By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
Dec. 31, 2009 - The United States does not have the desire, resources or will to be the world's policeman. But, some sovereign countries are so vulnerable that they cannot guard against national security threats without outside help.
That's where "1206" funding comes in. Twelve-oh-six – as it is called – is named from the section of the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act that enabled it. In short, there are funds that can be used to help countries develop counterterrorism capabilities or to help with stability operations, a Defense Department official speaking on background said.
This year $350 million is available for distribution to nations that need it. Since its creation, Section 1206 has funded over 100 train-and-equip programs spanning 50 countries.
Building partnership capacity is especially critical in reducing risk from non-traditional national security threats. Capable partner nations fight terrorist networks and eliminate ungoverned areas themselves, reducing stress on U.S. forces, according to the defense official.
The process works like this: Congress allocates the money. The requests from the field go before a joint interagency working group at the Pentagon with representatives from the Joint Staff, the State Department and the Defense Security Assistance Agency. "We go through an average of 60 to 70 proposals," the official said. The group ensures the proposals are within the letter and intent of the law and sends them to offices within the Defense and State departments for comment.
All told, the total amount requested is usually around $700 million. With a top line of $350 million, this means the requests must be winnowed down. "The strongest requests naturally rise to the top," the official said.
The group sends a memo to the defense secretary for approval and an identical memo to the secretary of state for concurrence. "1206 is really the combatant commander's assessment of what really country 'X' needs in terms of their capabilities," the defense official said. DoD buys the equipment or schedules the training and works with participating nations to transfer the equipment or knowledge.
Yet, it is not quite that clean cut. Combatant commanders identify capability gaps in the countries in their areas. The commanders and the group must be aware of "absorption issues." These are poor, fragile countries and many would not be able to absorb millions of dollars worth of equipment and the maintenance associated with it.
"This has to be taken under consideration when looking at what the countries can use," the official said.
Yemen will receive roughly $67 million under the program for fiscal 2009. This includes equipment and training. In most cases, the defense official said, the equipment provided consists of small ticket items – basic soldiering equipment and ammunition.
Military personnel or contractors generally do the training for the nations.
The program is designed to be flexible, in order to respond to urgent needs, the defense official said.
The countries receiving the largest amount of 1206 money are Pakistan, Yemen, Lebanon and the Philippines.
For fiscal 2010, Congress clarified the legislation to allow DoD to use the funds to prepare partner nations for duty in Afghanistan and Iraq. The division of funds among nations for fiscal 2010 has not been announced yet.