Defense Management:

DOD Needs to Determine the Future of Its Horn of Africa Task Force

GAO-10-504: Published: Apr 15, 2010. Publicly Released: May 14, 2010.

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Originally established in 2002 to fight terrorism, the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), based at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti, is the military's main operational presence in Africa. The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), created in 2007 to focus on stability in Africa, has been assessing existing activities--as well as CJTF-HOA--against its mission of sustained security engagement in Africa. This report discusses: (1) AFRICOM's decisions on CJTF-HOA's future and whether CJTF-HOA's activities align with the command's mission, and (2) benefits of the task force and challenges it faces. For its review, GAO analyzed AFRICOM and CJTF-HOA guidance, conducted interviews at the command's and task force's headquarters, and obtained perspectives from U.S. embassies in the region.

AFRICOM has been evaluating CJTF-HOA, but it has not yet made decisions on the future of the task force--including whether CJTF-HOA should continue to exist as a joint task force, and if so, whether changes are needed to the task force's mission, structure, and resources to best support the command's mission of sustained security engagement in Africa. AFRICOM officials said that decisions are pending but did not share details of their evaluation or provide a target date for decisions. Since the task force moved under AFRICOM, its status has not changed significantly. As of March 2010, CJTF-HOA had about 1,650 personnel. The Navy continues to fund the majority of its approximately $80 million budget as well as most of Camp Lemonnier's $238 million budget. The task force's activities have evolved over the years to focus on building relationships and fostering stability; for example, about 60 percent of its activities are civil affairs projects, such as community medical care and bridge construction. Other activities include military-to-military activities, peace support operations, personnel recovery, and counter-piracy activities. However, CJTF-HOA is currently not performing long-term follow up on activities to determine whether they are having their intended effects or whether modifications are needed to best align with AFRICOM's mission. Additionally, the task force is generally not setting specific, achievable, and measurable goals for activities. Some activities, such as military-to-military efforts, appear to support AFRICOM's mission. Others, such as a school built by CJTF-HOA but later found dilapidated, could have unintended consequences. Without long-term assessments of activities, it is difficult for AFRICOM to determine the effectiveness of CJTF-HOA, which is critical for overall planning efforts and decisions on the task force's future. CJTF-HOA's force presence in the Horn of Africa provides several benefits, but the task force also faces challenges carrying out activities. CJTF-HOA's presence in Africa offers benefits such as its ability to respond to contingencies, provide forces for AFRICOM activities, and build U.S.-African relationships. However, the task force's sustainability is uncertain because AFRICOM, in concert with the Department of Defense or the Navy, has not developed options for funding the task force over the long term. It currently relies on overseas contingency operations appropriations, and GAO has previously encouraged that the projected costs of such ongoing operations be included in the military's base budget requests. Moreover, task force staff have made cultural missteps because they did not understand local religious customs and may have unintentionally burdened embassies that must continuously train new staff on procedures. These problems may be exacerbated by limited training and compounded by short tour lengths (generally 4-12 months). Should AFRICOM opt to retain the task force, addressing challenges associated with long-term funding and staff skills would help ensure that it is effectively supporting U.S. efforts in Africa with the appropriate resources and trained personnel.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: If DOD determines that sustaining CJTF-HOA is consistent with its long-term goals, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Africa Command to take actions to ensure that CJTF-HOA budget personnel have the expertise and knowledge necessary to make timely and accurate funding decisions for activities. These actions could include some combination of training, staffing changes, and/or guidance.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Since our report was issued, the Office of the Secretary of Defense- Policy created the Partnership Security Toolkit, an online database compiling all the funding authorities DOD may use to conduct its humanitarian assistance activities. AFRICOM said it is actively using the toolkit and provides updated guidance to OSD-P to incorporate into the site. The Partnership Security Toolkit, and AFRICOM's use of it, provides comprehensive guidance on applying funding to activities and meets the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: If DOD determines that sustaining CJTF-HOA is consistent with its long-term goals, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Africa Command to identify the projected costs for the task force to conduct its assigned mission and, in concert with DOD or the Navy, develop a realistic funding plan for the task force's sustainability.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken as of July 2012.

    Recommendation: If DOD determines that sustaining CJTF-HOA is consistent with its long-term goals, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Africa Command to conduct long-term assessments of CJTF-HOA activities to determine whether the activities are having their intended impact and support AFRICOM's mission.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Some action taken as of July 2012, however lacking sufficient evidence to verify AFRICOM's statements.

    Recommendation: First, to help ensure that personnel and resources are applied most effectively to enhance U.S. military efforts in Africa, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Africa Command, to complete its evaluation of CJTF-HOA, determining whether the task force should be retained, and if so, whether changes are needed to its mission, structure, and resources to best support the command's mission.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: No action taken as of July 2012.

    Recommendation: If DOD determines that sustaining CJTF-HOA is consistent with its long-term goals, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, U.S. Africa Command to develop comprehensive training guidance or a program that augments assigned personnel's understanding of African cultural awareness and working with interagency partners. The guidance or program should be mandatory and mechanisms should be developed to ensure compliance for the best chances of institutionalizing knowledge among CJTF-HOA personnel, promote continuity of efforts, and sustain progress as personnel rotate frequently into and out of Camp Lemonnier.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Open

    Comments: DOD's Horn of Africa Task Force has taken steps to enhance cultural awareness. AFRICOM has employed socio-cultural research and advisory teams that have presented cultural orientations for Africa, Djibouti, and the greater Horn of Africa area of responsibility to CJTF-HOA staff. Consistent with our recommendation, the training and evaluations by the sociocultural research and advisory teams are a positive step toward increasing CJTF-HOA understanding of African cultural issues and thus addressing a challenge that has hindered the task force's effectiveness in carrying out activities. As of July 2012, AFRICOM has not yet taken action on developing a program that augments assigned personnel's understanding of working with interagency partners.

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