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Building Partner Capacity in the 21st Century: How the U.S. Can Succeed
Colonel Alan Shumate
In his 2010 National Security Strategy, President Barrack Obama stated that “our military will continue strengthening its capacity to partner with foreign counterparts, train and assist security forces, and pursue military-to-military ties with a broad range of governments.” As our national leaders posture to increase cuts to the military budget in order to improve our economy and reduce our growing U.S. deficit, the Department of Defense (DOD) must be pragmatic on how its resources are invested to ensure security for our nation while defeating America’s emerging strategic threats.
Building partner capacity is a critical component of our future National Security Strategy. These three words appear twenty-five times in the January 2012 Department of Defense publication, “Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense.” If DOD and the U.S. Army want to maximize their resources to ensure success in building partner nation security capacity with our allies, the following recommendations will strengthen our ability to accomplish this strategic goal.
Designate the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM)  as DOD’s priority command for Theater Security Cooperation Program (TSCP) mission resourcing. Allowing USSOCOM to select which building partner nation capacity events Special Operations Forces (SOF) will resource in the future will greatly enhance Admiral McRaven’s vision of creating a Global SOF network. Although USSOCOM cannot satisfy all of the Combatant Commanders (CCDR) TSCP requirements, they should be authorized to determine which TSCP missions their subordinate SOF commands will execute before any other DOD organization.
America should put its most highly trained, best equipped and capable regionally oriented forces forward to build partner nation capacity. Special Operations Forces are DOD’s proven military assets in building partner nation security capacity in austere, high risk security environments (e.g. Plan Colombia, OEF-Philippines). USSOCOM’s most capable asset to conduct Foreign Internal Defense (FID) and Security Force Assistance (SFA) is based in the United States Army Special Forces Command (Airborne) (USASFC(A) in the form of Green Berets and Special Forces Operational Detachment A-Teams (SFOD-A). Members of these 12-man A-Teams are trained in a minimum of one of the following military occupational specialties: Special Forces Operations (18A- Team Detachment Commander, 180A- Team Executive Officer, 18Z- Team Operations Sergeant: Unconventional Warfare focused), Intelligence operations (18F: Human Intelligence focused), Weapons and military tactics (18B), Engineer operations (18C: construction and explosives), Advanced Medical operations (18D), and Communications operations (18E). Having two 18B, 18C, 18D and 18E Special Forces Non-Commissioned Officers on a SFOD-A enables the detachment to operate in two independent 6-man teams when needed to support emerging mission requirements.
Enemies such as Al Qaida, the Taliban, Iranian Quods Forces and other hybrid threats currently employ Unconventional Warfare (UW) campaigns against the U.S. and our allies. The United States Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) has been designated as the lead agency for DOD in the conduct of UW operations. As experts in UW, Special Forces are uniquely prepared to counter the UW activities of our enemies while executing TSCP operations with our allies and host nation security forces around the world.
Enabling SOF leadership to select the countries and host nation security forces will expand our Global SOF Network and build partner nation capacity, allowing USSOCOM and specifically USASOC to refocus resources to better support Special Warfare missions (primarily FID and UW). The increased focus on Special Warfare will also provide Green Berets the necessary access and cover for actions to facilitate Preparation of the Environment (PE) activities in support of future UW campaigns within their target theaters of operation. Despite the fact that many CCDRs have UW operations written into their contingency plans, the current level of PE activities fails to adequately support future UW operations. Special Forces need to increase their global PE activities to ensure success of future UW operations.
Create a U.S. Army Advisory and Assistance Command to focus on the mission of building partner capacity. In late December 2012, Headquarters, Department of the Army officially announced its post Afghanistan focus of building partner nation capacity by approving the Regionally Aligned Forces (RAF) plan and the RAF EXORD. The RAF plan aligns select Army Corps, Divisions and Brigade Combat Teams (BCT) to specific CCDRs, thus fostering regional alignment and support for building partner capacity. Following traditional combat skill training, RAF BCTs will transition to advise and assistance task training to include language, regional culture, and other associated tasks.  RAF BCTs will then prepare to deploy Soldiers to serve in small advisory teams up to a company size force (~200 men). An ad hoc approach (at the BCT level) to prepare and employ General Purpose Force (GPF) advisors in the complex mission of building partner capacity jeopardizes mission success.
