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Hicks Praises Guard’s State Partnership Program

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2012 – Building partnership capacity is one of the least understood facets of the new defense strategy, and one in which the National Guard has taken the lead, a senior DOD official said here today.

Kathleen Hicks, the principal deputy undersecretary of defense for policy, spoke at a conference honoring the 20th anniversary of the National Guard’s State Partnership Program. The program is designed to partner state National Guards with the nations of the former Soviet Union. It has grown to include more than 60 countries since the early 1990s.

The conference looks at the history of the program and how it fits in the new defense strategy.

Hicks was one of the main authors of that strategy, and told the audience of state adjutant generals, defense attaches from many nations, State Department personnel and staff elements how the program contributes.

“Building partnership capacity is a core element of everything we do, and everything we hope to accomplish,” Hicks said. “The defense strategic guidance affirmed clearly that alliances and partnerships are central to how we approach the current and future security environment.”

Simply put, the United States will develop partnerships with like-minded nations across the globe. While the United States maintains the right and the capability to act alone in defending national interests, that is unlikely to happen.

Developing these partnerships “is a critical skill set across the armed forces,” Hicks said.

The experiences of the past 20 years show that allies and partners are vital in times of crisis, she said. Allies have been crucial in Afghanistan, Iraq and most recently in Libya.

But it isn’t just in crises that this is important, but in day-to-day deterrence. “Throughout the world we train, exercise and operate with partners,” Hicks said. “The stability of the Pacific theater relies on strong U.S. relationships with allies and key partners.”

Partnership is also important in the Middle East where a united front counters Iran’s destabilizing activities and deters Tehran from developing nuclear weapons, she said.

“We are working to strengthen the maritime security and humanitarian assistance capabilities of key partners in the Indian Ocean and Southeast Asia to protect critical international waterways,” Hicks said.

The partnership program also reaches to nations in Central and South America to counter the effects of transnational criminal organizations.

Security cooperation is also fiscally responsible. “Building partnership capacity elsewhere in the world also remains important for sharing costs and responsibilities of global leadership,” Hicks said. “Across the globe, we will seek to be the security partner of choice, pursuing new partnerships with a growing number of nations.”

The defense guidance says the United States military will “develop innovative, low-cost and small-footprint approaches to achieve our security objectives,” Hicks said.

All this fits perfectly with the Guard’s State Partnership Program. The Guard serves as an example for developing countries on how militaries deal with and answer to civilian leaders. They have participated in any number of exercises and operations with partner nations.

The hard-won combat experience the National Guard has earned over the past 10 years helps the soldiers and airmen relate with other nations’ service members. National Guardsmen, for example, are working on mentoring and instruction teams in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the world.

“Guard members’ dual state and federal status affords them a broad range of skills and experience that are applicable to many challenges faced by partner nations,” Hicks said.

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Kathleen Hicks

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