06 February 2007

It's Offical: AFRICOM

In testimony before the Senate today, SecDef Gates announced:

"The president has decided to stand-up a new unified, combatant command, Africa Command, to oversee security cooperation, building partnership capability, defense support to non-military missions, and, if directed, military operations on the African continent," Gates said in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

The command will enable the U.S. military to have a more effective and integrated approach than the current command setup, Gates said.

Responsibility for operations on the African continent is currently divided among three combatant commands: U.S. European Command, which has responsibility for most of the nations in the African mainland except in the Horn of Africa; U.S. Central Command, which has responsibility for Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya; and U.S. Pacific Command, which has responsibility for Madagascar, the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean area off the African coast.

Gates called this arrangement an "outdated arrangement left over from the Cold War."

He added that DoD will consult closely with Congress and European and African allies to implement the effort.

And more here:

By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 6, 2007 - The new U.S. Africa Command, which President Bush announced today, will consolidate U.S. government efforts in Africa and the ability to work with partner nations, the officer in charge of the command's transition team said today.

The motivation behind creating AFRICOM, as it will be called, was the increasing importance of Africa strategically, diplomatically and economically, Navy Rear Adm. Robert Moeller, executive director of the U.S. Africa Command implementation planning team, said in an interview.

"The view was that the time has come, in fact, with the increasing importance of the continent to the U.S., that we could better meet our requirements by standing up one unified command to consolidate all of (Defense Department) activities, as opposed to having three separate commands doing that," Moeller said.

The African continent currently is divided among three combatant commands: U.S. European Command, U.S. Central Command and U.S. Pacific Command. U.S. Central Command has responsibility for Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya. U.S. European Command has responsibility for the rest of the nations in the African mainland. U.S. Pacific Command has responsibility for Madagascar, the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean area off the African coast.

AFRICOM will eventually have responsibility for the entire continent of Africa, except Egypt, and the surrounding islands.

Many details of the new command still have to be determined, Moeller said, but the transition team will be based at Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany. DoD's plan is eventually to place AFRICOM headquarters in Africa.

In a statement today, President Bush said AFRICOM will strengthen security cooperation with Africa and create new opportunities to bolster the capabilities of African nations. "Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy and economic growth in Africa," Bush said.

AFRICOM will focus mainly on humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and crisis response missions, Moeller said. The purpose of the command will be to prevent conflicts or other problems by strengthening the region, he said.

"We want to work with our African partners on building their capacity to be able to deal with some of the many challenges that they face across the continent," Moeller said. "By having one command that is focused on the entire continent, we believe that we can address those issues and those challenges much more coherently than with three existing commands today."

DoD's goal is to have AFRICOM fully operational by the end of fiscal 2008, Moeller said. The transition team is laying out the plans for the command and will form the core of the headquarters staff, he said.

Moeller, who will head the transition team, emphasized that DoD will work closely with other U.S. government agencies and African nations while developing the new command. Some of the missions AFRICOM eventually performs may be driven by input from African nations, he noted.

DoD's efforts to establish AFRICOM will not affect or interfere with operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, Moeller said. AFRICOM will cost about $50 million in fiscal 2007, and DoD is evaluating its cost for fiscal 2008, he added.