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Pros and cons of potential AFRICOM HQ locations

Here is a look at some of the pros and cons of potential locations for U.S. Africa Command headquarters.

Stuttgart, Germany:

Pros: A proven headquarters location, where $140 million already has been invested in infrastructure. Stuttgart shares a time zone with much of Africa, which makes it easier to do business. Travel times are significantly shorter to and from the continent than from U.S. locales. Stuttgart also provides easier access to European Union partners who are deeply engaged across Africa.

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Cons: While it is difficult to measure the exact toll, a weak dollar, higher housing prices and cost-of-living allowances all add up to a high cost of doing business in Europe. According to a 2009 GAO report, between 2010 and 2015, the DOD projects that AFRICOM will require $2.1 billion to operate its headquarters, pay for interagency personnel, fund improvements to communications systems, conduct exercises and training for headquarters personnel, and cover operating costs in Africa. The upcoming headquarters review will likely compare those costs against potential savings elsewhere.

Norfolk, Va.:

Pros: Hampton Roads includes joint installations, command-and-control resources, and training and education facilities. Located nearby are the Joint Armed Forces Staff College and NATO Allied Command-Transformation, which could keep the command in close contact with NATO allies also engaged in Africa. Virginia, home to many active and retired military members, also could provide a good pool of workers for AFRICOM’s civilian-heavy command.

Cons: No direct access to Africa on commercial airlines, which AFRICOM staff depends on now.

However, a new daily commuter flight from Norfolk to New York City will start up next year and could minimize some of those negative effects.

Miami:

Pros: Already host to Southern Command, as well as Central Command in Tampa, Florida has a proven track record. Working alongside SOUTHCOM could offer some operational efficiencies. The two commands also have shared strategic concerns, such as drug trafficking from South America into western Africa, which could translate into closer communication and cooperation.

Cons: There is no direct access to the African continent from Miami, where the cost of living also is higher than Virginia.

Atlanta:

Pros: The city is home to one of the largest airports on the east coast and offers direct connections to the African continent. The port of Savannah, Ga., also is a major shipping point for Africa-bound goods. The area possesses a large amount of military infrastructure that could be converted into a new headquarters.

Cons: The southern city is far removed from both AFRICOM’s European partners and other U.S. government agencies, mainly based in Washington.

AFRICA:

Pros: With 53 countries in AFRICOM’s area of involvement, there are many potential locations. But only Liberia has expressed public interest in hosting the command. The main advantage would be having a forward-deployed location that puts commanders in close contact with their African counterparts.

Cons: Liberia, along with many other potential hosts, lacks the infrastructure, schools and health care the command and its families would probably expect. An Africa headquarters also would put the command far away from the U.S. governmental agencies it works closely with.

 

— John Vandiver

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