U.S. Army Senior Leader’s Guide to Transition Planning Version 3

Public Intelligence

The following guide was obtained from the website of the Jordanian Armed Forces Center for Studies and Lessons Learned.


  • 98 pages
  • For Official Use Only
  • May 2013  


It is to be expected that nations will continue to require assistance from other states and organizations in order to recover from natural disasters, conflict, or chronic societal problems. Such assistance ends as the host nation (HN) transitions back from a period of crisis to self-sufficiency and other actors transition out of their assumed roles and responsibilities. As the HN transitions back from a period of crisis to self-sufficiency, it will be faced with issues involving sovereignty, legitimacy, dependency, and social reform. Managing transitions at all levels requires close cooperation between the HN, other governments, militaries, and civil society. Although many of the lessons and best practices used in this guide are derived from Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, the intent is to provide a guide that is flexible enough to be used for transition planning of a military campaign or crisis of any size or scope.

The term “transition” implies the transitioning from one phase of military operation to another, or the transitioning of authority and responsibility from one entity to another. Joint Publication 5-0, Joint Operation Planning, refers to transition as “an orderly turnover of a plan or order as it is passed to those tasked with execution of the operation. It provides information, direction, and guidance relative to the plan or order that will help to facilitate situational awareness.”

This guide primarily focuses on planning for Phases IV and V (stabilize and enable civil authority) of the joint campaign phases leading to the termination of hostilities or transitioning of responsibilities to the HN or other agencies. Arguably, Phases IV and V can be the most difficult to plan and achieve success; however, there is markedly less doctrine or guidance written on transitioning to assist the joint planner. Historically, the U.S. has not always been well prepared to conduct transitions. During the course of developing this guide, several transition lessons learned and best practices have been identified that should be highlighted. The top ten transition lessons are listed below but are discussed in more detail in Appendix A.

•• Guidance. Clear strategic guidance with continuous interaction between senior leaders and planners is needed to synchronize the transition planning process.

•• Engaging strategic partners. Early and continuous engagement with key strategic partners will maximize integration and synchronization and develop a sense of ownership of the transition process.

•• Flexible planning. Early in the drawdown, the commander needs to have as many options available as possible to build flexibility into the plan.

•• Synchronization of staff and command activities. Maintaining synchronization of staff and command activities during transition planning/operations becomes challenging.

•• Situational awareness. Loss of situational awareness occurs as resources are transferred and/or retrograded.

•• Understanding post transition environment. The end of named operations present unique challenges for stay-behind forces such as different U.S. authorities, HN agreements, U.N. resolutions, and national caveats.

•• Populace confidence. The transition should be deliberate, building the HN capacity and confidence in the HN government so that it is ready to assume all the responsibilities involved with providing a secure and prosperous environment.

•• Transitioning functions to the HN. As the transition efforts progress toward the HN’s self sufficiency, it is imperative that post-conflict inter-dependencies do not unravel and military capacity building efforts are not lost.

•• Enablers. As the footprint is reduced, maintaining adequate intelligence, security, and medical support for remaining forces is nonnegotiable.

•• Equipment and bases. Commanders were hesitant to accept risk in equipment and base closures to achieve strategic-level goals. HN officials were also reluctant to accept transfer of equipment and bases.

This document is the third version of The Senior Leader’s Guide to Transition Planning. Additional information has been provided in version 3.0 to assist in planning and executing actions that decrease the military involvement in a campaign, and result in an orderly transfer of functions and responsibilities to other entities. This guide is being completed in multiple versions in order to provide the timeliest and most complete information available for current transition planning. We welcome comments or additional information for the next version.

What the End State May Look Like

The end state of transition cannot be imposed by U.S. or coalition forces alone and must reflect local solutions and agreed upon standards. Even when conflict comes to an end, the U.S. government and the international community must often provide continued support, to create the conditions for lasting stability. Because the strategic end state may be general or broad in nature, it may be difficult to determine whether and when military operations should be terminated. It should also be noted that “end state” is a term that the State Department does not use because of its enduring presence.

There are no specific set of end goals that will fit all transition situations; however, post-conflict transitions should ensure that the HN possesses a level of resilience to handle any future setbacks. Such resilience requires “success factors” which primarily revolve around good governance and HN capacity to handle national affairs. These success factors include:

•• The structure of the government has been agreed to by its society; governance is stable.

•• The government is able to provide reasonable, reliable services for its citizens.

•• The government is being utilized to solve political disputes.

•• The government is able to protect its borders, citizens, and national treasures.

•• The government has demonstrated an ability to uphold the rule of law.

•• The economy is stable; the government is able to provide regulation of the markets.

•• The government has gained commitments of support for development efforts.

To maximize the HN attainment of these success factors, it is imperative that the HN gains control and proficiency in the many sectors and functions that the intervening authorities (external nations/forces) have been managing. This transfer is a gradual process that requires careful planning by the intervening authorities, followed by close partnering with HN officials.

The relationships established in the initial stages of operations, coupled with accurate assessments of progress achieved in civilian-military implementation are critical in affecting a smooth transition to civilian  authority. Successes in providing security and essential public services as well as visible progress in stimulating economic development are essential to gain the popular support and perception of legitimacy needed to create the new representative forms of governance.

A continuing relationship, such as an Army National Guard State Partnership program, may be a concept to consider in certain situations to maintain a strong relationship with the HN and ensure that programs are able to continue. To facilitate enduring positive effects and improved quality of life for the HN, a seamless transition of functions is required to ensure security, justice, reconciliation, infrastructure, and economic development.


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