Defense Management:

Improved Planning, Training, and Interagency Collaboration Could Strengthen DOD's Efforts in Africa

GAO-10-794: Published: Jul 28, 2010. Publicly Released: Jul 28, 2010.

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When the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) became fully operational in 2008, it inherited well over 100 activities, missions, programs, and exercises from other Department of Defense (DOD) organizations. AFRICOM initially conducted these inherited activities with little change. However, as AFRICOM has matured, it has begun planning and prioritizing activities with its four military service components, special operations command, and task force. Some activities represent a shift from traditional warfighting, requiring collaboration with the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, and other interagency partners. GAO's prior work has identified critical steps and practices that help agencies to achieve success. For this report, GAO was asked to assess AFRICOM in five areas with respect to activity planning and implementation. To do so, GAO analyzed DOD and AFRICOM guidance; observed portions of AFRICOM activities; interviewed officials in Europe and Africa; and obtained perspectives from interagency officials, including those at 22 U.S. embassies in Africa.

AFRICOM has made progress in developing strategies and engaging interagency partners, and could advance DOD's effort to strengthen the capacity of partner nations in Africa. However, AFRICOM still faces challenges in five areas related to activity planning and implementation. Overcoming these challenges would help AFRICOM with future planning, foster stability and security through improved relationships with African nations, and maximize its effect on the continent. (1) Strategic Planning. AFRICOM has created overarching strategies and led planning meetings, but many specific plans to guide activities have not yet been finalized. For example, AFRICOM has developed a theater strategy and campaign plan but has not completed detailed plans to support its objectives. Also, some priorities of its military service components, special operations command, and task force overlap or differ from each other and from AFRICOM's priorities. Completing plans will help AFRICOM determine whether priorities are aligned across the command and ensure that efforts are appropriate, complementary, and comprehensive. (2) Measuring Effects. AFRICOM is generally not measuring long-term effects of activities. While some capacity-building activities appear to support its mission, federal officials expressed concern that others--such as sponsoring a news Web site in an African region sensitive to the military's presence--may have unintended effects. Without assessing activities, AFRICOM lacks information to evaluate their effectiveness, make informed future planning decisions, and allocate resources. (3) Applying Funds. Some AFRICOM staff have difficulty applying funding sources to activities. DOD has stated that security assistance efforts are constrained by a patchwork of authorities. Limited understanding of various funding sources for activities has resulted in some delayed activities, funds potentially not being used effectively, and African participants being excluded from some activities. (4) Interagency Collaboration. AFRICOM has been coordinating with partners from other federal agencies. As of June 2010, AFRICOM had embedded 27 interagency officials in its headquarters and had 17 offices at U.S. embassies in Africa. However, the command has not fully integrated interagency perspectives early in activity planning or leveraged some embedded interagency staff for their expertise. (5) Building Expertise. AFRICOM staff have made some cultural missteps because they do not fully understand local African customs and may unintentionally burden embassies that must respond to AFRICOM's requests for assistance with activities. Without greater knowledge of these issues, AFRICOM may continue to face difficulties maximizing resources with embassy personnel and building relations with African nations. GAO recommends that AFRICOM complete its strategic plans, conduct long-term activity assessments, fully integrate interagency personnel into activity planning, and develop training to build staff expertise. DOD agreed with the recommendations.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation was partially implemented. AFRICOM has completed its regional engagement plans, including the campaign plans for East Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Central Africa, Northwest Africa, and the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. It has also updated its East Africa Campaign Plan since its original completion. However, AFRICOM did not provide us any updates as to whether it has completed its country work plans and component support plans, nor did it provide evidence that it developed a process whereby plans are reviewed on a recurring basis to ensure that efforts across the command are complementary, comprehensive, and supportive of AFRICOM's mission.

    Recommendation: To more effectively plan, prioritize, and implement activities in a collaborative interagency environment that aligns with both the command's mission of sustained security engagement and U.S. foreign policy goals; make effective use of resources in a fiscally constrained environment; and take steps to institutionalize its processes and procedures, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, AFRICOM, to synchronize activities among AFRICOM's components by expediting the completion of its regional engagement plans, country work plans, and component support plans; and develop a process whereby plans are reviewed on a recurring basis to ensure that efforts across the command are complementary, comprehensive, and supportive of AFRICOM's mission.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: AFRICOM did not fully implement this recommendation. The command has taken some action, but additional action is required. For example, the command has been conducting baseline perception research, a nationwide polling and focus group/stakeholder interview project across Africa, which has developed a baseline against which future progress and assessments can be measured. The command also stated that it has established an integrated strategic assessments process, the AFRICOM Campaign Assessments Process. However, AFRICOM stated in May 2013 that the process had not been formally approved by the commander, and AFRICOM did not provide us any further updates as to whether this process was subsequently approved and formally implemented.

