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“Modest reforms to pay and compensation will improve readiness and modernization. It will help keep our all-volunteer force sustainable and strong. Keeping faith also means investing sufficient resources so that we can uphold our sacred obligations to defend the nation and to send our sons and daughters to war with only the best training, leadership and equipment. We can’t shrink from our obligations to one another. The stakes are too high.”

Gen. Martin E. Dempsey

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Relying on Soldiers

The FY12 NDAA Conference Report completed last week included the authorization of $35 million in O&M funding to support operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army, an armed group credited with inflicting widespread suffering and contributing to regional instability in central Africa. Since the amount has to be found in existing funding, the allocation is largely symbolic, but importantly provides last-minute Congressional authorization as required by the War Powers Resolution for 100 Special Forces troops deployed to central Africa by President Obama in October.

Up until recently, the State Department has largely taken the lead on US policy toward the LRA. According to a recent CRS report, State “has allocated over $41 million over the past three years for nonlethal supplies, equipment and logistics support through its Peacekeeping Operations (PKO) account.” CRS also reported that $148.5 million (including $102 million administered by USAID) was spent in FY11 on post-conflict reconciliation and development programs in northern Uganda in an effort to counter the LRA’s negative impact in the region. In addition to PKO support and development programs, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson remarked last week that the US has provided over $50 million in humanitarian aid to LRA-affected populations.

But in the last six months, the Pentagon has played an increasing role in US efforts against the LRA. CRS noted that in June DOD offered $4.4 million in training, combat engineer and communication equipment for the Ugandan military, and in July deployed AFRICOM liaison officers to the American embassies in Kinshasa and Bangui to serve as advisors to local government and military officials working to fight the LRA. The deployment of the Special Forces in October, and now Congress’ decision to sustain them, hints at a shifting strategy in the region.

Such a shift doesn’t portend well for embedding these current efforts in a broader strategy, led by civilians, as our report on security assistance recommended.