Military Research

THE IMPACT OF HIV/AIDS ON THE 
OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS OF MILITARY FORCES

Abstract

Most previous literature dealing with the impact of HIV/AIDS on military forces has dealt with the civilian sector informing on global, regional and national organizations. Progress has barely moved beyond influencing military behavioural change, because empirical data measuring the effect on armed forces is limited by a military propensity to zealously observe national security considerations and guard against the release of ‘sensitive’ information.

This paper begins by describing the physical four-stage progression of the HIV infection on the individual soldier and looks at the effects on combat effectiveness, morale and discipline and implications for the capability and functional effectiveness of surviving personnel. It argues that officers and men are rendered unsuitable for robust internal security deployments and cross border operations. Infection compromises the ability of officers and soldiers to work together effectively and flexibly. The ‘team’, so essential at the tactical combat or general staff level, is diminished. Military organization works through three levels – the tactical, operational and strategic – and this is the military context within which the disease’s effects should be measured, and will be explained in this paper.

Two diagnostic models are proposed. The first is a Force Capability Analytical Framework leading to a Force Capability Template which examines the effect when procuring, preparing, employing and sustaining military forces for operations. Results suggest the primary impact is felt at the tactical level of operations, reducing unit effectiveness on – for example – peacekeeping missions. Sustainment is an issue at the operational level and influences commitment and jointery at the coalition strategic level.

The second model is a Military Institutional Audit which examines the results of the first in terms of the damage done to the force. A representative example of a comparison between Sub Saharan military forces and those of Eastern Europe is taken to illustrate the process. The Military Institutional Audit is a six- stage diagnostic survey of vulnerabilities examining personnel profiling, identifying critical military posts that need to be preserved and illuminating those parts of the organization susceptible to HIV losses that impinge on flexibility and effectiveness. An assessment of the force’s ‘fighting power’ based on these findings follows and produces conclusions on implications from a strategic perspective. The process outlined can better inform the civil-military debate about how to remedy shortfalls and capability gaps. Further areas of research are recommended to better inform such a diagnostic approach.

A research paper by R J Kershaw, Military HIV/AIDS Adviser, Centre for Security Sector Management, Cranfield University, Shrivenham, SN6 8LA
A research paper by R J Kershaw, Military HIV/AIDS Adviser, Centre for Security Sector Management, Cranfield University, Shrivenham, SN6 8LA