet unique national demands or because of unique national capabilities. Generally, the authors suggest that non-permanent Security Council members or other members of the General Assembly provide the less technical units as needed and available.

In the proposed standby force, the Corps Headquarters would include the force commander and an integrated combat staff. To facilitate interoperability the headquarters staff would include senior level liaison officers from the other national forces. The authors point to experience with NATO as "a strong testimonial that diligent staff work can solve interoperability issues. 47 They point out that:

According to US and NATO doctrine, a Corps headquarters is responsible for providing command and control capabilities to subordinate units. This procedure would alleviate possible disconnects caused by the multinational makeup of the subordinate units in Corps. 48
The Corps Headquarters would also provide subordinate national units with the communications equipment necessary for efficient interoperability. Further:
Standards for tactical procedures, status reporting, resupply procedures, and orders would be governed by the Corps' tactical standard operating procedure, which is habitually issued to newly attached units on their arrival in the Corps. 49

The standby force does not have air and naval components, but this does not preclude their use in certain situations. The authors believe that air and naval capabilities will likely be made available when required, and therefore, Corps staff must be trained and capable of integrating air and naval elements. 50 For models of possible naval and air components the authors recommend looking at NATO's combined Standing Naval Forces (Atlantic and Mediterranean) and the USAF's "composite" and "intervention" air wings.

6. Summary and Guidelines

As noted earlier, comparison of comprehensive proposals for the development of the UN peace operations system is complicated by differences in assumptions regarding what changes are practicable in the areas of command structure, command unity, and the provision of resources (including armed forces). Notably, proposals differ on the pivotal question of how the UN Secretariat should handle the task of peace enforcement -- if at all. Nonetheless, among the proposals there is some significant convergence on several initiatives that should have a place in any program of reform:

  • Create a high-level body of military expertise representative of Security Council members' military establishments to provide better military-strategic direction for UN peace operations.
  • Improve UN oversight of UN-authorized operations led by member states or member-state coalitions.
  • Enlarge and develop the military planning, intelligence, and management staff active within the UN system -- either within the existing Secretariat structure or under a new high-level, representative military committee.
  • Bring the field support functions more fully into the military planning and management process and, thus, ensure the integrity and coherence of the process in all its aspects: planning, operations, and support.
  • Improve the capacity of the New York staff center to give adequate, individual attention to each field operation through the development of a task force approach, which for each operation would unite responsible staff across relevant offices, and a well-articulated operations center.
  • To ensure realistic planning, make provisions for a staff presence in the field early in the planning process and prior to the deployment of a full field headquarters.
  • Improve the integration of the different elements of field operations -- military and civilian, and individual national contingents -- in the field through the development of liaison bodies, such as John Mackinlay's proposed Joint Coordination Cell.
  • Improve the reliability of the system by which the UN accesses its member states' military staff and assets -- if not by a system of standby forces, then by a system of standby or reserve staff and memoranda of understanding governing the use of other military assets.
  • Institutionalize a process by which UN member states can improve the compatibility of their armed forces for purposes of multinational peace operations. This process should focus especially on the development of joint and combined doctrine and on the interoperability of communications equipment.


1. Early peacekeeping operations developed in an ad hoc manner under the direction of the Secretary General's office. In UN Headquarters in New York, two different bureaucratic chains were used: (i) political direction flowed through the Office for Special Political Affairs to the particular field commander; and (ii) administration and provisioning were provided through the Field Operations Division. These two lines of command were joined in the field headquarters where the mission Chief of Staff and the Chief Administrative Officer both reported to the Field Commander. Nevertheless, the Field Commander had no direct authority over the provisioning flowing through the Field Operations Division in New York. This reflected the fact that much of the provisioning of peacekeeping was dependent on voluntary contributions of member nations, so in essence field commanders had to get along with what they were offered.

The creation of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in 1992 was an effort to bring the political direction and provisioning of peacekeeping into greater alignment. The DPKO was headed by an Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping and an Assistant Under-Secretary. It had three regional divisions which oversaw specific country operations; it incorporated the field operations division which covered tasks ranging from logistics to personnel arrangements to mission planning; a military advisor and staff was attached; and more recently, a situation center was added.

2. For summaries of the 1994 reorganization of the DPKO, see Pamela Reed, J. Matthew Vaccaro, and William Durch, Handbook on United Nations Peace Operations, Stimson Center Handbook 3 (Washington DC: Henry L. Stimson Center, 1995), pp 7-9; "Composition and Organization of UN Peacekeeping Operations," Military Technology (December 1994), pp 68-69; Boutros Boutros-Ghali, "Improving the Capacity of the United Nations for Peacekeeping," Military Technology (December 1994), pp 70-82; and, Dimengo et al, The Sword and the Olive Branch, epilogue, pp 73-79.

