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2022: Quarter 3 - May 16, 2022

ISG Helps Oman’s Ability to Plan for Natural Disaster/Crisis Response

Communications & Outreach Team

The Institute of Security Governance (ISG) inaugurated an Institutional Capacity Building (ICB) program in Oman in 2020 meant to strengthen the Partner’s ability to maintain border security and respond to local and regional threats to security. Recently, ISG conducted a multi-week workshop in Muscat for 75 people across the Sultan’s Armed Forces (SAF) and other Omani governmental ministries intended to develop the SAF’s operational planning capability. The workshop included a course on the joint planning process, combined with daily practical application using a disaster response planning scenario. Workshops like these provide the opportunity for Partner Nations to develop the capabilities to use a formalized planning process to address a myriad of threats. In this case, the scenario called for the SAF to respond to the landfall of a Category 1 cyclone in northeastern Oman similar to Cyclone Shaheen, which impacted Oman in September 2021. 

Wade Evans, ISG’s Regional Program Lead for Oman explained that the mix of civilian and military participants was vital to the success of this engagement. “The representation from across the government and military offered the group important insights on how a ‘whole of government’ response must draw on all of the country’s strengths and capabilities,” he emphasized.  

John Norris, a subject matter expert on planning and operations, developed the scenario and courseware for the workshop. “My experience over the past 30 years helped me understand that there are times when a government must use all of its resources to respond to a serious threat, whether it’s an enemy attack or a natural event,” he explained.  

Throughout the workshop, Norris made certain the participants understood that the military tools and principles used to develop an operational plan can be used by anyone. The scenario involved a concept called “Defense Support to Civil Authorities.” Dutch Remkes, the ISG Country Program Coordinator for Oman, explained that “in Oman, the Royal Omani Police (ROP) is the designated ‘lead agency’ when the country is under the threat of a cyclone; any use of the military is designed to support the lead agency, not to replace it.”    

During the final week, participants conducted a “wargame” to test the tools and principles of the joint planning process. The participants were divided into three operational planning teams; each team was given a unique “course of action” to analyze and to test for feasibility. After determining that all three courses of action were valid and feasible, each course of action was tested in the wargame. A meteorologist provided realistic cyclone weather inputs while John Norris changed the situation to test each course of action. For example, surface winds of more than 50 knots would prevent helicopters from responding to search and rescue requirements; a reduction in wind or a change in the location of a rescue requirement would test the decision process of each course of action.  

On the last day of the wargame, the participants compared all three courses of action against a pre-agreed set of criteria and briefed their recommended course to the ROP Commander, a role played by Dutch Remkes. He chose a “hybrid” course of action that implemented strengths from all the prescribed courses; this demonstrated the degree of flexibility available to a commander within the joint planning process, an important learning outcome of the workshop.  

“It is exciting to work with our Omani partners toward better whole-of-government responses to crises and natural disasters,” said Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Zapf, Chief of  the Office of Military Cooperation in Muscat, Oman. “I’m sure the efforts made now to educate and train personnel from the Sultan’s Armed Forces and civilian ministries will enable a speedy and effective response should Oman experience another natural disaster.” 

The planning course was so well received by the SAF that they are looking to make this an enduring part of the curriculum in support of their joint transformation efforts.