Government Executive brings a story based on yesterday’s hearing. AFRICOM, which has been trumpeting how it would combine aid and diplomacy with the Pentagon is having trouble filling the jobs that are supposed to come from civilian agencies such as the State Department and USAID. Africa Command has trouble filling key civilian slots.
Developing an integrated interagency command structure has proved much harder than planners expected, witnesses told the panel. Africa Command’s architects originally expected to staff as much as a quarter of the command with experts from the State, Treasury and Agriculture departments, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other civilian agencies. But that goal proved too ambitious.
“According to State officials this goal was not vetted through civilian agencies and was not realistic because of the resource limitations in civilian agencies,” said John Pendleton, director of defense capabilities and management issues at the Government Accountability Office. As a result, Africom reduced its interagency representation to 52 notational interagency positions, or about 4 percent of the staff.
It looks like the planners of AFRICOM failed to consult with anyone before declaring the command. They did not consult with Africans, and they did not consult with the people in the US government who supposedly were cooperative partners.
But even that substantially reduced goal will be difficult to achieve. “Personnel systems among federal agencies were incompatible and do not readily facilitate integrating personnel into other agencies, particularly into nonliaison roles,” Pendleton said.
By Sept. 30, Defense expects to have only 13 of the 52 interagency command positions, or about 1 percent of the overall staff slots, filled by representatives from non-Defense agencies.
“One DoD official suggested that the U.S. government could consider the command a success ‘if it keeps American troops out of Africa for the next 50 years,'” Ploch said.
… not everyone shares the Defense Department’s enthusiasm for the new whole-of-government command.
“The prospect that Defense will focus less on fighting wars and more on preventing them engenders mixed feelings in some U.S. government circles,” Ploch said.
While many officials welcome the military’s ability to leverage resources and to organize complex operations, others worry that the military will overestimate its diplomatic role.
“Some argue that the highly unequal allocation of resources between the departments of Defense, State and USAID hinder their ability to act as equal partners and could lead to the militarization of development and diplomacy,” Ploch said.
In a speech Tuesday to the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign in Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said those concerns are legitimate, but he emphasized the importance of better cooperation between civilian agencies and the military services.
“Where our government has been able to bring America’s civilian and the military assets together to support local partners, there have been promising results,” he said, pointing to an effort in the Philippines. There, U.S. Ambassador Kristie Kenney has “overseen a campaign involving multiple agencies working closely with their Philippine counterparts in a synchronized effort that has delegitimized and rolled back extremists in Mindanao,” he said.
Worries about “a creeping militarization of some aspects of America’s foreign policy,” can be assuaged with “the right leadership, adequate funding of civilian agencies, effective coordination on the ground, and a clear understanding of the authorities, roles, and missions of military versus civilian efforts, and how they fit, or in some cases don’t fit, together,” Gates said.
Of course not everyone sees the US military activity in the Philippines in such a positive light. See How the US got its Philippine bases back by Herbert Docena in Asia Times. It has lessons for Africa.
And I doubt worries about “creeping militarization” can be assuaged so easily. Keeping American troops out will need to be looked at, since they are already there in a number of countries. Individual troops rotate in and out, but the presence is always there. And even if American troops are not there, if the US government or US corporations are arming and paying Africans to kill each other, as in the past, or employing mercenaries for the same purpose, the US will not have gained anything positive, or any return for the taxpayers funding the destruction.
For transcripts of testimony at yesterdays Congressional hearing, scroll down this page: AFRICOM: Rationales, Roles, and Progress on the Eve of Operations
h/t to Outside the Silver Lining for the graphic above.