U.S. Africa Command Reaches Initial Operating Capability

U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, officially stood up today when the organization reached its "initial operating capability" (IOC) to start functioning as the Pentagon’s newest regionally-focused headquarters.

General William E. "Kip" Ward was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on September 28 as AFRICOM's first commander.

AFRICOM’s IOC marks a realignment of the U.S. Defense Department’s regional command structure, creating one headquarters staff that is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for U.S. military relations with 53 countries on the African continent. For its first year, AFRICOM will operate under U.S. European Command (EUCOM), which currently has responsibility for the bulk of U.S.-African military relationships, as it progressively accepts oversight of the many programs and activities that the U.S. military conducts with African nations. AFRICOM is projected to become a fully operational unified command by October 2008.

Since February 2007, a team of military and civilian specialists in Stuttgart, Germany has been designing the organizational structure and developing mission focus areas for AFRICOM. The team, currently about 120 members, now represents the core staff of AFRICOM, and will continue to grow over the next year to fill out the new headquarters design.

Unlike traditional military commands, the AFRICOM headquarters structure integrates staff members from other parts of the U.S. government, primarily the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which lead U.S. policy and development efforts in Africa. One of Ward’s two deputies will be Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates, a senior State Department official and former ambassador to Ghana who has been named as the Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities. Ward’s military deputy will be Navy Vice Admiral Robert T. Moeller, who has been named Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations.

Ward told the U.S. Senate in late September that AFRICOM will seek to work closely with the African Union, with regional African institutions, and with individual nations. Rather than take a leadership role on the continent, he said AFRICOM will seek to provide unique “value-added” capabilities to enhance already existing U.S. and international programs.

“A fundamental focus of the AFRICOM Commander’s engagement should include careful consideration of what our partners need from the U.S. to help them develop to meet their stated needs,” Ward said September 27 in written responses to questions by the Senate Armed Services Committee.

“Just as EUCOM focused on security cooperation activities with African nations, so too will AFRICOM continue developing capabilities of African nations to help solidify our relations, achieve our mutual goals, and provide a bright future full of promise and opportunity for Africans everywhere,” Ward told the Senate. He stressed that “AFRICOM’s exercises, training, and humanitarian assistance efforts across the continent must occur in ways that demonstrate value-added through its existence.”

Additional information is available on the U.S. Africa Command website: http://www.africom.mil or by contacting the U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs Office in Stuttgart, Germany, via email to publicOutreach@africom.mil or by phone at +49-711-729-4714/4711.

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