Department of Defense leaders eye higher-priority label for security cooperation missions.[The following article originally appeared on InsideDefense.com, March 9, 2010.]
Two Combatant Commanders today lauded a yet-to-be-finalized move by Department of Defense (DOD) leaders to formally raise the priority of military security cooperation missions--a development that could swell the ranks of U.S. forces tasked with beefing up indigenous security forces around the globe. The issue came up during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing this morning, when U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) chief Army General William Ward was asked about his involvement in work on the revised Guidance for the Employment of the Force (GEF). Top defense officials are reviewing a draft of the classified, high-level document. A final version is slated to be released internally sometime next month.
Ward said he was pleased with the GEF consultations between the Pentagon and his command.
The draft document, Ward said, is looking at ensuring that the requirement that we have for resources to conduct a very essential building partner capacity is being treated at a level of priority different than the past, so that those forces that are required to do that mission will enjoy a higher priority than has been the case in the past.
U.S. European Command chief Admiral James Stavridis, who testified at the same hearing, interjected to "associate" himself with Ward's comments. "I think it is a bit of a sea-change in the department, and it is a good one," Stavridis said.
According to a Pentagon source, Ward and Stavridis were referring to security cooperation missions' receiving a higher spot on the draft GEF's "master priority list" on which all missions for U.S. military forces are ranked in order.
A higher priority means greater consideration for the mission area in the classified global force management allocation plan, or GFMAP. The plan forms the backdrop for force deployments in response to Combatant Commanders' needs beyond those forces already permanently assigned to the combatant commands (COCOMs). The plan also includes prioritized lists of countries deemed in need of military assistance from Washington.
Pentagon spokeswoman Tara Rigler declined to comment for this article. "It is DOD policy not to discuss internal and classified documents," she wrote in response to questions from InsideDefense.com.
The February 1  Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) defines security cooperation activities as, bilateral and multilateral training and exercises, foreign military sales (FMS) and foreign military financing (FMF), OfficerExchange programs, educational opportunities at professional military schools, technical exchanges, and efforts to assist foreign security forces in building competency and capacity.
The review report also pledged to "continue to treat the building of partners' security capacity as an increasingly important mission." The idea featured prominently in the 2006 QDR, which postulated the policy that violent extremism in faraway places around the globe is best countered by capable indigenous security forces with the United Stated supplying training and weaponry to them.
Defense leaders have increased their focus on beefing up the army and police of Iraq and Afghanistan in recent years so American combat forces can leave those theaters without leaving a power vacuum. Bilateral security cooperation projects with African nations make up the vast majority of missions under the Pentagon's relatively new AFRICOM. The goal is to stop the spread of al Qaeda and its sympathizers on the continent, officials have said.
By Sebastian Sprenger
Contributing Author for the InsideDefense.com