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Security Force Assistance Primer

Since 2018, the Army has fielded six purpose-built security force assistance brigades (SFABs) to advise or train with vetted foreign security forces so Army brigade combat teams could focus their training and readiness to participate in large-scale combat operations.

Most of the security force assistance (SFA) planners and practitioners interviewed for this SFA primer publication agree that the authorities to conduct SFA are inconsistent with current SFA activities conducted in several countries around the world.

A general lack of understanding on how these activities are funded has led to inefficient SFAB use. This primer explores current SFA literature to determine if the doctrine is accurate, understandable, and consistent with other doctrine or if further doctrine revisions are required.

The intent of this primer is to review how the Army provides trained and ready SFA capabilities for combatant commands’ (CCMDs’) security cooperation (SC) programs and related activities coordinated through their theater armies.

The principal audience for this primer is theater army SC planners, division and brigade leaders and staffs, and Soldiers assigned or attached as advisors to brigades that execute SFA missions or echelons above brigade accomplishing the same missions.

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23-02 (703)_Security Force Assistance Primer (Nov 22) (Public).pdf [PDF – 2.3 MB]

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2 Responses to “Security Force Assistance Primer”

  1. Bulldog76 says:

    Or you could get special forces to go back to it’s original mission and take them out of the direct action role…. Naaaah would make too much sense

    • Terry Baldwin says:


      You seem to be confused about SF history and today’s SF mission sets. The original – and still current – primary mission of SF is “Unconventional Warfare” or UW. Formerly referred to as “Guerrilla Warfare.” That involves creating or working with existing “guerrillas,” building additional combat capability, and then conducting Direct Action (DA) missions with said guerrillas. Likewise, unilateral DA, high value raids and ambushes or “sabotage” missions has also always been part of SF’s original charter. Yes, DA as we now call it has always been part of SF’s mission set. That remains true today.

      FID, or Foreign Internal Defense, pre-dates SF. FID most commonly involves working with conventional Host Nation forces like artillery, infantry, military police, etc. FID is a designated mission that SF can perform; but is NOT exclusive to SF – and despite what some people seem to think, it never has been. During Vietnam, the vast majority of FID “advise and assist” missions were done by thousands of conventional US Soldiers with their ARVN counterparts. Colon Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf both did tours as advisers during the war. Today’s SFABs are just codified – and better prepared – versions of what was done then and during GWOT on an ad hoc basis. The fact is, SFABs are the right tool for that job, not Special Forces.