The Defense Department's new Africa Command, AFRICOM, represents a major innovation in how the U.S. government will be providing security assistance and managing security cooperation activities in Africa. A new kind of regional military command, focused not on military defense and warfighting but on peacetime military engagement activities promoting development and stability, it is building toward full operating capability by October 2008. This article addresses the five 10-15 person regional offices that AFRICOM will soon establish on the continent, including their charter, their operating authorities, their resources, and their personnel. The relationship of these offices to the U.S. embassies in Africa will be of critical importance as AFRICOM evolves.
In recognition of the growing strategic importance and interconnectedness of Africa to the rest of the world, and that the United States' military engagement with the countries of Africa was not being executed at an optimal level, the Department of Defense (DOD) has begun the process of rapidly activating its latest geographic combatant command (GCC) Africa Command (AFRICOM). The mission of AFRICOM will be to continue the U.S. military's ongoing work with African militaries and to promote regional stability so that economic and political development can continue.1 The draft mission statement of AFRICOM is:
Unlike other combatant commands, AFRICOM is unique in that it is not primarily focused on responding to military crises. Rather, AFRICOM intends to proactively engage African nations and organizations in an effort to address conditions that if left unresolved could lead to conflict or crises. The creation of five small regional offices spread across the continent is one of the key initiatives AFRICOM is pursuing to allow it to carry out its mission of proactive engagement. These regional offices will work with other U.S. government (USG) agencies, international organizations (IOs), and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to align DOD security cooperation efforts within their assigned regions to overall USG goals. AFRICOM's ability to execute its unique charter is dependent upon having regional offices with the requisite authorities and personnel to obligate DOD resources in support of other government agencies, IOs, and NGOs.
AFRICOM's future success is dependent, to a very large degree, on how effectively it begins. It is with that measure of effectiveness that this paper concerns itself: What is the means by which AFRICOM can most effectively accomplish its assigned tasks through its regional offices?
AFRICOM's primary reason for existence is to improve DOD's engagement with Africa.3 This is an important point to make precisely because AFRICOM is not designed to optimize the engagement of the USG, writ large, or even that of any of the other departments of the federal government, such as the Department of State. It is important to make this distinction, if for no other reason than to allay the suspicions and concerns that DOD is trying to subsume the roles and responsibilities of the other departments of the federal government. The DOD has recognized that its engagement in Africa is focused primarily on what the joint community refers to as 'Phase 0' activities. These include peacetime military engagement activities designed to establish conditions that support U.S. interests; namely, African states that are secure and stable in their domestic and international relations, promote free and fair participation in their political systems, promote economic growth, and provide greater distribution of economic gains throughout their societies.4 This is a significantly different purpose than that which necessitated the establishment of previous GCCs, such as Pacific Command (PACOM), European Command (EUCOM), and Central Command (CENTCOM). These GCCs were established to provide for the military defense of vital U.S. interests.
AFRICOM, on the other hand, seeks to 'win the war' before it ever has to fight the war. Principal Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Ryan Henry underscores this point by stating that AFRICOM would be considered a success if it keeps American troops out of Africa for the next 50 years.5 Additionally, the DOD has recognized that real success in 'Phase 0' activities is dependent upon the active involvement and support of the remainder of the USG's interagency (IA) community referred to as the 'whole of government' approach.6 This dependency upon the IA community is reflected in AFRICOM's unique organizational structure and manning, which includes billets for interagency players, to include a permanent deputy commander drawn from the Department of State.
In order to conduct these 'Phase 0' activities, AFRICOM must possess the capability to conduct synchronized, focused, and sustained engagement. Through its Regional Economic Communities,7 Africa has effectively divided itself into five distinct sub-entities most easily identified by their geographic region North, South, East, West, and Central Africa. AFRICOM's engagement efforts should mirror Africa's own regional affiliations. Additionally, a forward-deployed regional presence is required, as this engagement effort is dependent upon knowledge and access; the sort of knowledge and access gained only through personal familiarity with the realities of African life and previously established relationships (interpersonal as well as between institutions). For these reasons, AFRICOM envisions the requirement to position a small footprint, 10 to 15 personnel, into each of the five regions to support its engagement efforts. These elements would be known as regional offices and would likely be based at U.S. embassies in each of the five regions.
