Combatant Commanders Praise State Partnership Program
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
National Guard Bureau
WASHINGTON, March 18, 2013 The National Guard’s State Partnership Program is an extraordinarily effective, enduring, low-cost tool to advance the national security objective of building partnership capacity, two veteran combatant commanders told Congress last week.
Army Gen. Frank J. Grass, chief of the National Guard Bureau, talks with Mongolian soldiers serving in Afghanistan, Jan. 15, 2013. Mongolia is partnered with Alaska in the National Guard State Partnership Program. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jim Greenhill
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
“You probably have the co-chairs of the State Partnership Program fan club seated here,” Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Africa Command, told the House Armed Services Committee, speaking for himself and Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, commander of U.S. European Command and NATO’s supreme allied commander for Europe, who also testified at the March 14 hearing.
Ham and Stavridis testified at a hearing on the posture of their commands related to the nation’s defense budget for fiscal year 2014, which begins Oct. 1.
Since its inception more than 20 years ago, the State Partnership Program has paired the National Guard in U.S. states and territories with forces from more than one-third of world’s countries.
“What we tried to do was take those Eastern European nations that were formerly part of the Warsaw Pact and bring them closer to the West and eventually integrate them into NATO, which we’ve successfully done,” U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart of Illinois noted at the hearing. Enyart is the former adjutant general for Illinois.
The program has since expanded to 65 nations around the world.
“It’s a very powerful tool. … It is unmatched,” Stavridis told the Senate panel, noting he has seen the program in action in assignments in Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean. “They are, bang for the buck, one of the best things going. … Anything that enhances state partnership is money in the bank for the regional combatant commanders,” he said.
Africom has eight partnership pairings, and Ham said the command is seeking to expand. “The real benefit in the State Partnership Program is the enduring nature of the relationship, that sergeants and lieutenants and captains grow up together and have multiple engagements,” he said.
In some cases, the relationships are two decades old. States with a mature relationship with an Eastern European country have considered adding second partners in other combatant commands, such as Africom, forming multilateral partnerships where the more mature relationship helps to guide the newer one. Ham called the multilateral partnership among Michigan, Latvia and Liberia “a model for what might be possible in the future.”
In other National Guard news from the hearing, Stavridis called short -- perhaps two-month -- rotations of National Guard Brigade Combat Teams in Europe “a terrific idea.” He also noted that the next peacekeeping rotation in Kosovo will be by an active-duty unit after a decade of National Guard missions there.