The National Guard's long-standing State Partnership Program (SPP) is much more than just an initiative to accomplish the State Departments ambiguous foreign policy goals. It is, in its own right, the premier global cornerstone to establishing and strengthening international security. The DoD, Army, and Congress have failed to exploit this unique strength and seize the infinite opportunities that only a National Guard SPP can provide.
Personal relationships build trust over time; mutual trust begets mutual understanding; and mutual understanding can prevent war. However, simply saying a partnership exists does not constitute a relationship.
The National Guard’s State Partnership Program is a pre-existing soft infrastructure of personal and professional relationships. This creates, for Army and Joint Staff leadership, a global level of predictive situational awareness unmatched by any other DOD initiatives.[i] It is a degree of certainty in the so often misquoted uncertain future.
The Regionally Aligned Forces Concept introduced as a result of General Martin Dempsey’s Joint Vision 2020 Capstone in 2012 failed to recognize this existing superior capability. It ignored over two decades of global presence by National Guard Brigades and Divisions throughout the Combatant Commanders’ various Areas of Responsibility (AOR).[ii]
While the Capstone readily recognizes the military as only one element of national power, the National Guard engaged in State Partnership Programs with not only their Army and Air Force units, but also by leveraging their internal state, municipal, industrial, agricultural, and technology relationships as well. The JCoS boldly envisioned a future of international presence to advance new concepts for joint operations. Simultaneously, the Guard was quietly and effectively playing match-maker between talent and experience to multi-dimensional complex nation-state problems with far reaching positive consequences, as they had for decades, demonstrating a unique capability already in existence. The civilian skill sets of the National Guard’s citizen Soldiers and Airmen, along with the relationships with state government and industries makes for a unique and potent asset to DOD’s international security cooperation efforts.
More importantly, the Capstone specifies a key shift in defense strategy to prevent war, calling for more consistent presence via relationships around the globe. This strategy relies entirely on the total Army and total force. No time, like the present, has mutual cooperation been so critical to the future security of our country. Despite acknowledgement by national level strategic planners, all narratives are strangely silent regarding the National Guard’s historical strong and well-received mentoring presence in over 70 countries world-wide through their State Partnerships.
The National Guard BCTs are cross trained in joint operations mission command as subordinate maneuver Task Force headquarters to a JTF or JFLCC. During predictive readiness models, a BCT could easily accept the mission of an initial JTF-HQ in an SPP country. This provides a scalable solution on the low end of the JTF headquarters requirements cited in the viability study as a challenge.
The March 2015 Concept Viability and Implementation guidance admits that the National Guard played a major part in the first successful RAF missions in AFRICOM.[iii] Despite that, and additional admissions of by General Carter Ham, there follows no further recommendation on how to synchronize the National Guard’s undisputed strengths demonstrated over 20 years as a foundation to building the RAF concept.[iv]
The National Guard establishes high payoff quality relationships that demonstrate continuity which is impossible to replicate in the active components. National Guard units have the entry level personnel that later become E9s, COLs, or GOs within the same state thus developing balanced relationships with cohorts in their partnership countries over decades; the same relationships which develop in perpetuity for deeper understanding and mutual trust. The more the Geographic Combatant Commands employ National Guard forces in support of security cooperation, the more they reinforce a positive feedback loop by fostering enduring relationships and expertise. If the RAF emerges absent of an SPP foundation or leading role, it cannot and will not replicate the successes that are highly revered, globally, within the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. Most importantly, if the end state is to prevent war, it is hard to accept that simply DOD manning and resources committed to a region will alone achieve that end state. The success criteria lies in the deeply nourished long term quality relationships developed by the Guard over the decades.
1. Integrate T32 National Guard State Partnership subject matter experts into capability planning for future RAF Global Force Management (GFM) estimates.
2. Conduct no RAF Operations without pre-synchronization and full integration of the long-established National Guard States in their respective geographic areas of strategic relations.
3. Approach scalability continuum models for RAF in the same context as domestic operations planning; the National Guard already has the existing relationship and influence, and therefore should be the foundation for building a JTF-HQ.
[ii] Capstone Concept for Joint Operations: Joint Force 2020, JCOS, accessible from http://www.dtic.mil/doctrine/concepts/ccjo_jointforce2020.pdf
[iii] Regionally Aligned Forces: Concept Viability and Implementation, Carlisle Compendia, March 2015, p.146, accessible at http://www.strategicstudiesinstitute.army.mil/pubs/carlislecompendia/Issues/mar2015/full.pdf
[iv] Jim Greenhill, “Ham: National Guard Essential to Africa Command,” National Guard News, September 13, 2012, http://www.africom.mil/newsroom/article/9155/ham-national-guard-essential-to-africa-command