Category Archives: Security Cooperation

The time I got acronymed into submission

Apologies for my unscheduled blogging hiatus. In addition to dissertating, I’ve been learning more about U.S.-Africa relations outside of security assistance and trying to find linkages to what I know best. Like the time I suggested that assistance to health systems should also be harmonized to address infectious disease among trans-border populations based on my knowledge of regional counterterrorism interoperability. But I digress.

People complain that I use too many acronyms. And although I am a huge supporter of efficient communications, this was more a function of working the world of security assistance. Terms like Forward Operating Base (FOB), Guidance for Employment of the Force (GEF), Acquisition and Cross Servicing Agreement (ACSA), Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and Cooperative Security Location (CSL) were my language. And while these are still part of my lexicon, I’ve been given the opportunity to learn a whole new world of acronyms. Yay.

I was recently traveling across South Africa doing urban and rural site visits to learn more about the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). My lord, health people. I have never had to learn so many acronyms in such a short amount of time.

Let me give you a freebie – HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). But then we get to terms like Voluntary Male Medical Circumcision (VMMC), which if you say the acronym really fast, makes me think it’s actually Mixed Martial Arts Circumcision – which I kind of hope isn’t a real thing. Then we also have People Living with HIV (PLHIV), Multi-Drug Resistant Tuberculosis (MDR-TB), Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT), Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC), Men who have Sex with other Men (MSM), Female Sex Workers (FSW), Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).

So now the acronyms of the security assistance world seem super easy. Thanks health people. I have finally been acronymed into submission.

Highlights from SFRC Hearing on Security Assistance in Africa

Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Africa and Global Health held a hearing on U.S. Security Assistance in Africa. The hearing was webcast, and you can also find the testimonies of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Puneet Talwar, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda Dory, and Lauren Ploch Blanchard of the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

Testimonies focused on security assistance programs that have been in place for several years as well as the new security assistance initiatives proposed within the last year (Security Governance InitiativeAfrican Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership, and Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund).

 Highlights, taken directly from the testimonies, are as follows:

  • U.S. security policy addresses three broad priorities: peacekeeping and the prevention of additional conflicts, strengthening the security sector in partner states, and countering terrorism and other transnational threats.
  • U.S. security assistance still comprises a small percentage of overall U.S. foreign aid to Africa, but both have grown considerably. 
For historical context – in FY1985, security assistance for Africa was $168M, or about 17% of all U.S. aid for Africa at that time. 
By CRS calculations, security assistance for Africa in FY14 was approximately $800M (~$500M provided through State Department funds and ~$300M under DOD authorities), representing approximately 10% of the aid total for Africa.
  • Between FY10 and FY14, Department of Defense-appropriated security assistance represented 29% of U.S. security assistance to Africa. These Title 10 security cooperation funds totaled $53.7M in FY10 and $379.6M in FY14.
  • The increase in DoD (Title 10) funds in Africa has been tied to increased efforts to build African counterterrorism capacity through East Africa and Yemen Counterterrorism (1203), Global Train and Equip (1206 and 2282), and Global Security Contingency Fund (1207) authorities.
  • Relative to FY14, the Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF), announced by President Obama at West Point last May, could represent a doubling of U.S. security assistance spending in Africa, and DoD’s FY16 budget request for CTPF would dwarf State Department-administered funds for the region – if funds requested in FY16 are appropriated and obligated as the Administration has proposed.
  • DoD’s FY16 budget request for CTPF includes approximately $1.27B (out of a global request of more than $2.1B) for East Africa, the Lake Chad Basin, and the Sahel/Maghreb, building on planned DoD CTPF funding of more than $460M for these areas in FY15.

For many years, there’s been chatter about the U.S. military “ramping up” in Africa or some sort of “Africa Pivot” (a play on the “Asia Pivot” that was discussed earlier in the Obama Administration). In my opinion, the notion of an “Africa Pivot” ignores the reality that the continent still ranks relatively low in the global context of U.S. national security priorities. Regardless, the initiatives being developed and implemented are the biggest expansion of U.S. security assistance in Africa since the standup of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2007/2008. The budget numbers show that while U.S. security assistance to Africa is increasing, it’s still a relatively small percentage of total U.S. assistance to Africa (10% in FY14, compared with 17% in FY1985). The increase in spending is tied to DoD (Title 10) programs that are focused on countering terrorism, which far outpaces State Department funding for non-military security assistance to law enforcement, border security, and criminal justice – as mentioned in the testimonies. I’d be interested to see how these percentages shake out once FY16 funds are appropriated and obligated, and whether this increase in security assistance to Africa – particularly for DoD – will continue into the next Administration. More importantly, I’d be interested to see how this expanded DoD security assistance will be monitored and evaluated, and how those results will contribute to the debate on whether the type of security assistance the U.S. offers “works.” (My thoughts on that here; the gist is that counterterrorism assistance is necessary, but insufficient to contribute to stability.)