The reasoning for a small footprint is twofold, because space is at a premium in the embassies and because DOD does not want to mistakenly create the impression that the United States intends to base large forces throughout the African continent. It should be noted that U.S. embassies effectively are small, forward-deployed, interagency-manned elements that conduct activities in African nations and establish lasting interpersonal relationships. An important determinant of AFRICOM's success is how effectively the regional offices and embassies work together towards achieving USG interests.
AFRICOM Regional Offices
EUCOM has already begun working with ECOWAS to establish a clearinghouse for West Africa. As AFRICOM continues to assume missions as it approaches full operating capability, each of the regional offices needs to assume the clearinghouse function to coordinate, synchronize, and deconflict security cooperation initiatives within each of the five regions in coordination with embassies, other USG agencies, key regional African organizations, and nations conducting security cooperation activities on the continent.
The Authorities The Ability to Travel and Coordinate with Key Players
The AFRICOM commander needs to give the regional offices DIRLAUTH in order to facilitate their mission. DIRLAUTH from the AFRICOM commander, however, is the easy part of the solution. The larger and more critical hurdle is gaining the same type of authority relative to the chief of mission (COM) in each country, especially in the countries where the regional offices will ultimately be based.
In order to grasp the difficulty behind this task, one must understand that COMs are considered the President's personal representatives and, with the Secretary of State, assist in implementing the President's constitutional responsibilities for the conduct of U.S. foreign relations.10 Their responsibilities also include:
It is this near total power, entrusted by the President to the COMs with respect to U.S. activities in their countries, within which the regional offices must operate. While not usurping the COM's authority, formal agreements are required so the regional offices can coordinate effectively with the IOs, NGOs, and other USG agencies within the country and region. A key part of this agreement must be an established protocol to address conflicts between the country team and the regional offices at the lowest possible level.
The Authorities The Ability to Execute Programs and Manage Accounts
The means for achieving this authority is twofold. First, AFRICOM must work closely with the executive and legislative branches for providing the authority to transfer funds across different funding sources, countries, and exercises/security cooperation activities. Secondly, AFRICOM requires more money. The key here is that, given its charter to support the whole of the USG's IA community, AFRICOM needs the ability to access and manage both the funds that directly support its security cooperation (SC) activities and those that indirectly support its SC activities.
AFRICOM will assume management control over DOD's traditional SC activities. But it is worth noting that most SC programs have their own funding sources. These funding stovepipes restrict the ability of AFRICOM to effectively manage limited resources. These funding sources need to be made more fungible so that those in the field have at least some ability to shift resources to more urgent programs/activities as conditions may warrant. Examples of SC activities, each with their own funding sources, include Joint Chiefs of Staff Exercises; Joint and Combined Exercises for Training (JCET); Humanitarian Assistance (HA); Non-proliferation, Anti-terrorism, Demining, and Related (NADR) programs; Individual Military Education and Training (IMET); and Foreign Military Sales (FMS). A great example of a funding source that provides combatant commanders with some flexibility is the Combatant Commander's Initiative Fund (CCIF).12 These funds are made available from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The CCIF:
While the CCIF is a great asset to the combatant commanders, recent operational experience in Afghanistan and Iraq has conclusively demonstrated that a commander's security and engagement is also directly affected by participation and funding of activities that do not directly support the improvement or professionalization of traditional military capabilities. The Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), authorized under provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2006, Public Law 109-163, section 1202, is the best example of this type of indirect security cooperation engagement.
