The Civil-Military Fusion Center and Civil-Military Overview (CFC/CMO) is an office under the control of NATO’s Allied Command Transformation headquarters, which manages the flow of information between the military and civilian arenas during complex crises in an attempt to reduce any communication conflicts for first responders. The division chose to locate in Innovation Research Park at ODU to foster collaboration with students in ODU’s Graduate Program in International Studies; further building upon the decade-long relationship between the University and NATO.
Many GPIS students are involved with the CFC, both as interns and full-time staff. Dr. Matt Hall, former GPIS Ph.D. student and now Afghan Socio-Cultural Development and Humanitarian Affairs Knowledge Manager at the CFC, says “In this economy, advanced degrees set you apart even more than normally. In this field, an advanced degree in international studies is seen as even more relevant, and for very good reason. GPIS provides broad training that makes any graduate automatically well prepared for many of the activities and much of the subject matter that we encounter. Much of the specialization offered by GPIS works to our advantage as well. In my case, my training in IPE and Comparative and Regional studies has again and again proven invaluable and enabled me to jump from team to team at the CFC as necessary over the last 2.5 years. I have now worked on multiple sectors and multiple countries and regions including Economic Development, Infrastructure, Socio-Cultural Development and Humanitarian Affairs in Afghanistan; Diplomacy and Governance throughout North Africa; and all sectors for Ethiopia. Of course GPIS courses train students to think and work critically and scientifically, both of which are essential tools here."
Dr. Matt Hall, PhD alumni of GPIS, says that currently, the CFC employs three teams: Afghanistan, Mediterranean Basin and Anti-Piracy.
The Afghanistan team is our oldest, best known and most established team. It consists of five knowledge managers, one ODU intern and one Forward Knowledge Manager stationed in Kabul at ISAF HQ.
The Mediterranean Basin team has been around since the summer of 2010. The website went online in November 2010 and they began producing newsletters and then reports in January 2011. The Med team has been busy over the last year responding to and covering events in North Africa. They have since February been focusing mostly on events in Libya while maintaining coverage of other nations.
The Anti-Piracy team is our youngest. It has a global focus but its primary concern has been the Horn of Africa and Somalia.
“Our products have become very popular, especially over the last several months. We have a lot of military readers but our numbers for IOs, NGOs, and GOs are growing steadily. Our KMs provide the backbone for our ability to research and write about crisis areas around the world,” Matt reports. “The CFC ‘pushes’ excellent products out to users, which are very well received. Cimicweb acts as a potentially great portal, whose use by a variety of individuals and organizations is growing weekly. The CFC is built for agility, a rare quality in organizations, and is therefore uniquely ready to respond to complex, changing events.”
Stefanie Njissen, who received her M.A. in International Studies from ODU in 2010, says that she wanted to work for the CFC because she knew it was a place that dealt with something quite cutting edge; namely, the development of relationships between military and civilian entities. “Because of the complex nature of so many security threats that NATO is involved with nowadays, we require a comprehensive overview of information related to all topical areas affected by crises: so it only makes sense to have a go-to point for information that is accessible and designed in such a way that it can be consumed and utilized by a variety of stakeholders.”
Stefanie now works as Governance and Rule of Law Knowledge Manager on the Afghanistan Team. She says, “As a knowledge manager we are responsible for staying up to date on everything that is going on within our sector. The majority of my time, however, is dedicated to writing monthly thematic report and responding to requests for information from people in Afghanistan. It’s fantastic because I deal with very diverse range of subject material, everything ranging from anti-corruption efforts, foreign relations and public administration to human rights, elections, the budget process and the challenges of subnational governance capacity, to name but a few.”
Stefanie says that her GPIS degree has been a valuable tool in her line of work. “The GPIS programme and the CFC both dedicated themselves to providing products and experiences that portray as many sides of a given story as possible. Whereas GPIS had many areas of concentration and also gave the necessary attention to the more alternative schools of IR theory, so the CFC examines developments not just in economic development, infrastructure or security perspective but it also simultaneously addresses problems of governance, the influence of foreign aid and sociocultural developments. By having different knowledge managers specialize in different sectors we are able to look at a given event through different lenses not unlike students who will examine a given case study through various theoretical perspectives.”
