GAO: Force needs cultural training
STUTTGART, Germany — Troops with the Combined Joint Task Force—Horn of Africa need better cultural training to avoid making mistakes that have the potential of alienating the people whose support they aim to win, according to a Government Accountability Office report released on Friday.
Furthermore, the task force needs a more reliable funding system if the Defense Department wants to maintain U.S. Africa Command’s largest operational mission on the continent, the report says.
The GAO said that while activities such as counterpiracy initiatives and training of African peacekeeping troops support U.S. foreign policy objectives, civil affairs and humanitarian projects are sometimes ill-conceived.
"The [U.S.] embassy officials cited a past example where CJTF-HOA had proposed drilling a well without considering how its placement could cause conflict in clan relationships or affect pastoral routes," the GAO stated.
The report also cited a proposal for a one-day veterinary vaccination event that could have harmed the livestock by having them travel when they were weakened from a recent drought.
"We found that some of CJTF-HOA personnel’s lack of skills in the above issues may be caused or exacerbated by limited training and guidance and further compounded by the task force’s short tour lengths, which impose a steep learning curve," the GAO reported.
AFRICOM says the task force is also "generally not setting specific, achievable, and measurable goals for its activities that tie to specific missions or desired effects," the GAO stated.
The task force’s long-term sustainability is now being called into question because the Defense Department and AFRICOM have not developed methods to fund the task force over the long term.
Instead, the task force continues to depend on unreliable overseas contingency appropriations, the GAO reported.
Along with the funding uncertainties, insufficient follow-up on the task force’s many activities in the 18 nations under its umbrella make it unclear if all CJTF-HOA’s programs support U.S. Africa Command’s overall mission of security engagement.
"Until AFRICOM takes steps to examine feasible long-term funding options and develops a solution to increase the effectiveness and continuity of efforts among CJTF-HOA’s frequently-rotating staff, the command cannot ensure that its task force is supporting U.S. efforts in Africa with the appropriate resources and trained personnel," the GAO stated.
AFRICOM is evaluating the task force but has made no decisions on its future, according to the GAO. The results of AFRICOM’s review are pending and were not included in the GAO analysis.
AFRICOM commander Gen. William "Kip" Ward is satisfied with the task force’s current structure, the Defense Department said in a response to the report.
If the DOD decides to continue with the task force, the GAO recommended that AFRICOM:
Conduct long-term assessments of its activities to determine whether they’re having their intended impact and support AFRICOM’s mission.Predict the costs of the task force’s mission and develop a realistic funding plan for the task force’s sustainability.Ensure that CJTF-HOA budget personnel have the expertise to make timely and accurate funding decisions for activities. These actions could include some combination of training and staffing changes.Develop a mandatory training program that enhances the task force’s cultural awareness of countries in the Horn of Africa. Steps should be taken to ensure knowledge is institutionalized among CJTF-HOA personnel, promoting continuity as personnel rotate frequently into and out of Camp Lemonnier.Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa includes about 1,650 personnel and represents 52 percent of the personnel at Camp Lemonnier, which also hosts other U.S. and international units. The U.S. Navy funds the majority of CJTF-HOA’s $80 million budget.