On June 15, the Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA) division of the Joint Staff J7 released the study, “Decade of War Volume I: Enduring Lessons from the Past Decade of Operations.” A post-Iraq evaluation, drawn from 46 JCOA studies from 2003-2012 and over 400 observations, best practices and findings, the study details 11 strategic themes with recommendations for enabling responsiveness, versatility and affordability into future joint force development.

The study is contextualized first, by changes in the global environment (national pluralism, sovereignty erosion, small actor empowerment and ascendance of the information domain), which equally affect the security community; and second, by increased integration and collaboration among actors within missions, including the security community.

The study, sometimes characterized as a “what went wrong” document, may serve as a solid measure for what is “going very right” in Canadian security. The recently-emerged Canadian Security Partners’ Forum (CSPF) network has in less than a year had some degree of success along all of the 11 strategic themes identified in the study.

1. Accurately defining the operational environment, and specifically, understanding the population is key. The CSPF has been actively mapping the Canadian security landscape and capabilities. With a forward presence in all ten provinces and three territories, the Forum is expanding its diverse-source network and increasing information flows, all of which are accelerating understanding of the Canadian security population and security capacity, regionally and nationally.

2. Managing a conventional warfare paradigm in a non-direct combat environment requires non-direct approaches, of particular relevance to the domestic security community. Though decentralized, the Forum is developing significant network capabilities from the bottom-up, while reducing stovepipes among the many security sub-communities, by building interconnectivity and in turn facilitating unified approaches.

3. Battle for the narrative: Information is critical in aligning goals and narrative with end states. The Forum conducts ongoing environmental scans and aggressively assesses information to enhance the Canadian security capacity through augmented communication and networking. It supports an ambitious liaison capability within the network that disseminates and gathers knowledge, and reduces barriers to augmenting information capacity.

4. Transitions can be problematic for the mission/effort when under-resourced or not sufficiently planned for. The Forum is reducing transition risks through dispersed and rotating leadership, succession planning, cross-domain and cross-community engagement and learning, and enhanced situation awareness.

5. Adaptation: The Forum is broadening options through developing expert networking capabilities, engaging leadership, energizing lessons learned, and moving toward the development of a security-related body of knowledge.

6. Integration of capabilities across security sub-communities has begun and institutionalizing interactions and information flows among them has already had a noticeable force multiplier effect in building capacity among Forum partners.

7. Interagency coordination: U.S. coherent direction of resources and capabilities in Iraq was identified as problematic. The Forum is building pathways for collaboration across multiple vectors within the security community.

8. Coalition operations were complicated when partners with competing interests, cultures and resources struggle to act in a unified way. The Forum’s plug-and-play model has facilitated timely and practical cooperation, and highlighted common bases for action, without binding associations beyond their mandates or comfort zones. Security community buy-in, and supported, if not agreed, direction, is indicated by the 80 plus associations that have networked into the Forum.

9. Military partnering with the host-nation, or the “home-nation” security community, can reduce the need for military back-filling as security capacity increases. While the study concluded that the military would have to continue to backfill for others for the foreseeable future, the Forum’s unprecedented expansion may signal that growth in security capacity may be possible sooner and in a more structured way than expected, at least in Canada.

10. With increased state use of surrogates and proxies, the occurrence of asymmetric challenges has risen, increasing the need to reduce vulnerabilities, minimize exploitable seams within security efforts, and improve coordination and unity of effort through integration. The network’s broad presence and communication, even in the Canadian geographic peripheries, is already increasing awareness within the security community, potentially hardening Canadian targets.

11. Super-empowered threats are exploiting globalized technology and information, and achieving unprecedented potential for disruptive capacity. The Forum is proactively engaging the IT sector to advance awareness, mobilize unity of effort, and build capacity.

The JCOA study may serve as an important guide for and indicator of future successes – both military and for security.

Bonnie Butlin is the executive director of the Canadian Security Partners’ Forum.

The National Capital Security Partners’ Forum will launch its Security and Intelligence Executive Lecture Series this fall in Ottawa.