Standing Up

By John Liang / October 1, 2008 at 5:00 AM

The Pentagon today officially stood up U.S. Africa Command, an organization that likely will begin its life without the full funding the Pentagon has requested from Congress.

Earlier this month, the powerful House Appropriations defense subcommittee slashed the Pentagon's spending request for the fledgling organization, arguing that the military should not be leading U.S. government efforts to ensure stability and security on the continent. As reported, the panel’s mark of the fiscal year 2009 Pentagon spending bill provided just $80.6 million for AFRICOM -- 80 percent less than the $389.7 million DOD requested for the new command:

The committee believes that traditional U.S. military operations are not an appropriate response to most or many of the challenges facing Africa, which include: ending armed conflict, calming political unrest, consolidating democratic achievements, fighting terrorism, expanding economic growth, and preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS and caring for its victims,” states a report accompanying the subcommittee mark. obtained a copy of the committee report.

In 2006, Congress authorized a study to assess the feasibility of merging under a single U.S. military command those activities dealing with Africa that were spread across three Defense Department organizations.

President Bush in February 2007 announced plans to establish AFRICOM, which he pitched as a bid to promote U.S. national security interests in the region. The move gave a single unified U.S. commander responsibilities previously divided among three other commands: European, Central and Pacific. AFRICOM’s area of responsibility includes all nations on the continent except Egypt.

Speaking to reporters after the ceremony, AFRICOM commander Gen. Kip Ward said that if the funding cuts stand, "we will adjust, we will prioritize and we will do those things that we need to do to continue to bring value added to our programs."

"Will we be able to do everything that we would have liked to have done? Maybe not, but we will do those things that are important and essential and we will reprioritize as required so that those activities that we do engage in make a difference and support our foreign policy and national security objectives," he added.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said during the ceremony that the new command "is, at its heart, a different kind of command with a different orientation -- one that we hope and expect will institutionalize a lasting security relationship with Africa, a vast region of growing importance in the globe. The focus is on the three Ds: defense, diplomacy, and development."