AFRICOM Commander to Staff, 'We Are Moving Forward'
U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs
"I come away, frankly, more with a sense of optimism than anything else," Ham said of his recent travels. "I don't belittle the challenges that are out there. But, overall, it just seems to me that the willingness of our African partners, the excitement of those who are in the [U.S. Embassy] country teams, those from the component commands, those from this headquarters who are on the continent training, advising, coaching, mentoring, establishing partnerships, building relationships, helping establish and build institutions - there is just this great sense that we are moving forward."
He added, "There should be no doubt in your mind or anyone else's that we are indeed moving forward. And what that really means is the Africans are moving forward, because that's what's really important."
He commended staff members on the excellence of their work. However, he added that thinks some changes do need to take place as the organization, established in 2007, continues to mature. One change that has already occurred is the command's directorate names have changed to follow the more traditional J-code structure used throughout the military and by many partner militaries.
Directorates are now as follows: J-1/8 (Resources), J-2 (Intelligence and Knowledge Development), J-3/4 (Operations and Logistics), J-5 (Strategy, Plans and Programs), J-6 (C4 Systems and Chief Information Officer), J-7 (Joint Force Development and Readiness) and J-9 (Outreach).
"What it means is that we'll speak the same language as the rest of the Department of Defense," Ham said. " . . . It puts us in alignment with the rest of the combatant commands, with the Joint Staff and with most other military organizations. So, there's no functional change that necessarily comes with that; it's just commonality of language."
The commander said there may also be a need to change the structure, not just the names of directorates.
"It's been three and a half years," Ham said, referring to the initial creation of AFRICOM in October 2007. "It's probably time for us to take a look at - do we have functions properly aligned? Do we have the right resources allocated to each of those functions?"
Along with evaluating the command's organization, it's also important for staff to understand today's fiscally constrained environment, Ham added.
"The notion of cost awareness applies to all of us," said Ham. "I would encourage each and every one of us to look at how we do business. We've got to accomplish our mission, but we have to accomplish our mission in the most resource-responsible way in which we can."
He affirmed that U.S. AFRICOM has already proven that it can do a lot with a conservative budget.
"We offer a lot of bang for the buck," said Ham. "We offer effects that are disproportionate to the relatively modest resources that are invested in this command. The thing that enables us to do that is the people in this room."
Ham noted that there are frequent discussions of adversaries and potential adversaries who use "asymmetric" capabilities -- non-traditional methods to address the conventional military superiority of the United States. However, Ham said that he believes the talent and experience of people working for the U.S. government represent the greatest asymmetric capability of all.
"And I think when we find a way, as this command has done, to find a way to harness the innovation, the imagination, the agility of our people, then there's no way we can be stopped," Ham said. "And if they reduce our resources, they reduce our funding, we'll get through it because we have imaginative and adaptive leaders. We have experienced, knowledgeable, dedicated people who will find ways to overcome those obstacles and continue to achieve our mission in our national interest."
Ham thanked staff members for their work and said he has enjoyed every day at the command so far, and hopes that his staff feels the same.
"I hope that you feel here that you are in a place where you can make a difference, where your contribution is valid, where your service is recognized. Your sacrifice of you and your family is appreciated," Ham said.
Another point that Ham made was about finding balance between work and personal time. He said that a part of that is taking leave throughout the year to ensure staff members don't become overwhelmed.
"The most important mission I can give you is to find balance in your lives," Ham told the AFRICOM staff. "It is your personal responsibility to find that balance between accomplishing the mission, taking care of yourself - physically, mental, morally, spiritually - and taking care of your family. I think that's the hardest thing any one of us has to do."
The general took comments and fielded questions from staff. He ended with a reminder that U.S. Africa Command has an important mission and role in national security and said he is confident that his staff is the right group to take on those responsibilities.