Friday, May 27, 2011

Building Capacity through Security Force Assistance

Extract from Congressional Research Report linked here.

Historically, the U.S. military’s Special Operations Forces (SOF) have had primary responsibility for training, advising, and assisting foreign military forces.

Today, although this mission has not been completely relegated to conventional forces, the National Security Strategies of the current and previous administrations direct the U.S. military services (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines) to organize, train, and equip themselves to carry out these activities on a larger scale with conventional (non-SOF) forces. This responsibility in its broad sense of building the capacity of partner states has been termed “security force assistance” (SFA).

Each of the military services has undertaken to organize, train, and equip themselves for SFA. However, while SOF have units specifically dedicated to a long-term role in SFA, the conventional forces services do not. Each of the services does have Security Cooperation and Security Assistance organizations that are dedicated to SFA activities, although they do not have SFA in their titles. The services also standardize training for deploying forces to support combatant commanders in their SFA mission. This effort to “train the trainers,” although an object of consistent inquiry in congressional hearings, has been endorsed in testimony by combatant commanders.

The training, organizing, and equipping of U.S. forces to conduct SFA competes for scarce fiscal and personnel resources among the services. Some critics of SFA attest that committing to this capability within the services detracts from their ability to conduct traditional combat roles. Others suggest that building the security capacity of weak and failed states is a misguided effort.

This report provides the following elements:

• An overview of the SFA rationale, focused primarily on Department of Defense support for and relations with foreign security forces.

• Description of the possible employment of U.S. conventional forces and platforms in support of the SFA mission (see “SFA in Current and Previous National Security

• Exploration of current operations in Afghanistan and Iraq (see “SFA Linkage to Iraq and Afghanistan Strategies”).

• Resident training capability in U.S. forces as a tool for geographic combatant

• Issues Congress may consider (“Do Legislative Authorities Restrict Conducting SFA?”) The report summarizes congressional reaction to SFA proposals.

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