Designing the Right Mix of Authorities
by Lt. Col. Charles Schlegel, USAF; Lt. Col. Tom Talley, USAy
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.
For other views on AFRICOM, see our article on “Implementing AFRICOM” by Ambassador (ret.) Robert Gribbin and a commentary on that article by Ambassador (ret.) Ed Marks. Also, there is an extensive bibliography at the end of this article.
The authors produced the paper of which this article is an edited version as students in the Joint and Combined Warfighting School, Joint Forces Staff College, Norfolk, VA. It represents their views, not official policy of the College or the U.S. government. — Ed.
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:
US Africa Command promotes US National Security objectives by working with African states and regional organizations to help strengthen stability and security in the Area of Responsibility. US Africa Command leads the in-theater DoD response to support other USG agencies in implementing USG security policies and strategies. In concert with other U.S. government and international partners, US Africa Command conducts theater security cooperation activities to assist in building security capacity and improve accountable governance. As directed, US Africa Command conducts military operations to deter aggression and respond to crises.2
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.
Activation of any unit entails more than simply identifying a new commander and giving him a flag, headquarters building, and staff. The key milestones of any activation concern the level of functioning capability of that unit, and when that unit reaches, or is scheduled to reach, its initial and, later, its full operating capability. Full operating capability (FOC) means the unit can, at the minimum, accomplish its assigned tasks; it does not imply the unit is at its full manning and readiness posture. AFRICOM reached its initial operating capability on 1 October 2007, and is scheduled to reach FOC on 1 October 2008. The relevance of this discussion of timelines draws upon an old adage: How well you finish depends in large measure on how well you start.
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
AFRICOM’s regional offices must have a clear and unique charter; they must possess a value-added capability; and they must be perceived as enablers of interagency efforts. The regional offices must not be perceived as simply an unnecessary redundancy or additional layer of bureaucracy, or worse, as a threat to existing USG organizations. The regional offices could immediately show their value-added nature by assisting other USG elements in overcoming the two great challenges confronting all engagement efforts in Africa: the tyranny of distance and lack of communications infrastructure. AFRICOM can demonstrate value-added capability by providing its regional offices with the capability to address these challenges with, for, and on behalf of the IA community. It is the possession of these value-added attributes that underpin the three-fold (personnel, resources, and authorities) organizational design required for successful regional offices.
The discussion of the regional offices has to begin with a discussion about what should be their charter. AFRICOM should continue to execute, and expand upon, one of EUCOM’s existing initiatives — the clearinghouse initiative. The clearinghouse approach allows:
…the United States to coordinate its actions with other nations involved in security cooperation in the same region. Each Clearinghouse serves as a multi-national forum for interested countries to share information about their security assistance programs for specific regions. The objective is to optimize the use of limited resources by merging the various security cooperation programs into a comprehensive, synchronized regional effort. Clearinghouses provide a medium for deconflicting programs, avoiding duplication and finding ways to collaborate and cooperate.8
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
One of the main challenges for the regional offices is to have the capability to interact and coordinate freely with IOs, NGOs, and other USG agencies to include the U.S. embassies outside their host country. This capability in the military is referred to as direct liaison authority (DIRLAUTH) and is defined as:
That authority granted by a commander (any level) to a subordinate to directly consult or coordinate an action with a command or agency within or outside of the granting command. Direct liaison authorized is more applicable to planning than operations and always carries with it the requirement of keeping the commander granting liaison authorized informed. Direct liaison authorized is a coordination relationship, not authority through which command may be exercised.9
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:
- Speaking with one voice to others on U.S. policy — and ensuring mission staff do likewise — while providing to the President and Secretary of State expert guidance and frank counsel;
- Directing and coordinating all executive branch offices and personnel (except for those under the command of a U.S. area military commander, under another chief of mission, or on the staff of an international organization);
- Cooperating with the U.S. legislative and judicial branches so that U.S. foreign policy goals are advanced; security is maintained; and executive, legislative, and judicial responsibilities are carried out;
- Reviewing communications to or from mission elements;
- Taking direct responsibility for the security of the mission — including security from terrorism — and protecting all U.S. Government personnel on official duty (other than those personnel under the command of a U.S. area military commander) and their dependents;
- Carefully using mission resources through regular reviews of programs, personnel, and funding levels;
- Reshaping the mission to serve American interests and values and to ensure that all executive branch agencies attached to the mission do likewise;
- Serving Americans with professional excellence, the highest standards of ethical conduct, and diplomatic discretion.11
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
While having the authority to travel and coordinate with other key players is essential, the representatives from the other organizations really want to know what the regional offices bring to the table. AFRICOM needs to empower its regional offices with the ability to actually deliver capabilities, and not simply carry the message back and forth. If the regional offices were simply message carriers, then they would justly be viewed by the other organizations as an added bureaucratic layer with no value added. An additional consideration is that any number of exigencies may arise that can affect or even cause to be cancelled a security cooperation activity in one country. AFRICOM needs to have the ability to rapidly react and shift either that activity, or the funds and resources associated with it, to another activity.
