Africa Command begins its premier security cooperation conference
November 20, 2009
RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany - U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) opened its annual Theater Security Cooperation Conference November 16, 2009, a premier event that builds the foundation for the command's activities with its African partners over the next three years.
The conference brings together approximately 500 stakeholders from U.S. Africa Command headquarters, its component commands, Department of State Bureau of African Affairs, U.S. Agency for International Development, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Embassy country teams, and other U.S. government agencies. They will review the command's fiscal year 2010 security cooperation activities, highlight the component commands' unique roles, and build potential activities for fiscal years 2011 and 2012.
"Our priority is the delivery of programs on the continent that make a difference in a positive way and that contributes to its stability," said Gen. William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, during his opening remarks. "That's what it's about. And this conference synchronizes and aligns those efforts to maximize (our) potential for success."
During opening-day sessions, U.S. Africa Command's service component commands presented their activity plans for fiscal year 2010, highlighting the hundreds of events and military-to-military engagements designed to strengthen the capacities of African militaries.
The second day featured insight into the objectives and priorities of U.S. government agencies -- such as Department of State, USAID and Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy -- designed to identify gaps and opportunities to enhance the "whole of government" approach to providing security assistance to African nations.
This interagency cooperation is underscored through the attendance at this conference. Of the approximate 500 attendees, more than 60 represent U.S. Embassy country teams, including deputy chiefs of mission, along with the State Department's Bureau of African Affairs and USAID.
Karl Wycoff, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, addressed the conference and echoed President Obama's objectives for Africa. He said Africa Command has a key role to play as a partner in meeting those objectives.
"We must ensure that all of our resources, both civilian and military, are carefully coordinated and calibrated to achieve the best results," Wycoff said.
He noted that a number of U.S. government agencies work together on security assistance and security cooperation programs, emphasizing the reliance on chiefs of mission to bring integration and balance to activities within a country.
Wycoff highlighted the success of the State Department's peacekeeper training program, with some 91,000 African peacekeepers trained since 2005. "It's a huge project and highly complemented by a variety of actors and our partners. Some 88 percent of those trained have been deployed on missions, and that's a key measure of effectiveness," Wycoff said. "We are looking to make that more effective, and we think AFRICOM and DOD have a major role to play in that."
Participants also received presentations on specialized topics such as efforts to counter narcotics trafficking, and warrant officer/noncommissioned officer development in African militaries.
Ward pointed out the interagency composition of the Africa Command headquarters as one of the "hallmarks" of the command, which has integrated into its staff nearly 30 officers from Department of State, USAID and other U.S. government agencies.
"The aid and the assistance that we receive from our interagency teammates are absolutely tremendous," Ward said. "It's important for us to understand their perspectives" to advance and strengthen Africa Command's coordination and collaboration with other U.S. government agencies.
The interagency representation at the conference also points to how Africa Command continues to be a listening and learning organization, Ward added. "This is a team effort...this helps us understand the environment in a more effective way and how we can do our very best to ensure that our programs are coordinated and synchronized in a way that brings coherency to the totality of our efforts to help bring stability to the African continent."