3. Wurmser and Bearg Dyke, The Professionalization of Peace Keeping.

4. ibid, p 42.

5. ibid, p 44.

6. ibid, p 43.

7. ibid, p 45

8. ibid, p 45.

9. ibid, pp 45-46.

10. ibid, p 45.

11. Articles reviewed include John Mackinlay, "Improving Multinational Forces"; Mackinlay, "Problems for US Forces in Operations Beyond Peacekeeping," in William H Lewis, ed., Peacekeeping: The Way Ahead, McNair Paper No. 25 (Washington DC: National Defense University, 1993); and Mackinlay and Chopra, "Second Generation Multinational Operations."

12. Mackinlay, "Improving Multinational Forces," p 161.

13. ibid, p 161.

14. ibid, p 161.

15. ibid, p 163.

16. ibid, p 163.

17. Mackinlay, "Problems for US Forces in Operations Beyond Peacekeeping," p 35.

18. Mackinlay, "Improving Multinational Forces," p 161.

19. ibid, p 166.

20. ibid, p 168.

21. Jim Whitman and Ian Bartholomew, The Chapter VII Committee - A Policy Proposal: Military Means for Political Ends - Effective Control of UN Military Enforcement, Global Security Program, Cambridge University, August 1993.

22. ibid, p.6.

23. ibid, p.18.

24. ibid, p 21.

25. ibid, p 31.

26. It is conceivable that the already existent, but inactive, Military Staff Committee (MSC) could fulfill many of the same functions as the proposed Chapter VII Committee. However, the authors argue that the MSC is politically "anachronistic" without charter reform because its core membership is restricted to the Permanent Five on the Security Council with no assured role for the other ten Council members. Considering this chartered constraint, they do not believe the MSC will be revived.

27. ibid, p 24.

28. ibid, p 26.

29. ibid, p 20.

30. ibid, p 26.

31. Dimengo et al, The Sword and the Olive Branch: Military Advice for United Nations Peacekeeping, p 2.

32. ibid, p 3.

33. In the authors' view, such missions include preventive deployment, internal conflict resolution, implementation of comprehensive political/military settlements, protection of humanitarian relief efforts in conditions of continuing conflict, assistance in the reestablishment of state authority, enforcement of ceasefires between regular forces, and guaranteeing or denying rights of passage.

34. ibid, p 19.

35. ibid, p 21.

36. ibid, p 22.

37. For example, the authors cite the American and Pakistani experiences in Somalia. In this case, the two contingents "applied the same ROE in significantly different ways, precipitating a major dispute between the two forces, and underscoring a significant difference in how a UN resolution was enforced within Mogadishu." Lt Col Dennis Dimengo, Lt Col David Fagan, Cmdr Jan Gaudio, Cmdr. Dennis Sande, Lt. Cmdr. Charles Zingler, The Sword and the Olive Branch: Military Advice for United Nations Peacekeeping, National Security Program Policy Analysis Paper, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (Cambridge: Kennedy School, forthcoming 1995), p 23.

38. ibid, p 26.

39. ibid, p 50.

40. ibid, p 56.

41. ibid, p 57.

42. Opportunities for preventative action would be enhanced. "The United Nations would be able to frame issues and situations in its own aggregative security interests and be better prepared to discuss appropriate actions." ibid, p 59.

43. Edward J. Dennehy et al, A Blue Helmet Combat Force, National Security Program Policy Analysis Paper 93-01, Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University (Cambridge: Kennedy School, 1993).

44. ibid, p 14.

45. Indar Jit Rikhye, Strengthening UN Peacekeeping: New Challenges and Proposals (Washington: US Institute of Peace, May 1992), p 48.

46. Dennehy et al, A Blue Helmet Combat Force, p 24.

47. ibid, p 19.

48. ibid, p 24.

49. ibid, p 19.

50. In general, training is viewed as key to fielding an effective multinational Corps. The report makes several specific recommendations for training. It proposes reliance on the US Battlefield Command Training Program, which utilizes a simulation program involving successive levels of command down to the battalion. This program would help certify commanders' ability to coordinate and synchronize operations. The report also suggests that the Corps publish a task list to help ensure uniform adherence to military fundamentals.

Citation: Carl Conetta and Charles Knight, "Review of Selected UN Staff Reform Proposals." Originally published in Vital Force: A Proposal for the Overhaul of the UN Peace Operations System and for the Creation of a UN Legion, Project on Defense Alternatives, Cambridge, MA: Commonwealth Institute, October 1995.

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