AFRICOM Legal Leaders Conference

Colonel Jon L. Lightner, Legal Counsel, U.S. Africa Command wrote

The AFRICOM Office of the Legal Counsel just completed two highly-productive days of presentations and discussions on legal engagements in our Area of Responsibility (AOR). Our partners at the conference included our Component Staff Judge Advocates (SJAs), State Partners, U.S. Coast Guard, National Guard Bureau, and the Defense Institute of International Legal Studies (DIILS). In fact, we were fortunate enough to have the Acting Judge Advocate General of the Coast Guard, Mr. Cal Lederer, participate in our conference and make a presentation on bilateral maritime agreements.

Of note, our Legal Office is very fortunate to have two great Coast Guard attorneys, CAPT Kathleen Duignan and LCDR Bill Dwyer, as part of legal team here in Stuttgart. Numerous outstanding presentations and even better discussions marked this conference of over 30 participants. One of the primary goals of the conference was to get all of our legal partners synchronizing their efforts in support of the Command’s Theater Strategic Objectives (TSOs).

To guide our legal partners in this endeavor, our Legal Office unveiled our revised Legal Engagements Plan, dated 1 December 2010. One of the key elements of the Plan is that the AFRICOM Office of the Legal Counsel is viewed as the “one-stop-shop” for all DoD-related legal engagements in the AFRICOM AOR. Always true, but even more so in this resource-constrained environment, our legal partners must ensure that all of their engagements, programs and activities are coordinated, effective and further the Command’s strategic objectives.

With the all the Component Support Plans (CSPs) approved, we see great opportunities for our Component legal office to increase the amount and effectiveness of their activities, engagements, and training. We also see the great potential of the State Partnership Program (SPP) and seek to make our legal engagements under this Program as a model for other COCOMs to follow. And of course we see even more growth and enhanced cooperation with our teammates at DILLS, who consistently recognize the AFRICOM Legal Office as their “best partner” amongst all of the COCOM legal offices in the world today.

As initially stated at the recent Theater Security Cooperation Conference (TSCC), we truly believe that in nearly every Theater Security Cooperation activity or event conducted by AFRICOM or its Components, there exists an opportunity to integrate a legal portion that supports the military’s obedience to the Rule of Law, adherence to internationally-recognized human rights standards, and subordination to civilian control. Based upon the response of our conference participants, they are excited about the opportunities that lie ahead for our legal engagements in the AOR. We certainly share their optimism and excitement and look forward to working with them in this coming year and the years to follow.

Visit us at www.africom.mil

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