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:
…supports unforeseen contingency requirements critical to COCOMs’ joint warfighting readiness and national security interests. The strongest candidates for approval are initiatives that support COCOM activities and functions, enhance interoperability, and yield high benefit at a low cost. Initiatives support authorized activities such as: force training, contingencies, selected operations, humanitarian and civil assistance, military education and training of foreign personnel, personal expenses for bilateral or regional cooperation programs, and joint warfighting capabilities.13
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
… Protective measures, such as fencing, lights, barrier materials, berming over pipelines, guard towers, temporary civilian guards, etc., to enhance the durability and survivability of a critical infrastructure site (oil pipelines, electric lines, etc.). And it authorizes funding for other urgent humanitarian or reconstruction projects.
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.
While money is a resource, providing the regional offices with the ability and authority to fund something is still for naught if AFRICOM fails to provide the regional offices with the resources needed to actually move about their region and engage in a meaningful manner. As previously noted, the two greatest challenges of operations anywhere on the continent are the tyranny of distance and the underdeveloped communications infrastructure. The regional offices need to have the resources to overcome both of these challenges in order to be successful.
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.
The discussion of personnel has been saved until now, for the simple reason that the mission should dictate the personnel, not vice versa. Some of the functions that each regional office will accomplish are to serve as:
o A forum for exchange of ideas about and planning for future SC activities and regional security issues;
o An enabler for IA activities; and
o An executor and manager of programs and associated funds.
Keeping in mind the small footprint of the regional office, only 10 to 15 personnel, that structure should include the following:
|Air Operations & Logistics planner
|Maritime Operations & Logistics planner
|Ground Operations & Logistics planner
|Civil Affairs planner/interagency operations coordinator
|Information Operations planner
|Public Affairs planner
|Force Protection planner
Recommendations for Achieving Early Success
Given the spotlight from the international community on AFRICOM as it approaches full operating capability, especially from African nations, it is imperative that the organization start out with the best possible tools to position it for some early successes. The regional offices will play a critical role as to whether AFRICOM is viewed as a success, not only in the international community but also domestically and by other USG agencies. This requires that the issues of resources, authorities, and personnel for the regional offices be addressed immediately. Some of these issues require very long lead times to address, and it could be years before the proper authorities are in place to maximize the promise of the regional offices.
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.
AFRICOM can greatly increase the stability and security of a continent that has tremendous potential, but equally formidable challenges. The regional offices will allow AFRICOM to better focus its efforts in each distinct region, thereby increasing its effectiveness and impact. The regional offices, however, can only effect great change with the proper resources, authorities, and personnel. The authority to act to accomplish their charter needs to be accompanied with the resources and personnel necessary to allow regional offices to fulfill their roles as representatives of the USG, executors of its policies and programs, and stewards of its resources entrusted to them. The challenges of putting in place the proper resources, authorities, and personnel are great and the time to begin the process is now. The sooner these challenges are addressed, the greater the possibility AFRICOM will be able to substantially impact the development of stability and security on the African continent.
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In the Resolution, Ms. Ros-Lehtinen (R – FL) hailed the creation of AFRICOM that stated, among other things, “Whereas pursuant to that objective, AFRICOM will seek to ‘[build] partnership capacities, [conduct] theater security cooperation, [build] important counter-terrorism skills, and, as appropriate, [support] U.S. Government agencies in implementing other programs that promote regional stability (italics added).”
7. The five major Regional Economic Communities are: Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), Arab Maghreb Union (AMU/UMA), and the South African Development Community (SADC).
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Lt. Col. Tom Talley, USA, is a Strategic Plans and Policy officer en route to AFRICOM, where he is slated to be the Chief of Transformation, Concepts, and Doctrine Branch. He has been an Infantry, Ordnance, and Civil Affairs officer. He was commissioned through ROTC from the Virginia Military Institute, where he earned a BA in History. He also holds a Master’s of Science in International Relations from Troy University and a Masters of Military Art and Sciences from the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College. His prior assignments include tours with the 82nd Airborne Division, the Army Civil Affairs and Psychological Operations Command, and the Army Special Operations Command. His most recent assignment was with the 1st Infantry Division, where he served as a Transition Team Chief advising a battalion of the Iraqi National Police.