The project to Strategically Protect Soft Networks (SPSN), in conjunction with the Pacific Council on International Policy, is pleased to continue its partnership by participating in PolicyWest, the Pacific Council’s signature annual conference.
SPSN is an effort by Pacific Council member and retired U.S. Army Colonel Steve Miska to create a public-private enterprise that engages the U.S. policy community and infuses creativity into the development of policy measures that effectively protect soft networks. Miska served multiple combat tours in Iraq, and, after being exposed to the extreme sectarian violence that plagued those who aided U.S. forces, set out to aid the local-national partners in his unit.
Since its initial Pacific Council summer roundtable, SPSN has been hard at work developing best practices to insulate the United States’ soft networks, or indigenous partners in diplomatic, military, intelligence, and law enforcement operations. These partners provide invaluable support to American diplomatic and military efforts in conflict zones—often in spite of tremendous danger.
SPSN and the Pacific Council seek to inform foreign policy experts on the personal experiences that affect those trying to protect soft networks, and the widespread impact effective policy solutions will create.
PolicyWest is an ideal forum to present the necessity to protect soft networks in front of a diverse audience of experts and engage the Pacific Council’s membership in a policy development process that seeks to ensure our allies’ faith in the United States’ missions abroad. To this end, Megan Karsh, the Pacific Council’s Vice President for Initiatives, will moderate a discussion between Col. Miska, Mr. Fadi Matti, a former Iraqi interpreter, and Ms. Sarah Feinberg, a Washington Post finance manager and sponsor who has hosted multiple partners fleeing violence abroad.
Each of these individuals represent a unique perspective of the challenging process to insulate local-national partners. Their stories display a different perspective than the legislative and military structures that often dictate American foreign policy. Rather, SPSN and the Pacific Council seek to inform foreign policy experts on the personal experiences that affect those trying to protect soft networks, and the widespread impact effective policy solutions will create.
Additionally, SPSN research fellow Samuel Romano will present his initial research findings to Pacific Council members during a fireside chat at PolicyWest. In order to protect our partners, SPSN has sought to curate insulation methods from various foreign policy sectors. SPSN continues to examine non-traditional protection methods used throughout the world to protect at-risk local partners, and has evaluated practices from the NGO community, federal law enforcement agencies, and refugee protection doctrine.
The SPSN team has developed a three-prong framework to address non-traditional protection methods, including pre-conflict practices, conflict and post-conflict practices, and international legal protections.
While these different sectors may not be directly involved in American military operations, each has struggled with the issue of protecting local partners for years, and their knowledge represents an indispensable resource that can aid the protection of the United States’ soft networks.
Stemming from this research, the SPSN team has developed a three-prong framework to address non-traditional protection methods, including:
- Pre-conflict practices
- Conflict and post-conflict practices
- International legal protections
SPSN advocates that these prongs be taken as a symbiotic framework, each of which are necessary and impact the others, rather than separate recommendations which can be implemented individually. For example, ensuring U.S. military and diplomatic forces have accurate threat assessments for soft networks prior to engaging in a protracted conflict will help local-nationals carry out their duties and maintain reasonable expectations for their personal safety. Additionally, a solidified definition of how international law classifies local-national partners will allow the United States to develop effective protection methods during every conflict stage.
Research into non-traditional protection practices has also illuminated potential challenges to implementing doctrine that insulates soft networks. Challenges like scalability of policy options and organizational culture can inhibit policy adoption. However, SPSN continues to research methods that add to the practitioner’s toolkit while emphasizing the impact to national security.
SPSN continues to attempt to spread its mission throughout the foreign policy sector. Researchers have engaged congressional candidates with years of foreign policy experience to attempt to garner legislative support.
Finally, SPSN continues to attempt to spread its mission throughout the foreign policy sector. Researchers have engaged congressional candidates with years of foreign policy experience to attempt to garner legislative support, in addition to publishing an academic article in the Small Wars and Insurgency journal. SPSN is also contributing to the Women’s Islamic Initiative in Spirituality and Equality (WISE) to create a Marine Corps manual that educates service members on the importance of insulating local national partners.
Sam Romano is a Junior Fellow at the project to Strategically Protect Soft Networks.
Through its projects, subsequent research, and participation in PolicyWest, SPSN seeks to educate and engage policy experts, create dialogue, and develop solutions that protect soft networks. Learn more about the project to Strategically Protect Soft Networks here. If you’d like to find out how you can get involved with the project as a Pacific Council member, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.