August 2, 2007 | World Defense Review

“Total Force” for AFRICOM

Early last month, President George W. Bush named Army General William E. “Kip” Ward to be the first commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM). If confirmed by the Senate – hearings on the nomination are expected in early September after Congress returns from its August recess – he will be responsible for bringing AFRICOM to its initial operational capacity as a subordinate command of the U.S. European Command (EUCOM), of which the thirty-six-year veteran is currently deputy commander, in October of this year and then to its definitive status as an independent unified combatant command by September 30, 2008.

The transition does not come a moment too soon. As I wrote in this space last year, “our enemies have already decided that Africa is the next front for their land and sea war of terror on America and our potential strategic rivals, like China, have also made of it a theatre of competition” so the only question is whether America “will be farsighted enough to invest in an adequate response for which – the time is now” (in the same column, incidentally, I mentioned that “General Ward, the fifth African-American to reach four-star rank, is – a likely candidate to be the first commander for the possible Africa Command”). However, as I subsequently noted after AFRICOM was announced in February, “we have to do more than just create the new command; we now have a narrow window – barely eighteen months – to get its stand-up right.”

Since February, in addition to the members of the small AFRICOM transition team led by Rear Admiral Robert T. Moeller (who was nominated last week for promotion to vice admiral and assignment as AFRICOM's deputy for military operations), quite a number of uniformed and civilian men and women, both in government and in the private sector, have grappled with some of the issues with which General Ward and those serving under him will have to confront if America's sixth regional command is to achieve the strategic objectives which the President laid out for it: “Strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa – enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth.” Explaining the defense budget request for fiscal year 2008 to Congress, Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates translated these broad goals into operational terms: “This command will enable us to have a more effective and integrated approach – to oversee security cooperation, building partnership capability, defense support to non-military missions, and, if directed, military operations on the African continent.”

In addition to the journalistic reporting of and political commentary on this undertaking, a number of more substantial studies have either already been published or will be appearing in the coming months in scholarly and professional journals which cover international affairs or the military profession (in interest of full disclosure, I have authored two of those studies myself and have been either cited as an authority or dismissed as a “militarist” – or worst – in several of the others). Lauren Ploch of the Congressional Research Service (CRS) has also prepared a fairly comprehensive study Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa to assist members of Congress understand the issues which may come before them (I am quoted in the document as asserting “the mission of AFRICOM will necessarily require a major break with conventional doctrinal mentalities both within the armed services themselves and between government agencies”).

I rehearse this background because, reflecting now on the content not only of my research, but also of my participation in several conferences, both official and academic, and the conversations I have had with a number of decision makers, I have become painfully aware of what is not being said. While almost every single person involved in these discussions, including myself, but especially officials at the Pentagon, has been careful to emphasize the “interagency” aspects of this undertaking (i.e., that AFRICOM will pursue more extensive interagency cooperation with the State Department, USAID, and other government agencies, than other regional combatant commands), one is at a loss to find mention the other major concept of U.S. defense doctrine, “Total Force,” in connection with it. The virtual omission is a bit disconcerting because if ever a theatre of operation called for it, it is AFRICOM's area of responsibility (AOR).

The Total Force concept originated in President Richard Nixon's Advisory Commission on the All-Volunteer Force chaired by Thomas S. Gates, Jr., who served as America's seventh secretary of defense under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. In very simplified form, the conclusion of the commission was that America could still meet its defense commitment without conscription so long as substantial investment made in the reserve components. This thesis, in turn, laid the basis for the trio of principles which evolved to support it – “mirror imaging,” “first-to-fight funding,” and “cascading modernization” – and which remained virtually unchanged into the twenty-first century. Certainly the global war on terrorism has, to certain extent, validated the concept insofar as the reserves have proven indispensable to prosecuting the war. On the other hand, the stresses of the current war abroad, especially when coupled with disasters at home, have also revealed some of the shortcomings of the concept as received.

As a result, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) Report released last year contained a subtle, but very important, tweak to the received doctrine by adding two other elements to the traditionally conceived Total Force, now consider to be made up of “Active Component, Reserve Component, civilians, and contractors” who together constitute the nation's warfighting capability and capacity. The document went on to explain the rationale for this: “In a reconfigured Total Force, a new balance of skills must be coupled with greater accessibility to people so that the right forces are available at the right time. Both uniformed and civilian personnel must be readily available to joint commanders.” The QDR specifically mentioned the integration of contractors into the Total Force: “By factoring contractors into their planning, Combatant Commanders can better determine their mission needs” and thus “provide a continuum of service, build the right skills and design an information-age human capital strategy will yield a Total Force that is better able to meet the diverse challenges the United States will face in coming years.”

