The diverse factors that shape the execution of disaster relief and other foreign humanitarian assistance missions by the US military are described in a newly updated Department of Defense publication on the subject.
See Foreign Humanitarian Assistance, Joint Publication 3-29, January 3, 2014.
“Although US military forces are organized, trained, and equipped to conduct military operations that defend and protect US national interests, their inherent unique capabilities may be used to conduct FHA [Foreign Humanitarian Assistance] activities,” the publication said.
FHA “consists of Department of Defense activities conducted outside the US and its territories to directly relieve or reduce human suffering, disease, hunger, or privation.”
The publication said that DoD FHA operations necessarily include “intelligence collection concerning political, military, paramilitary, ethnic, religious, economic, medical, environmental, geospatial, and criminal indicators…. Intelligence operations during FHA operations are generally conducted in the same manner as in any other military operation.”
At the same time, however, “Information sharing is critical to the efficient pursuit of a common humanitarian purpose… The sharing of information is particularly critical because no single responding entity– whether it is an NGO [nongovernmental organization], IGO [intergovernmental organization], assisting country government or host government– can be the source of all of the required data and information.”
“Tensions between military needs for classification (secrecy) of data, versus the civilian need for transparency… often complicate effective civil-military coordination,” the DoD publication noted.