African Chiefs of Defense and senior military leaders from 43 countries met in Rome for the annual African Chiefs of Defense Conference held from Feb. 27 - March 2, 2023.
"Above all, this event provides an opportunity to enhance relationships and discuss shared visions for the future of multinational coordination in Africa," said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Michael Langley, commander, U.S. Africa Command, who hosted the event. "This year's theme is particularly relevant in today's dynamic and challenging environment. Collectively, we must analyze our capabilities and be efficient in pursuing our common goals."
The theme of this year's event was "How Resources and Requirements Affect our Mutual Reality and Reputation," which addressed instability, protecting resources, crisis preparation and response, technology, and other challenges. Above all, the meeting provided an opportunity to enhance relationships, encourage partnerships, and discuss shared visions for the future of multinational coordination, operations, and interoperability in Africa.
This is the second year in a row that the event was held in Rome. Langley's opening remarks were followed by those of U.S. Army Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We all live in a deeply interconnected world," he said, "and the challenges that we all face are not constrained by national boundaries."
Conference forums consisted of five interlinking panels: Leading Indicators of Instability; Protecting Resources; Crisis Preparation and Response from a Regional Approach; Next Frontiers of Technology; and a Lessons Learned segment focused on institutionalized learning. Delivering the keynote address was Dr. Zainab Usman, Senior Fellow and Director of the Africa Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C.
Stability was a key element of this year's meeting, with discussions held on the root causes, indicators, and vectors of instability. Throughout the conference, leaders reiterated the importance of foundational strength within a nation's defense force.
"This conference has been extremely valuable for both sharing of new ideas and rekindling old relationships," said Sgt. Maj. Richard Thresher, command senior enlisted leader, U.S. Africa Command. "No military force should underestimate the value and power of a well-trained, educated, and empowered non-commissioned officer corps."
Between forums, highlights included overviews of the State Partnership Program, a Department of Defense security cooperation program managed by the National Guard Bureau. "This is a two-way relationship," said U.S. Army Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Chief of the National Guard Bureau. "It gives us an opportunity to train with our allies and partners, but we also learn significantly from each and every one of you. These are mutually beneficial relationships."
In attendance at this year's conference were 15 National Guard leaders, including Maj. Gen. Michael Turley, commander of the Utah National Guard, whose partnership with the Kingdom of Morocco is now in its 20th year. "This relationship has a longstanding tie," said Moroccan Brig. Gen. Mohamed Haial, General of the Brigade. "This state partnership relationship is on a very firm foundation."
In closing, Gen. Langley highlighted the importance of the annual conference to Africa and the U.S., its impact on the broader international community, and its potential to shape the global future. "We view our security cooperation efforts like an investment account, and compound interest is a beautiful thing," said Langley. "We invest in countries when they are low, as well as when they are high, trusting that our investment - our relationship- will grow exponentially and have long-term, positive security results for the people of Africa and the globe."