This is more than a semantic exercise. While the number of uniformed military personnel, both active duty and reserve, will always be the most important element of the country's “hard power” and, reversing course with his predecessor, the current Secretary of Defense has announced plans to increase the manpower over the next five years, the reality remains that the size of the uniformed force is likely to decrease both in proportion to the overall U.S. population and the global demands on American military capacity. Hence, civilian workers and private contractors will increasingly be called upon to provide an ever-growing proportion of U.S. force. This changing character of the Total Force ought to be especially noteworthy in AFRICOM for three reasons:

First, quite simply, given demands on personnel in other fronts in the war on terrorism, other than the modest Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), based in Djibouti, and perhaps some of the U.S. Army Special Forces elements from the Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR) who have been doing capacity-building work with the militaries of Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia as Operation Enduring Freedom-Trans Sahara, AFRICOM is likely to get few personnel of its own to deploy.

Second, as outlined by the President, a lot of AFRICOM's work will likely involve “stability operations.” The latter was defined in another seminal document, the Department of Defense's Directive 3000.05 on the Military Support for Stability, Security, Transition, and Reconstruction (SSTR) Operations, as “military and civilian activities conducted across the spectrum from peace to conflict to establish or maintain order in States and regions” with the short-term goal of providing the local populace with security, essential services, and meeting its humanitarian needs and the long-term objective of helping to “develop indigenous capacity for securing essential services, a viable market economy, rule of law, democratic institutions, and a robust civil society.” While the document described these activities as a “core U.S. military mission” which ought to “be given priority comparable to combat operations,” clearly they involve skill sets and capabilities which are difficult enough to find in government in general, much less in a conventional military whose primary mission was and is to win wars.

Third, a significant part of AFRICOM's work will be in connection with the five-year Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) launched in 2004 as a successor to both the Clinton administration's African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) and the Bush administration's African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance Program (ACOTA). GPOI addresses the gap between the expressed desire of African countries to assume greater responsibility for regional security and the critical limitations on the actual capacities of their military forces. In the budget for the upcoming fiscal year, the administration is asking for $92.5 million in funding for GPOI. As DynCorp International and Pacific Architects and Engineers (PAE) showed recently in Liberia, where they worked in cooperation with small number of U.S. military trainers under a separate State Department-funded program, the private sector is uniquely poised to efficiently deliver this type of service. One would contemplate that these two firms as well as others like Blackwater USA, MPRI, and Northrup Grumman, could contribute significantly not only to training and equipping potential peacekeepers in the current sixteen African partner nations, but also the forces like those of the Government of South Sudan which, as I previously reported, need to be prepared to face a the very real threat of an onslaught.

Despite these considerations there has nonetheless been very little discussion of the role that civilians and contractors will play in AFRICOM, although the CRS study did raise – albeit without providing any answer – the query: “What role, if any, will contractors play in AFRICOM's operations?” In fact, the Defense Department's 2005 Instruction on Contractor Personnel Authorized to Accompany the U.S. Armed Forces made it the responsibility of the heads of the geographic combatant commands, through the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to include integration of contractors in the operational plans (OPLANs) and operational orders (OPORDs) of their respective AORs.

Earlier this year, Joint Force Quarterly, the doctrinal journal published for the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs by the National Defense University's Institute for National Strategic Studies, published a short, but thoughtful article, entitled “Toward a Horizon of Hope: Considerations for Long-term Stability in Postconflict Situations,” which acknowledged that “in today's resource-constrained environment – allocating and prioritizing the expenditure of money and manpower toward a new conflict will be difficult” and concluded that “building those capabilities with minimal resources requires a new way of approaching postconflict scenarios.” The essay noted that what was needed was an instrument more flexible than the conventional planning of the typical Joint Strategic Capabilities Plan (JSCP) and recommended the use of “road maps” whose “permissiveness allows tailoring the relief effort to meet the needs of the people as the complexities of the postconflict scenario play out, while encouraging international and nongovernmental organizations to participate in a coordinated fashion.”

In general, a typical road map envisioned by the study would include an “initiation phase” of first response followed by an “implementation phase” with three lines of operation: a “security line of operation” to provide external and security to the affected territory; an “economic line of operation” to ensure basic needs are met and prepare the society to eventually meet them for itself; and a “societal line of operation” to establish good governance and a stable and self-sustaining populace free from the threat of renewed conflict. While “initiation” would probably be assigned to the interagency process, “implementation” could see the modularization of its functions “along each line of operation to facilitate the distribution of responsibilities among international agencies and nongovernmental organizations,” modularization facilitating greater flexibility since “if we are to win the war on terror, we must take on the challenge of postconflict situations head on and provide the Horizon of Hope that will convince people in strife that there is indeed a path to lasting peace.”

The author of this insightful study? The very same General Ward who, the Senate consenting, will be entrusted with making this vision reality on an African continent that is increasingly important strategically, diplomatically and economically to the national interests of the United States and where mastering both the “interagency” and the “Total Force” dimensions will be critical to the long-term success of AFRICOM's mission.

J. Peter Pham is Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs and a Research Fellow of the Institute for Infrastructure and Information Assurance at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. He is also an adjunct fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies in Washington, D.C.


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