Washington D.C.– House Armed Services Committee Ranking Member Adam Smith released the following statement for today’s committee hearing examining the Department of Defense security cooperation:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  And I would like to join you in thanking our witnesses for appearing here today.

Whether we call it “Building Partner Capacity” (BPC) or “security assistance,” bolstering the ability of other nations to provide for their own security and to assist in providing regional security is a key component in American security strategy.  This is not a new concept—at various times during the Cold War we helped build the militaries of other countries, including Iran under the Shah, so they could act as regional proxies in the struggle against communism.

Following the 9/11 attacks, however, the concept has become even more key as the United States has realized that ungoverned territory has provided the safe havens terrorists require from which to launch attacks against us and our allies.  To push back on these groups and to begin to shrink the ungoverned space, we have created a variety of new authorities and provided hundreds of millions of dollars per year that the Department of Defense uses to build the capacity of foreign security forces.  I have very much supported these measures.

In some cases, our efforts to help others provide security has met with some remarkable results—many proponents point to the Philippines or Colombia as great successes, but we should also look to Somalia and our assistance to the countries participating in AMISOM.  In other cases, Yemen and Mali most notably, our assistance to other countries did not help with regional security over time.  We need to understand why both successes and failures happen, and what we can do to make the former more likely while risking fewer failures. 

Understanding what makes success more likely is extremely important.  I don’t believe that we can ever guarantee success—as the name “Building Partner Capacity” implies, it requires us to act through other nations whose interests may not perfectly align with ours.  But I do believe there are conditions that improve our chances, and I hope the panel can help us outline those.  

I also hope the panel can think through any needed changes to how we do business.  Security assistance, in the past, was mostly led by the State Department.  That started to change after 9/11, with the creation of authorities like the 1206 program that was intended to help nations address immediate and short-term counterterrorism needs.  That and other programs evolved over time, particularly with the creation of the Counter Terrorism Partnership, to the point that DOD is thinking about longer-term programs and support.  Assuming everyone in the Administration and Congress agrees with this evolution, we should consider if there are legislative or administrative changes that we need to make to improve our chances of success.  For example, DOD has gotten much better over time about looking at a country’s ability to sustain the assistance we provided, but this is hardly perfect.  How do we do use our national security apparatus better?

Again, Mr. Chairman, I would like to thank our witnesses for appearing here today and for their assistance in helping us think through these questions.  I yield back.