Angelia Sanders, a MA student in GPIS who works on the Mediterranean Basin Team, says that her course work in GPIS prepared her for doing research on various topics. “It also provides experience in synthesizing a lot of information and translating it into something that is condensed and to the point.” Her interest in the CFC originally came from her desire to gain insight into how the civilian and military sides work together to solve global humanitarian assistance problems. She says, "I also felt that my extensive field work experience would make me an asset in helping the military better understand the NGO perspective."
Angelia's job now entails staying up to date on current news in the Mediterranean Basin area. She also does in-depth research on select topic areas that are deemed to be of interest to military and civilian actors in the Mediterranean area. She finds the work that she does at the CFC worthwhile because "Our products provide up to date information for people based in the field or working on policies that affect real operations and programs."
GPIS Ph.D. student Melodee Baines works with Angelia Sanders on the Mediterranean Basin Team.
She says her job entails serving as a subject-matter expert on North Africa. “I am the only one on my team who speaks the languages of the region (French and Arabic) and has had professional experience in the region. My research at the moment is looking at lessons learned in Libya, as well as non-proliferation in North Africa.”
In regards to GPIS, she says “…It was not my degree so much as the contacts I made during my time in GPIS. Networking and socializing as a part of the GPIS experience is very important. Classes and papers are important, but socializing is just as important, and can have very important implications for the future in terms of relationships and networking.”
M.A. GPIS student Eray Basar is currently interning on the Afghanistan team at the CFC.
Eray says, “In my opinion, one of the best abilities an intern can gain at the CFC is that we learn how to write and inform an audience of general public rather than the members of academia; writing non-opinionated, simple, yet informative products –more so, in the style of a journalist/reporter– is something we are not developing in school. Being able to reach to a broader audience seems very useful to me.
In a more general view, being in an office environment and interacting/coordinating with colleagues is an essential practical experience for any workplace.
When asked why he wanted to intern at the CFC, he replies, “I wanted to gain practical experience in an IO, particularly in NATO. For this purpose CFC, as a research institution, was the perfect option. I get the chance to utilize the researching abilities I developed in the school, while gaining the experience I desired. Not to mention the benefits of having a NATO experience on your resume and having peer-edited publications!”
Eray is pursuing the International Political Economy track in GPIS, and in broad terms, he is interested in topics of political economics and international law. To this end, he is focusing his work at the CFC in the political economy and governance/rule of law topics so, he says, “This way, my internship experience contributes to what I am doing in GPIS.”
Past CFC interns and Current GPIS Ph.D. students Renata Giannini and Wiebke Lamer also share insights into their time at the CFC.
Renata says, “Interning at the CFC [helped] me to put into practice a lot of what I have learned at GPIS so far, particularly being at the Conflict and Cooperation track. I must also say that I was always interested in civil-military cooperation and the CFC fits just perfectly in what I wanted to experience.” Of the practical experience her semester at the CFC gave her, Renata says “Sometimes it is hard to capture how all those theories and concepts that we study can be shaped into something practical. I believe the CFC provided me that. I was able to better understand the theories and concepts I was studying by identifying the mechanisms and processes behind all those events happening in Afghanistan.”
Wiebke, who interned during the summer of 2011, says she chose to intern at the CFC to gain experience in the international setting of an intergovernmental organization. “I was particularly interested in gaining insights into the implementation of NATO’s policy on civil-military cooperation.”
During their internships, both Renata and Wiebke were able to participate in the writing and publication of various information reports and articles. Renata says she “…helped write two reports about Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and the security situation after the Parliamentary elections last year. I also wrote one on my own about the use of private security guards and President Karzai`s will to ban security firms form Afghanistan.”
As for Wiebke, who was also on the Afghanistan team, she co-authored two thematic reports, one on the Afghan Local Police, and the other one on ethnic relations in Afghanistan. She adds that other topics she researched"...included mobile finance and NATO's Comprehensive Approach. A substantial part of my internship was dedicated to updating the Afghanistan Provincial Indicators (API), a database of socio-economic and political indicators tracking the development process of Afghanistan by provinces."
From left, Owen Williamson (current GPIS Ph.D. student); Angelia Sanders (current GPIS M.A. student);
Matt Hall (Ph.D., GPIS); Kendall Allen (M.A., GPIS); Stefanie Njissen (M.A., GPIS); Eray Basar (current GPIS M.A. student)