Building Military Relations in Africa

By Prinslow, Karl E. | Military Review, May/June 1997 | Go to article overview
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Building Military Relations in Africa

Prinslow, Karl E., Military Review

ERC projects will be submitted to the Joint Staff for approval and funding based upon the extent that the projects. . . promote US national interests.

-US Central Command regulation 1

With security assistance funding reduced, Exercise Related Construction (ERC) projects are an example of how US and foreign military-to-military relations will take place in the future. ERC is defined as "an unspecified minor construction project, outside [the Continental United States], in support of an in-progress, or planned, CJCS [Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff] exercise that results in a facility or facilities that remain, in any part, after the end of the exercise."2 As they conduct these combined operations, small-unit commanders and staffs will have a far greater role in executing US foreign policy's military element and accomplishing military strategy than when they conduct comparable exercises at home station or at the combat training centers (CTCs) or during Reserve Component (RC) annual training.

The Department of Defense (DOD) ERC program is an excellent vehicle for maintaining and developing sound relations with current allies and potential coalition partners. It also allows the US soldier and his leaders to support US peacetime engagement policies and to use their skills to support regional combatant commanders. ERC projects are proposed by the unified commands and funded by Congress to build facilities to support US military exercises overseas. Combined exercises, which often include ERC projects, aim at improving US and allied military capabilities to protect mutual interests and to prepare for coalition warfare should it become necessary. These exercises' lessons are instructive for future operations throughout the world.

This article describes a 1996 ERC project in Kenya and identifies pitfalls to avoid in planning and conducting future exercises. Building a live-fire range, combined with humanitarian assistance (HA) and medical assistance projects, increased the military participants' operational readiness, improved the health and welfare of the host nation (HN) populace and revitalized lagging military-to-military relations between the United States and Kenya. This exercise situation was extremely advantageous for the US military for the following reasons:

* No combined exercises had been conducted with Kenya in more than six years, and the intervening years were fraught with intergovernmental tensions that made future exercises problematic. This exercise relieved tensions.

* The US and Kenyan militaries worked together, sharing responsibilities, expertise and command and control (C^sup 2^).

* The exercise involved deploying units and equipment by sea and air to East Africa, transporting equipment more than 500 miles over land, building a live-fire range and two dormitories and conducting a medical civic assistance project. All this was accomplished with HN participation.

* The exercise was completed without any serious accidents or injuries.

* The exercise encouraged mutual respect among participants and raised expectations and anticipation of future combined cooperation.

US Military Interaction in Kenya

Kenya is the southernmost nation in the US Central Command (CENTCOM) area of responsibility. US-Kenya military relations date to the mid-1970s when Kenya requested a survey of its defense requirements. The result was a blueprint of US support and cooperation and a long-term acquisition and modernization plan. US personnel with the initial training and maintenance cadre teams became the Kenya-US Liaison Office (KUSLO), a CENTCOM security assistance office. KUSLO and US military access to Kenyan facilities were formalized by a govemment-to-government "access agreement" in the early 1980s.3 The subsequent construction of US military dock facilities at Kenya's main port and a warehouse and parking ramp at Mombasa's international airport further extended the US presence in Kenya.

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