RAF BCTs will struggle to maintain proficiency in decisive operations (e.g. combined arms training) while preparing personnel to become regionally oriented advisors that deploy select portions of their unit(s) to multiple foreign countries in support of SFA missions. The ARFORGEN model and regular reassignment and attrition of Soldiers within a BCT will make it difficult for RAF brigades to match the advisory capability of a regionally focused, specially trained and equipped force such as a United States Army Special Forces Group with its 72 x SFOD-As. A key to the past success of Military Training Teams and Embedded Training Teams in Iraq and Afghanistan was their ability to operate in mature theaters. Post Afghanistan (2014), RAFs and GPF advisory teams will not have a mature theater to support their logistical, medical, and security needs.
In his article, “Institutionalizing Adaptation: It’s Time for a Permanent Army Advisor Corps”, LTC(R) John Nagl recommends the creation of a permanent 20,000-member Advisor Corps, responsible for creating advisory doctrine as well as overseeing the training and deployment of 750 advisory teams of 25-Soldiers each. LTG(R) David Barno has a different concept for creating an organization focused on building partner nation capacity (FID and SFA operations). The former Commanding General of the Combined Forces Command – Afghanistan from 2003-2005 asserts the advantages of a Special Operations led Advisory and Assistance Command--a command that would oversee the training of GPF Soldiers assigned to it. The Advisory and Assistance Command would integrate Special Forces personnel into the leadership of the command as well as on the Advisory Teams.
The U.S. Army should reorganize a GPF unit and assign it to USASOC to become a hybrid SOF and Conventional Army organization focused on the mission of building partner capacity. This hybrid USASOC Advisory and Assistance Command would consist of experienced Special Forces, Civil Affairs, Military Information Support Operations and Conventional Force leaders (Sergeant First Class to Major). The Advisory and Assistance Command would develop the doctrine and training required to prepare regionally oriented advisory teams for deployments into their AORs to build partner nation capacity. Soldiers would remain in the command for a minimum of three years before being eligible to return to their traditional assignments.
Expand the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) exercise program in 2013 and beyond with a focus of deploying U.S. Army regionally aligned Headquarters and BCTs in support of regional alignment and building partner capacity. Prior to 9-11, the GPF regularly deployed overseas to participate in CJCS directed exercises with allied nations. Unfortunately, the CJCS exercise program has taken dramatic funding cuts by Congress since 9-11, thus making it difficult for DOD to adequately develop our allies’ security forces. The former CJCS, Admiral Mike Mullen stated to the 112th Congress and the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on defense, “balancing global strategic risk requires strong military-to-military engagement programs. These collaborative efforts engender mutual responsibility and include ongoing combined operations, multi-lateral training exercises, individual exchanges, and security assistance”. U.S. Army Corps and Division Headquarters and BCTs can strengthen their regional alignment and build partner capacity by participating in more joint exercises such as: Operation Flintlock in the Trans-Sahara, Operation Cobra Gold in Southeast Asia, Operation Ulchi Freedom Guardian in Korea, Operation Bright Star in the Middle East, Operation Tradewinds in Latin America, and Operation Austere Challenge in Europe.
By granting USSOCOM the authority to take the lead role in building partner capacity in support of the creation of a Global SOF network, the Department of Defense will greatly increase its ability to defeat terrorist networks, extremism and other security threats to America. As the U.S. Army looks beyond Afghanistan and embraces the mission of building partner capacity, it should work closely with USASOC to create a focused hybrid command, comprised of 18-series and GPF experienced leaders who have the sole mission of deploying to a specific region to conduct FID and SFA missions. Increased funding support for CJCS exercises that focus on deploying Army BCTs overseas to exercise CCDR ‘s combined joint contingency plans will enable DOD to expand and strengthen its global security network. With the proper authorities and adequate resources USSOCOM and the U.S. Army will achieve success in the critical U.S. National Security objective of building partner capacity.
http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/rss_viewer/national_security_strategy.pdf (accessed January 5, 2013).