CERP empowers local commanders at the O-5 (lieutenant colonel) and O-6 (colonel) level to respond to urgent humanitarian relief and reconstruction requirements within their areas of responsibility by carrying out programs that will immediately assist the indigenous population. CERP funds can be used in the following broad areas: water and sanitation, food production and distribution, agriculture, electricity, healthcare, education, telecommunications, economic, financial, and management improvements, transportation, rule of law and governance, irrigation, civic cleanup activities, civic support vehicles, and repair of civic and cultural facilities. CERP funds also allow for
In light of the myriad challenges on the continent, AFRICOM should also be provided with CERP funding, as this will enable the command to direct resources to SC activities that ultimately support AFRICOM and national strategic efforts. One means to do this is to give the chiefs of AFRICOM's regional offices the same authority as the local commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan are accorded, to ensure that the funding is responsive and timely. As an example, the regional office chiefs, currently envisioned as colonels (O-6), should be provided the authority to obligate funds up to $500,000. Flag or general officers in the pay grade of O-7 (brigadier general) should have the authority to obligate funds up to $1 million, while flag or general officers in the pay grade of O-8 (major general) and above should have the authority to obligate funds up to $5 million.
The first challenge, the tyranny of distance, speaks not only to how large Africa is, but also to the degree to which its transportation network is underdeveloped. Each regional office is not likely to have its own fleet of trucks, helicopters, or aircraft at its disposal. However, each regional office needs to have the ability to contract for such services as circumstances may dictate, not only on its own behalf but on the behalf of activities for other organizations as the situation warrants.
As to the second challenge, the underdeveloped communications system, each regional office needs considerable communications assets and bandwidth, but must also have redundant assets that it can deploy, in support of its own activities as well as other IA activities. In effect, the regional offices should have the ability to create a hub and spoke communication system. These communication assets would include voice, data, and video capabilities, and will, for the most part, operate on a non-secure system. This will allow the regional office to demonstrate its value-added capabilities by assisting IA efforts, and to continue to develop strong relationships working with, for, and on behalf of the IA community.
Keeping in mind the small footprint of the regional office, only 10 to 15 personnel, that structure should include the following:
Recommendations for Achieving Early Success
For resources, current programs which enable the professionalization and the ultimate stability and security of African nations and the region, such as training programs and military sales, need to be expanded. In addition, the funding for the Combatant Commander's Initiative Fund (CCIF) needs to be increased from the $75 million proposed for FY2009 to $150 million in FY2010, providing AFRICOM with flexible funding to improve and professionalize African military forces. The Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP) needs to be expanded beyond Afghanistan and Iraq, with the authority to obligate and execute at the regional office level. A CERP-like program for Africa is essential to provide AFRICOM with the flexibility it will need to take advantage of fleeting opportunities and mitigate unforeseen crises early in a dynamic and unstable region. Due to the realities of the budget cycle, the detailed proposals for these resourcing changes must be submitted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense by 31 July 2008 to influence the FY2010 budget.
Along with the important authorities associated with resourcing, it is equally important that the regional offices be given the authority to coordinate with other members of the interagency community, U.S. embassy personnel in other countries, NGOs, IOs, and African nations and organizations. First, the regional offices must be given direct liaison authority by the AFRICOM commander, and similar authority must be given by the COM in each country. The latter requires a formal agreement between the State and Defense Departments, where the roles and responsibilities of the regional office are clearly articulated. This agreement must preserve the COM's role as the primary U.S. official in that country, while providing the regional office the latitude required to effectively execute its mission. Since the Chiefs of Mission are the President's personal representatives, this agreement would need to be put into a presidential directive to be truly effective.
The final major piece is the personnel. The positions identified earlier should be filled with personnel with a background in African affairs and cultural awareness. Ideally, some of these personnel will have also served tours in other USG agencies. Personnel should be placed in three-year controlled tours for continuity. While the locations of the regional offices are not yet known, these personnel can be identified now for specific regions and start to undergo any required training (i.e. language training, cultural awareness training, etc.) while awaiting the final decision on locations.
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