WASHINGTON -- Over the past 14-plus years, United States and coalition taxpayers have invested heavily in outfitting the Afghanistan national defense and security forces (ANDSF) to defend Afghanistan against a persistent insurgent enemy. This complex and demanding mission continues with the U.S.-led coalition in a train, advise and assist (TAA) role with the Afghans leading the fight to secure their homeland. More than 10,000 brave Afghan policemen and soldiers gave their lives for this cause in 2015, and more than 20,000 were wounded. Supporting their security and defense efforts within our national interests is critical.

The Combined Security Transition Command -- Afghanistan (CSTC-A), as part of the Resolute Support Mission, is the center-of-gravity organization for the security assistance process for the ANDSF and ministries of the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. CSTC-A, commanded currently by MG Gordon B. "Skip" Davis Jr., has the mission to train, advise and assist the Afghan security institutions to develop capabilities for resource management, inspector general (transparency, accountability and oversight) and rule of law, and the command provides financial resources in accordance with Afghan requirements.

In July 2015, as we looked at the future of this mission as well as the declining budget authorities, we decided that we needed to change the way that we did business in Afghanistan. We needed to establish a very detailed and robust management of the myriad kinds of materiel procured, establish a repeatable and transparent programming process, radically change the processes that identify materiel and nonmateriel requirements, adapt and simplify the sustainment of those assets and help the Afghans invigorate the procurement and contracting system that is key in making this critical support mission more affordable.

ESTABLISHING A MATERIEL MANAGEMENT ENTERPRISE

Between 2001 and 2015, a plethora of materiel solutions were fielded as fast as possible to meet the warfighting need, with little to no consideration given to life-cycle management. The funding provided was robust enough to get the materiel to the fight quickly, with the thought that the sustainment and detailed materiel management would follow. As the coalition draws down and the amount of coalition funding draws down accordingly, we are trying to bring a far more disciplined and modern approach to life-cycle management to make the ANDSF sustainable, effective and affordable.

To establish materiel management in everything we do in CSTC-A, we established two repeating forums: a materiel management review and a commodity review. The materiel management review ensures that we review every piece of equipment that is in country now or might be in the future. Every aspect of the life cycle is considered before we acquire any new equipment or sustain the old. The commodity review focuses on the current status of each class of supply, the current stockage, the pending orders and the future need. All of the information from the materiel management review and the commodity review is passed on to the budget process for consideration in the next budget.

ESTABLISHING CONSISTENT FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT AND BUDGETING

The CSTC-A CJ-8 director, who is our comptroller, controls the Afghanistan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) and oversees the execution of the NATO Trust Fund that donor nations provide in support of the ANDSF. ASFF can only be used for the support and sustainment of the ANDSF, specifically in the Ministries of Defense and the Interior (MOD and MOI). It is a flexible funding capability that allows CSTC-A to ensure that the MOD and MOI can succeed in the fight. The NATO Trust Fund meets critical needs in many areas, including medical, aviation support and human capital development.

The CJ-8 also advises and assists the Afghans in programming. This programming process allowed the Afghans, for the first time, to establish a three-year budget plan, and to prioritize needs within the resources that it has from Afghan sources and donor nations. The Afghans follow a 12-month solar calendar, the first month of which begins on the vernal or spring equinox. For the current solar year, the Afghans will run this process from beginning to end, marking a large step forward for the future.

REQUIREMENTS GENERATION

The CSTC-A Concept Development Directorate (CDD) was stood up in 2015 to develop a methodology to address the process of modifying the Tashkil (table of organization and equipment) to meet the emerging needs of the Afghan Army
and police. CDD established and assisted the Afghan-led command plan review whereby the ministries recommended changes to the Tashkil to meet future warfighting needs and fiscal realities. This is the first time that the Afghans led this event.

PROCUREMENT

Establishing an efficient and transparent procurement capability in Afghanistan is a priority of Ashraf Ghani, president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan. After his election, Ghani established the National Procurement Authority to oversee the drafting and application (after approval by the legislature) of laws to establish such a capability. CSTC-A has a TAA role with this authority, and we sit as observers in every meeting of the National Procurement Commission as the guest of the president.

The establishment of these procurement bodies has moved the Afghan nation forward in its ability to show the Afghan people and the international community transparency in how it uses its own resources as well as those of donor nations.

SUSTAINMENT

Essential Function 5 (EF5), led by Ken Watson, leads the effort in the TAA of the Afghans in sustainment. (Currently serving on a one-year deployment as the executive director of sustainment and the EF5 lead, Watson is permanently assigned as the deputy director for strategy, capabilities, policy and logistics (J-5/J-4) at the U.S. Transportation Command.)

One of eight essential functions included in the Resolute Support Mission, EF5 efforts aim to enable effective demand-based systems to meet strategic and operational requirements in facilities management, maintenance, medical support and logistics.

Watson's team is the key life-cycle management office for every materiel item in the Afghan military, except for aviation, and has established the processes and procedures for each class of supply and each materiel end item. The efforts of the EF5 team completely changed the way business is done here, and have created combat capabilities and pockets of self-reliance in the ANDSF. There is a long way to go in sustainment and maintenance, but the core has been established.

CSTC-A continues to do much more than I have discussed here, including continued work on countering improvised explosive devices, the establishment of rule-of-law committees, the prosecution of gross violations of human rights, standing up an entire engineering enterprise to ensure the construction and maintenance of facilities and infrastructure, and myriad other critical functions.

CONCLUSION

The very complex mission in Afghanistan continues. We have made great strides in the past months, establishing repeatable, documented and modern processes to ensure that every taxpayer dollar is used to create capability for a stronger and affordable ANDSF. The lifeblood of this work and this organization is the people who volunteer to continue this mission. We need a continued flow of dedicated military and civilian professionals who will deploy to carry on this critical work.