By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
April 15, 2008 - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recommended extending legislation that enables the U.S. military to provide funding for training and equipping foreign forces for global counterinsurgency operations during testimony before the House Armed Services Committee here today. Over the past 15 years, the U.S. government has tried to meet post-Cold War security challenges and pursue 21st-century objectives using internal systems that were designed after World War II, Gates observed.
"Operating within this outdated, bureaucratic superstructure, the U.S. government has sought to improve interagency planning and cooperation through a variety of means," including the introduction of new legislation, Gates said.
Section 1206 of the National Defense Authorization Act of 2006 provides authority to the Defense Department to spend up to $200 million of its appropriated funds to train and equip foreign militaries to engage in counterterrorism or stability operations. Gates said that legislation gives U.S. military commanders "a means to fill longstanding gaps in the effort to help other nations build and sustain capable military forces."
American commanders see Section 1206 as a valuable tool to use in the war against global terrorism, Gates said.
The State Department's existent foreign military financing program had long held minimal interest for the U.S. military, Gates said. Prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, few people anticipated that U.S. servicemembers would ever be involved in nation-reconstruction efforts to such a large scale as seen today in Iraq and Afghanistan, he explained.
However, "the attacks of 9/11 and the operations that have followed around the globe reinforced to military planners that the security of America's partners is essential to America's own security," Gates said.
Three years ago, the Defense Department asked Congress for authority to create a global train-and-equip system for foreign militaries, Gates recalled, noting it was recognized this activity should be jointly conducted with the State Department.
The resultant 1206 program has paid dividends, Gates said, citing successful efforts in boosting foreign military capabilities to engage terrorists and other criminals in Lebanon, Indonesia, Malaysia, Pakistan and the Philippines. Section 1206 is slated to expire at the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30.
"We need help from the Congress to sustain this program that military leaders from combatant commanders to brigade level say they need," Gates said.
In recognition of "an enduring Defense Department mission to build partner capacity," Gates asked the panel to make Section 1206 permanent. He also asked legislators to increase program funding to $750 million and to expand its coverage to include foreign internal security forces, such as police.
Gates said his agency and the State Department have agreed to seek a five-year extension of another piece of legislation, known as Section 1207, that currently allows the transfer of up to $100 million of Defense Department funds to the State Department to bring in civilian expertise to assist U.S. military global reconstruction efforts. Gates also requested that Congress increase that program's top amount to $200 million.
Rice echoed Gates' assertion that waging the global war on terrorism requires new thinking and increased interagency cooperation.
"This is why the ability of the Department of State and the Department of Defense to work together in these environments is so critical to our success," Rice said. Increased numbers of State Department officers now are serving side by side with U.S. military commanders in places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, she noted.
The State Department also is developing a civilian stabilization initiative, that would create a rapid-response force made up of diplomats, interagency federal employees and private citizens to conduct stability and reconstruction operations, Rice reported. Such a force "could be deployed alongside the military with international partners or on its own," Rice said.
Sections 1206 and 1207 have proven invaluable in the battle against global terrorists, said Rice, who described herself as a staunch supporter for continuing and expanding current foreign-assistance legislation.
"We strongly advocate continuing these important contingency authorities, and they are the additional tools that we need to meet emergent, exigent problems that very often emerge out of budget cycle," Rice declared.
Assisting America's partners is "an increasingly critical component of joint operations during the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa and elsewhere around the world," said Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who accompanied Gates and Rice at the hearing.
At its core, building partner capacity "is about helping solve problems before they become crises and helping contain crises before they become conflicts," Mullen said.
The U.S. military cannot win the war against terrorism all by itself, Mullen pointed out.
"We need partners on the ground, partners in the interagency, partners in the international community, and partners across the spectrum of nongovernmental organizations," the admiral told the panel.
"By building partner capacity, we are, in fact, building global capacity to meet modern, complex challenges," Mullen said.