Archive for the 'Commander' Category

Q&A with Gen. Carter F. Ham

General Carter F. Ham, Commander, US AFRICOM

General Carter F. Ham

 

The US Africa Command Public Affairs Office had the opportunity recently to discuss command issues with AFRICOM Commander General Carter         F. Ham. We asked his thoughts on everything from the evolving mission of AFRICOM to countering the Lord’s Resistance Army and dealing with future Department of Defense budget cuts. Below is an edited excerpt of our interview.

 

 

Q. Could you offer us your views on the mission of US Africa Command and how it’s evolved since you took command last year?

A.“We focus on two aspects of our mission statement. The first is to strengthen the defense capabilities of our African partners. And we do that because we know if their defense capabilities are strong or stronger, they’ll be more capable of dealing with threats and maintaining security not only in their own nations, but regionally as well.

“And the second part of the mission … is to be prepared when directed by the President and the Secretary of Defense, to conduct military operations in the interest of the United States. I don’t think our mission has changed all that much. In the past year, I think what has shifted perhaps, is a refocus … on the military aspects of our mission, and particularly in the realm of countering violent extremist organizations, which are unfortunately starting to emerge in Africa.”

Q. Could you please offer your views on how the operations, exercises and security cooperation programs work to assist African militaries and African organizations?

A. “Our engagement with our African partners, whether bilaterally, collectively or through the African Union regional organizations are an absolutely integral part of what we do. Engagement remains a very key component of what Africa Command does. It is through these exercises, through operations, through seminars and other training, other mil-to-mil activities, that’s frankly how we seek to … strengthen [our partners’] defense capabilities.”

“A part of that engagement that’s often overlooked, frankly, is how much we gain from those exercises. Every time we have the opportunity to put a U.S. service member in contact with African units, that American service member comes back to his or her service, or if it’s in Africa, coming in person, when they come back to the command, they have more capability than when they began that engagement. So this relationship, I think this engagement to me, is the very essence of a genuine partnership, where it works to the mutual benefit of the contributing organizations.”

Q. The Counter-LRA mission has garnered much public attention. What key points would you like to clarify regarding that operation?

A. “Here is an organization, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, which has terrorized a large number of people in four different states – Uganda, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo – for a number of years. Traumatized kids, murdered thousands of people, caused large-scale displacement of populations in a very wide region.

“The contributions of Africa Command to countering the Lord’s Resistance Army are focused on finding ways to help the four nations more effectively collaborate, coordinate and synchronize their efforts to achieve the end state of defeating Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army. That’s best done through support, advising and assistance, rather than US military persons in the lead actually conducting the operations to try to find Kony and capture him.”

Q. You have mentioned before that AFRICOM’s effect is disproportionate to the investment. Would you care to offer some insight into that?

A. “We don’t consume a lot of resources. We don’t spend a whole lot of money in the larger scale of things. We’re not a big consumer of large-scale military forces. We don’t very often require aircraft carriers or fighter wings or army brigades and Marine Corps regiments and battalions. That’s not the kind of organization that we are. We’re at our best when we have leader-to-leader engagements, when we have small teams of military and civilian experts that are embedded and cooperating with their African partners.”

“What I like best about this command is you may find at any one time, a wide number of small teams, in many cases, individuals or pairs of people around the continent engaging with their African partners. It doesn’t take a lot of money, doesn’t take a lot of people, but the effect – everywhere there are Americans, military and civilian, from the command, contributing to African security, I believe that that has disproportionate positive effect.”

Q. Regarding budget matters … How do you see the command using what are sure to be fewer dollars in the future?

A. “We’ve been mandated for the coming fiscal year to reduce our budget by six percent. I’m absolutely convinced we will be able to sustain the level of activity that is required for us to achieve our mission, but at slightly lower cost.  We’re looking for more and more ways where we can operate more effectively and, again, prioritize our efforts on the most important missions. We can do that … by instilling a consciousness across the command, so that each one of us –military, civilian, our DOD and our non-DOD staff as well — focus on asking ourselves the question each time we’re preparing for an activity. Is there a better way to do this? Do we really need all these people? Can the conference be curtailed by a day or two?”

Q:  And to follow up on that … will anything change about AFRICOM’s mission due to the budget cuts?

“When you look at the priorities established in [the Defense Strategic Guidance] document — countering violent extremists, maintaining access, building partner capacity, sustaining relationships with our allies and partners — that’s what we do. It’s at the very core of Africa Command’s mission.”

Click here to read Gen. Ham’s biography. For more information on AFRICOM in general, please visit our homepage at www.africom.mil.

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Gen. Ham explains: How are food security and AFRICOM linked?

Why did U.S. Africa Command chief General Carter F. Ham speak at a recent National Defense University program about food security in the Horn of Africa?

“Some of you might be wondering: What in the world is a military commander, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, doing talking in the morning in Washington D.C. in a food security conference?” Ham asked the audience of government representatives, academics and others with an interest in the issue.

“We can all agree that the specific issue of food security and overall stability are inextricably linked.”

Ham pointed out that food shortages can quickly lead to population displacement, limitations on future development and even conflict over scarce resources. Those things, in turn, can cause regional instability and even transnational threats, Ham said.

And that’s where AFRICOM comes in.

“The United States, and thusly the United States military, has a significant interest in supporting stability and security efforts across the continent of Africa,” Ham said.

Ham pointed out that AFRICOM plays a limited direct role in promoting food security initiatives. But the command does support the work of many aid agencies who work to eliminate food crises, such as USAID and the World Health Organization.

In addition, AFRICOM works with partner nations on the continent to improve food security and better prepare them to respond to food crises or other disasters. For example, Ham said, a training exercise last year between AFRICOM veterinarians and Ugandan veterinarians treated 30,000 head of livestock in six days, and trained local herdsman on how to better care for their animals.

Another initiative involved teaching soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo – who often turn to pillaging local farms for sustenance – how to grow their own food. These “soldier-farmers” feed their comrades while on duty.

“It really does take a whole of government approach and a regional approach to achieve the desired outcome, which is ultimately saving lives and the establishment of stability and security in the region,” Ham said.

Share your thoughts – what do you think is the biggest food crisis facing Africa right now and what are some possible solutions?

Click here to read more about the NDU program on food security. Also be sure to visit our AFRICOM home  page to learn about the command and issues affecting our area of operations.


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