In closing, I’d like to recommend Lauren Ploch Blanchard’s testimony as a valuable source on U.S. security assistance in Africa. Her testimony gives the historical context of such assistance, links it to evolving strategic guidance, fleshes out the various security assistance accounts, authorities, and programs, and previews the Administration’s FY16 budget request as it relates to security assistance in Africa. This is the (insert culturally appropriate religious text) of security assistance in Africa.

PRISM Africa Issue Released

My former boss, who was cool enough to give me the long leash required to do the TSCTP Study when I was at the Center for Complex Operations, just released PRISM Volume 5, Number 2. This issue is the journal’s first African security-focused one, and includes the following articles:

Fostering Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights in Africa Through Security Sector Assistance

Yesterday, I presented on a National Endowment for Democracy panel on “Fostering Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights in Africa Through Security Sector Assistance.” Video of the event can be found here and links to the papers we presented are below:

During the panel, we touched on the Presidential Policy Directive 23 on Security Sector Assistance, released by the Obama Administration last spring. Although the ends of PPD-23 are stated in the factsheet, little is known about its ways and means. Perhaps the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (August 4-6, 2014) might offer additional details on the implementation of PPD-23 as it relates to Africa.

U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa (& musings on PPD-23)

This is a month overdue, but in case you missed it, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) General David Rodriguez held an online press conference on U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa. You can find a video with closed captioning on YouTube and remarks on the State Department’s website. U.S. Embassies in Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia held watch parties and sent in questions for Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and General Rodriguez to answer. I also tuned in and submitted a question on how the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 23 on Security Sector Assistance, announced in April 2013, would affect security assistance in the AFRICOM Area of Responsibility (AoR). In my opinion, PPD-23 had gone under the radar for several months, and I was genuinely interested in how the policy directive may or may not be influencing the evolution of U.S. security assistance in Africa. Oddly enough, it was the only question from the chat room that wasn’t answered during the session.

Anyway, if you look at the wording of PPD-23, it seems rather straightforward and, to be quite honest, mundane. According to PPD-23, the principal goals of U.S. security sector assistance are to:

  • Help partner nations build sustainable capacity to address common security challenges.
  • Promote partner support for U.S. interests, through cooperation on national, regional, and global priorities.
  • Promote universal values, such as good governance, transparent and accountable oversight of security forces, rule of law, transparency, accountability, delivery of fair and effective justice, and respect for human rights.
  • Strengthen collective security and multinational defense arrangements and organizations.

The policy guidelines for Security Sector Assistance are to:

  • Ensure consistency with broader national security goals.
  • Foster United States Government policy coherence and interagency collaboration.
  • Build sustainable capacity through comprehensive sector strategies.
  • Be more selective and use resources for the greatest impact.
  • Be responsive to urgent crises, emergent opportunities, and changes in partner security environments.
  • Ensure that short-term interventions are consistent with long term goals.
  • Inform policy with rigorous analysis, assessments, and evaluations.
  • Analyze, plan, and act regionally.
  • Coordinate with other donors.

But going back to my earlier comment about the PPD being mundane, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what the PPD says isn’t as significant as what the PPD represents – a high-level forcing mechanism to 1) improve the way in which U.S. government agencies provide foreign (security) assistance and 2) clarify and expand upon what the government understands to be “security sector assistance.”

For example, on the first point, interagency and international donor coordination have always been implied when it comes to security assistance. Yet, the fact that there’s a high-level policy directive spelling out why this is important and in what sectors coordination should take place serves to force (or more realistically, will) this cooperation to improve.

On the second point, PPD-23 emphasizes that building partner nation capacity in the public safety, security, and justice sectors remains an area of focus to the Administration. You can see previous references to building partner capacity in the 2010 National Security Strategy under “Invest in the Capacity of Strong and Capable Partners.”  However, note the expanded reference to the sectors the U.S. seeks to develop according to PPD-23: ” Security sector actors include state security and law enforcement providers, governmental security and justice management and oversight bodies, civil society, institutions responsible for border management, customs and civil emergencies, and non-state justice and security providers.” I have always believed that the 2010 NSS expands the concept of “security” when compared with previous National Security Strategies. Now, when compared with the 2010 NSS, it appears that PPD-23 has expanded the concept of Security Sector Assistance.

In any event, I look forward to seeing what any of this means for U.S. security assistance in Africa – if anything at all.

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