    Recommendation: To more effectively plan, prioritize, and implement activities in a collaborative interagency environment that aligns with both the command's mission of sustained security engagement and U.S. foreign policy goals; make effective use of resources in a fiscally constrained environment; and take steps to institutionalize its processes and procedures, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, AFRICOM, to conduct long-term assessments of the full range of its activities to determine whether the activities are having their intended effects and supporting AFRICOM's mission.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD fully agreed with us regarding with the need to improve the use of security cooperation tools through training, staff changes, and better guidance. Since our report was issued, the Office of the Secretary of Defense - Policy created the Partnership Security Toolkit, an online compilation of all of the legislation and authorities that enable DOD to perform humanitarian assistance activities. There are approximately 100 different congressionally provided authorities for DOD to fund and provide humanitarian assistance included in this toolkit. AFRICOM stated that it actively uses the toolkit as well as provides updated or new guidance to OSD-Policy when available to incorporate into the toolkit. The Partnership Security Toolkit, and AFRICOM's use of it, provides comprehensive guidance on applying funding sources to activities, meeting the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To more effectively plan, prioritize, and implement activities in a collaborative interagency environment that aligns with both the command's mission of sustained security engagement and U.S. foreign policy goals; make effective use of resources in a fiscally constrained environment; and take steps to institutionalize its processes and procedures, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, AFRICOM, to take actions to ensure that budget staff within its military service components, special operations command, task force, and Offices of Security Cooperation within U.S. embassies in Africa 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 comprehensive guidance on applying funding sources to activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD fully agreed with us regarding the need to integrate interagency personnel and partners into the formative stages of the command's activity planning processes to better leverage interagency expertise. Since our report was issued, AFRICOM established an Interagency Integration Joint Planning Team to codify the process through which interagency representatives are integrated into the command's planning, operations, and exercises. AFRICOM also established an Interagency Working Group to provide interagency input into command initiatives, programs, and plans during crisis and steady state operations. The Interagency Working Group further established the Interagency Coordinator position, held by a non-DOD/non-Intelligence Community representative, as a core member of every AFRICOM crisis and steady state operations planning team; this position was codified in the Crisis Joint Standing Operating Procedures. These efforts allow AFRICOM to better leverage interagency expertise and promote a U.S. government unity of effort in Africa, meeting the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To more effectively plan, prioritize, and implement activities in a collaborative interagency environment that aligns with both the command's mission of sustained security engagement and U.S. foreign policy goals; make effective use of resources in a fiscally constrained environment; and take steps to institutionalize its processes and procedures, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, AFRICOM, to fully integrate interagency personnel and partners into the formative stages of the command's activity planning processes to better leverage interagency expertise.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DOD fully agreed with us regarding with the need to develop a comprehensive training program, with a means to monitor completion, for staff and forces involved in AFRICOM activities on (1) working with interagency partners and U.S. embassies on activities and (2) cultural issues related to Africa. Since our report was issued, AFRICOM has hosted a speaker series which brings high-level interagency directors and African leaders to the command for presentations and discussions, as well as monthly seminars which focus on improving staff knowledge of Africa. Additionally, to increase the depth of knowledge regarding African cultural issues and interagency partners' activities in Africa, AFRICOM coordinates with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies to host a 4-day training program on Africa issues. The command works directly with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies to monitor registration and completion of this training program. These efforts allow AFRICOM to better leverage resources with U.S. embassy personnel, build relationships with African nations, and more effectively carry out activities, meeting the intent of our recommendation.

    Recommendation: To more effectively plan, prioritize, and implement activities in a collaborative interagency environment that aligns with both the command's mission of sustained security engagement and U.S. foreign policy goals; make effective use of resources in a fiscally constrained environment; and take steps to institutionalize its processes and procedures, the Secretary of Defense should direct the Commander, AFRICOM, to, in consultation with State and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), develop a comprehensive training program, with a means to monitor completion, for staff and forces involved in AFRICOM activities on (1) working with interagency partners and U.S. embassies on activities and (2) cultural issues related to Africa.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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