Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Obama's New CT Program Meets Bipartisan Resistance on Capitol Hill

The fundamental problem is in the name.  "Counterterrorism partnership."  First we need a strategy and second such as strategy has to look beyond terrorism.  Counterterrorism partnership is no substitute for strategy nor the intellectual rigor required to develop strategy.

The irony is that counterterrorism has become like communism in the Cold War.  The perception is anything to do with counterterrorism is going to be funded as we have seen since 9-11. Not only our friends, partners, and allies (and lesser developed countries in particular) have learned that all they have to do is play the counterterrorism card and they will receive funds, resources, and training; but also US state and local law enforcement and other agencies can play the counterterrorism card and will likely receive funding (and often massive amounts that provide dubious capabilities to really defend the homeland).

I think we need to put CT back in the box and make it the discreet operation that it should be (the other issue that many of us lament is how often our national mission forces are exposed in the media).  We would better protect and allow for more effective operations of our national mission forces if we reduced the emphasis and visibility on counterterrorism.   Our national leaders call attention to their every operation as they try to scare congress into providing resources. It is interesting to see Congress standing up and saying perhaps "No Mas."

Please do not misunderstand me.  Counterterrorism is critically important and not going away.  However, I believe it is a mistake to make it the "focal point" of our strategy.  (pun perhaps intended here)   But what we really need to focus on are effective policies and strategies that are broader than counterterrorism and that take a holistic, comprehensive (and dare I say grand) approach to our national security.  Sometimes I think our national focus on resourcing counterterrorism is an example violating the principle of doing the hard right over the easy wrong.  The hard right is getting our national security strategy right.  But we put everything in the counterterrorism box from Afghanistan to Iraq to Africa to developing our SOF partners around the world to fight terrorism for us (another dubious concept perhaps).  There is more to national security than counterterrorism.  We need to think bigger than counterterrorism because our adversaries are exploiting terrorism and our focus on it while they pursue much larger strategies through variations on unconventional and political warfare.

Obama's New CT Program Meets Bipartisan Resistance on Capitol Hill

Jul. 16, 2014 - 01:39PM   |  
By JOHN T. BENNETT   |   Comments

Sgt. 1st Class Grady Hyatt, with US Army Africa, leads an after-action review with soldiers of the Ghana Army.
Sgt. 1st Class Grady Hyatt, with US Army Africa, leads an after-action review with soldiers of the Ghana Army. (US Army)
WASHINGTON — US House Armed Services Committee leaders struck a skeptical — and bipartisan — tone about a $5 billion counterterrorism program proposed by President Barack Obama.
Obama first proposed the CT program, designed to help train and equip US allies to fight violent extremist groups, during a major foreign policy speech at West Point in May. Since, Republicans have criticized him for providing scant details of what he envisions with the CT program and another proposal aimed at “reassuring” European allies.
The new program was codified in a $58.6 billion overseas contingency operations (OCO) request the White House recently sent to Capitol Hill. On Tuesday, the first panel dug into the request in a public setting.
“We understand that these initiatives were levied on the [Defense] Department by the White House without coordination, and you’re now working to develop spending plans,” House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif., told a panel of senior Pentagon officials.
“But while counterterrorism partnerships and reassuring our European allies are important and necessary, the president’s approach lacks detail and is too broad in scope,” McKeon said.
The panel’s top Democrat, Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, joined McKeon, as did numerous members of Obama’s own party.
“Most members of Congress are broadly supportive of building the capacity of our international partners and understand the necessity of providing a fair amount of flexibility to the department to carry out these activities,” Smith said.
“Nonetheless, the legislative proposal for the [CT program] the department submitted to the Congress can fairly be described as unconstrained — it is written so that it could be used for almost anything the department does,” Smith said, “up to and including refueling an aircraft carrier while circumventing all the normal reprogramming and transfer rules.”
HASC Vice Chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, viewed as the frontrunner to replace McKeon, also criticized the proposed CT fund.
Rep. Mike Turner, R-Ohio, considered another contender for HASC chairman, said, “The reason people are concerned this a slush fund” is, in part, because “the detail is lacking.”
Moments earlier, Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., questioned the Pentagon witnesses on how they could prevent the account from becoming a slush fund.
Deputy Defense Secretary Robert Work told the panel he sees a number of “checks and balances,” including a need to get White House Office of Management and Budget approval for any spending plans, which would prevent the Pentagon from “going willy-nilly” with the OCO monies.
Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, raised concerns that some of the requested OCO funds might go toward new initiatives that would be “duplicative” with existing programs.
Another Democrat, Rick Larsen of Washington, told Work “you’re not doing a very good job of explaining it.”
Work responded by saying the proposed CT fund would give the Pentagon greater flexibility to spend monies when crises happen around the world.
Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Adm. Sandy Winnefeld said the department “is running out of” funds allocated for CT operations under existing programs.
Larsen said lawmakers spent the last decade ensuring a number of post-9/11 CT programs function as the executive branch wanted and in a way that suited Congress.
The new proposed program, he said, “seems backward.”
Work described the aims of the proposed CT program this way: “The overall goal of the CTPF is to increase the ability of partner countries to conduct counterterrorism operations, prevent the proliferation of terrorist threats from neighboring states, and participate in multinational counterterrorism operations.” ■

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