The Interorganizational Tabletop Exercise (ITX) is a vehicle by which the civ-mil community can converge around a common issue or challenge to better understand different approaches and coordination mechanisms as well as explore opportunities for greater information sharing and joint planning/initiatives to provide more effective assistance.  Presentations, facilitated dialogue and exercise scenarios are carefully constructed to facilitate learning that leads to improved effectiveness when these same organizations find themselves sharing the space in a complex environment.

small tables of people

The exercise seeks to produce measurable change and impact for the community of practice. Each ITX addresses a specific theme and geographic area identified as important by all relevant actors. Regardless of the specific ITX theme, each ITX is designed to build upon previous ITX progress in improving civilian-military relations.

Unique Design:  USIP and the Joint Staff (JS) J7, in collaboration with U.S. government agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs)/international organizations (IOs) and a geographic combatant command design and implement a civilian-led exercise. USIP engages internal and external stakeholders to identify topics of interest. Initial meetings scope objectives and the exercise format necessary to achieve maximum impact.

In the heavily populated exercise world, the ITX framework offers a number of distinctive features, including placing civilian organizations in the lead role to develop and implement an exercise that reflects their priorities—both thematic and geographic.  Moreover, it creates an environment in which these diverse actors are given equal voice in the conversation so that all may benefit from the variety of experience and perspective. The discussion topics, findings and learnings from the ITX are then able to be taken forward to inform other educational and exercise opportunities. ITX duration, size, audience, level, follow-up activities, etc. are flexible depending on topic and desired outcomes and objectives.

USIP in partnership with the JS J7 has utilized the ITX framework in two previous iterations. 

2016 ITX

The 2016 ITX focused on countering violent extremism (CVE) in the Lake Chad Basin. The Civ-Mil Relations team collaborated on the design and implementation of the ITX with relevant actors from the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Department of Defense as well as a number of NGOs and IOs.

During the ITX, these organizations wrestled with the uncertainties and ambiguities of CVE to compare understanding, share initiatives, discuss progress and shortcomings and explore the interplay of different CVE efforts to devise practical strategies to work together more effectively. 

Translating discussion into action: Issues, challenges and opportunities identified by participants in the 2016 ITX were briefed to senior leaders in the concluding session of the 2016 ITX.  They, in turn, tasked participating organizations (and others in the community of interest) to delve more deeply into the issues raised and propose concrete recommendations to address problems or shortcomings in a second senior leaders’ meeting in early 2017. Three interorganizational working groups formed to look at challenges surrounding policy synchronization, analytical CVE frameworks, as well as gaps in current learning and knowledge sharing.

2014 ITX

The 2014 ITX brought together participants from over 15 U.S. government agencies, departments and bureaus as well as a number of NGOs and IOs.  Its purpose was to increase understanding, cooperation, and effectiveness among organizations operating in a complex crisis environment by developing and promoting relationship building, mutual trust, and knowledge sharing.  Its objectives were to develop, strengthen, and maintain relationships among organizations addressing complex crises; become familiar with different organizations’ authorities and goals; determine the potential for collective response capacity and capabilities; put forward a concept about a common, interorganizational approach to addressing complex crises; and establish a framework for future interorganizational events.

Using South Sudan and Ethiopia as case studies, the participants grappled with the following key interorganizational topics:

  • Institutionalizing relationships
  • Information sharing mechanisms
  • Lines of authority
  • Organizational priorities and navigating the response and development divide

Related Publications

Lake Chad Exercise Demonstrates New Civilian-Military Approach

Lake Chad Exercise Demonstrates New Civilian-Military Approach

Friday, July 7, 2017

By: Jim Ruf; Ann Phillips

A group of senior U.S. military and civilian leaders recently agreed to find ways to work together more effectively to counter violent extremism in the volatile Lake Chad Basin of Africa, a region reeling from the casualties and destruction wrought for years by terrorist groups such as Boko Haram. The agreement emerged from a new exercise model...

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The Military’s Role in Countering Violent Extremism

The Military’s Role in Countering Violent Extremism

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

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The U.S. military, through its stabilizing mission, has a role to play in countering and eliminating the drivers of violent extremism (VE). Though the military has effective counterterrorism (CT) capability, there is a gap in its counter-VE (CVE) strategies that can be closed by linking reactive CT operations to preventative efforts to remove the drivers of VE. ...

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U.S. Afghanistan Veterans Recall the Costs of War

U.S. Afghanistan Veterans Recall the Costs of War

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

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When we estimate the costs of wars, our guesses can render figures too vast and numbing to really grasp. Brown University’s Costs of War project estimates that wars since 2001 involving U.S. forces have cost $4.8 trillion, 370,000 people killed in direct violence and nearly 1.2 million dead when indirect causes are counted. At the U.S. Institute of Peace on Feb. 22, a prominent journalist and U.S. combat veterans focused on a tiny but dramatic subset of costs—the price paid by these former soldiers when they were sent a decade ago to a perilous corner of Afghanistan.

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