Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Aviation Security Cooperation

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Aviation Security Cooperation

Article excerpt

Advancing Global Vigilance, Global Reach, and Global Power in a Dynamic World

Air power is more than dropping bombs, strafing targets, firing missiles, providing precision navigation and timing or protecting networks. It is also a way of influencing world situations in ways which support national objectives Through careful building of partnerships, Air Force forces can favorably shape the strategic environment by assessing advising training and assisting host nation airforces in their efforts to counter internal or external threats.

-Volume I, Basic Doctrine

Given the stark fiscal constraints on the federal budget today, the US military faces hard decisions about which conventional capabilities to develop and deploy to address the wide range of challenges and global demands facing the nation.1 The military services, including the US Air Force, have long argued that "traditional" capabilities for deterring and/or defeating nation-states would adequately handle "nontraditional" or "irregular" threats from nonstate actors such as terrorists or insurgents.2 In recent years, the exclusive focus of the Air Force's strategic planning and programming for confronting future traditional challenges related to operating in highly contested environments has put other Air Force capabilities important to the nation at grave risk.3 For example, as the war in Afghanistan draws down, the service is con- sidering divesting or drastically reducing its ability to organize, train, and equip (OT&'E) general purpose force (GPF) air advisors.4

Such a divestiture would negatively affect America's security cooperation (SC) efforts at a time when it is relying far more on partner nations to address both traditional and nontraditional challenges to enduring US strategic interests. Furthermore, a divestiture would revert to the historic Air Force pattern of assuming that GPF air advisors and other SC-relevant personnel are no longer needed when major "irregular" conflicts are finished and that these skills can simply be resurrected, like a phoenix out of the ashes, on demand. Our recent experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan clearly demonstrate the disastrous consequences of that assumption.

Instead, this article argues that it is in the Air Force's interests to OT&'E an effective standing operational SC capability in the GPF. Doing so would help the service realize its vision of global vigilance, global reach, and global power; help deal with the challenges of highly contested environments; and provide a low-cost way to support US strategic interests and the nation's emphasis on shaping the strategic environment to prevent or deter conflict. It then details the requirements for attaining such a standing operational SC capability-basically, only an investment of dozens of billets and tens of millions of dollars annually in the short term.

Defining and Scoping Security Cooperation: What Exactly Are We Talking About?

Like many areas involving the US government or military, a myriad of confusing, overlapping terminology is associated with US assistance to other nations. In general, the different terms reflect a combination of who offers the assistance, its purpose or desired outcome, and/or the authority or law under which it is provided.5 The best overarching term to describe the work that the Air Force is often tasked to support or help execute when it assists other nations is security cooperation.

The Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms defines SC as "all Department of Defense interactions with foreign defense establishments to build defense relationships that promote specific US security interests, develop allied and friendly military capabilities for self-defense and multinational operations, and provide US forces with peacetime and contingency access to a host nation."6 SC includes all security assistance, foreign internal defense, international armaments cooperation, and security force assistance (SFA) conducted by the DOD. …

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