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Environment and Conflict: Developing a Framework for Vulnerability Assessment.


OBJECTIVE: To develop a framework that understands and synthesizes the relationship between the natural environment, local populations, and the corresponding impact upon operations in areas of conflict. DESCRIPTION: Environmental security and human security are inextricably linked. However, less understood is the impact that environmental security can play in creating conflict or providing stability within a community. Secondly, the lack of a synthesized framework to understand and assess impacts of this relationship means that they are not fully incorporated into military doctrine or planning paradigm. By seeking to fulfill this void, this SBIR's objective is to systemically document the impact of environmental security upon local populations and the role that military operations can play in sustaining and mitigating potential conflict. As the US Army is increasingly involved in military operations located in areas where the natural environment is a contributing factor to the conflict, it becomes important to understand what quantifies the environment and qualifies how it contributes to the surrounding conflict. Therefore, the environment has significant potential in either positively or negatively affecting military operations. For example, a degraded natural environment can introduce stress into an area of operations and in conjunction with other factors, either initiate conflict or exacerbate existing conflict. Additionally, US Army operations can either directly or indirectly cause an environment to be degraded, thereby introducing undesirable 2nd and 3rd order effects as a result. To understand how military operations affect the natural environment and local populations, and conversely how the natural environment and local populations affect military operations will require a systemic perspective that looks at the military operations, the natural environment, and the local population all holistically together. Given the changing security landscape, it is imperative to understand the nuances that structure the relationship between environmental security and human security. Although it is one that has been generally understood, sometimes even anticipated and expected, the connection between environment as a catalyst for conflict or cooperation is one that has yet to be tangibly proven. To what degree can human security be linked to the environment? It is evident that there is an overwhelming need for the military to assist positively relationship given the potential for more successful military operations. In attempting to deal with these types of problems, the US Army has been increasingly looking at how to view the complex operational environment from a systemic perspective - especially when it comes to COIN (counterinsurgency) operations. PAM 525-5-500 discusses the"wicked problem"and the need to look at the battle-space from a systemic perspective. Numerous articles in Military Review and Parameters have cited the same need, especially in articles pertaining to the Army's new concepts on operational design. Operational design is reflected formally in new US Army doctrine - specifically FM's 3-0 and 5-0. However, while the general need for a systemic approach has been described in these documents, the difficulty comes in how to actually executing the approach into practice - especially when capturing and modeling the social, environmental, and conflict systems. Given that the natural environment has the potential to: 1) contribute to conflict; 2) finance and sustain conflict; 3) undermine peace-making, it is necessary to thoroughly understand how the environment operates in initiating and transforming conflict. This SBIR will also consider how environmental remediation has the potential to sustain effective local governance. PHASE I: The contractor will need to create a notional framework that captures and incorporates conceptually both the significant entities and significant relationships of elements from all three systems: the social, environmental, and conflict systems. During this phase, a framework will be developed that will provide a comprehensive capability for capturing and assessing the inter-related roles that social, environmental, and conflict systems have on each other in a dynamic setting across time and space. We know that it is not desirable or practical to build a complicated social/environmental/conflict system from scratch. The goal is to provide a framework with a practical number of significant entities and relationships that would allow a tactical commander to understand and explain his system and then effect change. Ideally, we want a tool that will allow a commander to create and model his own environment so that he can develop COAs and do"what if"scenarios. Finally, the contractor must demonstrate some basic capability to build a portion of the proposed framework with software developed under this contract. PHASE II: Using the framework derived from Phase I, the contractor will complete system design. The contractor will develop the framework as defined in Phase I as a prototype software system. The prototype system will further develop and enhance the capabilities developed in Phase I. The software must minimally allow the commander to visualize and understand the indicators of the natural environment, the social factors and conflict. The SBIR will analyze the continuum between conflict and cooperation and the role that the environment plays within it. PHASE III: Using methods derived from Phase I and Phase II, a deployable vulnerability assessment will be the final outcome. The vulnerability assessment tool will be able to diagram vulnerability based upon set metrics and indicators. This should be demonstrated within a variety of diverse case-studies. The system tool will incorporate both quantitative and qualitative methodologies and attempt to bridge the gap between measuring direct and indirect correlations and causalities between the environment, local populations and conflict. Potential users of this technology beyond the Army include: State Department, USAID, NGOs, World Bank etc.
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