 Leon E. Panneta, Sustaining U.S. Global Leadership: Priorities for 21st Century Defense (Washington D. C.: The Secretary of Defense, 5 January 2012), 5.
 William H. McRaven, Posture Statement of Admiral William H. McRaven, USN, Commander USSOCOM Before the 112th Congress, Senate Armed Service Committee, Posture Statement presented to the 112th Congress, 2nd sess. (Washington, DC: U.S. Special Operations Command, 2012). The United States Special Operations Command (with over 66,000 members as of 2012) is comprised of five-component commands: United States Army Special Operations Command, Naval Special Warfare Command, Air force Special Operations Command, Marine Corps Force Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command. SOF personnel operated in over 100 countries in 2012.
 Ibid., 3.
 COL Alan Shumate, author’s personal experience while assigned to USASOC, JSOC and USASFC (A) between 2006-2008 and 2010-12. Service components of USSOCOM have dedicated units that are language trained, regionally oriented and globally deployed to conduct FID and SFA (e.g. Army Special Forces, Navy SEALs, Air Force 6th Special Operations Squadron, and Marine Special Operations Battalion members are examples of SOF advisors).
 COL Alan Shumate, author’s personal experience as a Special Forces Officer conducting FID, SFA and COIN operations in Latin America and Afghanistan from 1998-2006 and as a BSTB CDR, in an Advise and Assistance BCT deployed to MND-S Iraq, 2009-2010.
 U. S. Special Operations Command, USSOCOM Directive 10-1 (Washington, DC: U.S. Special Operations Command, 2009). Appendix A (Terms of Reference—Roles, Missions, and Functions of Component Commands) lists USASOC as the Lead Component for UW and Ground FID among many other mission sets (e.g. CAO, MISO, ASO, PE, SO Urban Combat, CQB, Airborne Operations (Static & MFF), RW/Tilt Rotor Infil/Exfil Techniques, UAR & NAR, SOF SSE, and JSOMTC). See also the ARSOF Core Activities paragraph at http://www.soc.mil/swcs/swmag/archive/SW2401/SW2401DefiningWar.html.
 COL(R) David Maxwell, Georgetown University Faculty, interviewed by author regarding the employment of Special Forces to defeat America’s emerging threats, Georgetown University, Washington DC, December 12, 2012.
 COL Alan Shumate, author’s personal experience as the Deputy Chief of Staff, G8 (Force Management) for the United States Army Special Forces Command (Airborne), 2010-2012.
 LTG John F. Campbell, U.S. Army G3/5/7, “Execution Order for Regionally Aligned Forces (RAF),” Washington, DC, Headquarters, Department of the Army, December 20, 2012.
 Associated Press, “Teams from a US Army brigade heading to 35 African nations to beef up anti-terror training,” December 24, 2012, http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/12/24/teams-from-us-army-brigade-heading-to-35-african-nations-to-beef-up-anti-terror/
(accessed December 26, 2012).
 LTC(R) John A. Nagl, Institutionalizing Adaptation: It’s Time for a Permanent Army Advisor Corps, (Washington DC: Center for a New American Security, June 2007), 5.
 LTG(R) Barno, David, Center for a New American Strategy, former Commanding General of Combined Forces Command – Afghanistan from 2003-5, interview by author regarding the creation of a future Advisory Command and the role of SOF and the GPF in FID and SFA missions, Washington DC, December 13, 2012.
 Michael G. Mullen, Posture Statement of Admiral Michael G. Mullen, USN, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Before the 112th Congress,Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, Posture Statement presented to the 112th Congress, 1st sess. (Washington DC: U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2011), 19.