Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates have requested the support of Congress in extending and making permanent a program that provides the Department of Defense with the funds to work collaboratively with the Department of State in training foreign militaries and responding to emerging security threats.
The request was made as part of their testimony April 15, 2008, before the House Armed Services Committee, which convened a hearing on "Building Partnership Capacity and Developments in the Interagency Process."
Rice and Gates stressed the importance of addressing today's global security challenges with a unified and holistic approach, emphasizing that the security of partner nations is an increasingly critical component of joint operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and around the globe. "Without security there can be no development, and without development there can be no democracy," stated Rice. "Indeed, one of our most urgent national security challenges will remain the work that we do to support nations that are trying to lift themselves out of conflict."
Crucial to the success of building partnership capacity is an initiative called the Global Train and Equip Program (Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006), which provides a new authority to the Department of Defense to spend up to $200 million of its appropriated funds to train and equip foreign militaries to engage in counterterrorism or stability operations.
By improving the security of partner nations where there are emerging threats or opportunities, the program aims to decrease the likelihood that U.S. military presence will be required in the future. The Department of Defense and the Department of State currently work jointly on these projects, benefiting from one another's areas of expertise.
"Commanders consider this a vital tool in the war on terror beyond Afghanistan and Iraq," said Gates. "It has become a model of interagency cooperation between State and Defense."
Opponents of Section 1206 argue that the program should be fully funded and executed by the State Department's Foreign Military Financing, rather than drawing from the Department of Defense's operation and maintenance funds. In response to this concern, Gates stated, "In my view, building partner capacity is a vital and enduring military requirement, irrespective of the capacity of other departments, and its authorities and funding mechanisms should reflect this reality. The Department of Defense would no more outsource this substantial and costly security requirement to a civilian agency than it would any other key military mission."
Citing the example of the U.S. Africa Command as a positive outcome of interagency cooperation, Gates said, "AFRICOM has been established and Southern Command reorganized, heralding a new approach to integrating civilian agencies and perspectives into the traditional military command structure."
Additionally, with continued commitment to Section 1206, Gates said much focus would be placed on improving security on the continent of Africa. Two such goals include the strengthening of the nine-country Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Partnership in Northern Africa, and assisting African nations to develop their capacity to monitor and control their own coastlines.
In response to a second concern regarding the lack of a civilian institution that could provide stabilization in the wake of war or civil fighting, Rice reported that the State Department is developing a "Civilian Stabilization Initiative." This program would create a rapid civilian response capacity, consisting of diplomats, federal employees, and private citizens who would be able to deploy alongside the military.
Gates and Rice took a unified stance in encouraging Congress help sustain efforts in improving global security by making Section 1206 a permanent legislation and increasing its funding. Currently, the provision is due to expire at the end of this fiscal year. Specifically, Gates asked legislators to increase the program funding to $750 million and to expand its coverage to include foreign internal security forces, such as police.
Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, concluded the hearing by urging Congress to expand the Global Train and Equip program, stressing the importance in establishing interagency and international partnerships. "Without these additional investments in building partnership capacity, I believe we place at greater risk and peril our own efforts to defend our vital national interests."