DOD Civilians Assist Afghan Defense Agencies

WASHINGTON, June 7, 2011 — Civil­ians who work for the Defense Depart­ment are on the ground in Afghanistan, col­lab­o­rat­ing with coun­ter­parts there to build effec­tive defense insti­tu­tions, a defense offi­cial who heads the pro­gram said yes­ter­day.
Kel­ly Uribe, who directs the two-year Min­istry of Defense Advi­sors Pro­gram pilot effort estab­lished in 2010, works for the under­sec­re­tary of defense for pol­i­cy in the part­ner­ship strat­e­gy and sta­bil­i­ty oper­a­tions office.

Thir­ty-two advi­sors are in Afghanistan, and 27 more are in train­ing and will deploy in July, she told Amer­i­can Forces Press Ser­vice. Ulti­mate­ly, the pro­gram seeks to have 100 senior defense advi­sors in Afghanistan, Uribe added, with exper­tise in logis­tics and infra­struc­ture man­age­ment, per­son­nel and readi­ness man­age­ment, doc­trine train­ing, defense pol­i­cy, acqui­si­tion, edu­ca­tion and oth­er areas.

The advi­sor pro­gram, Uribe said, “is designed to make sure that we’re devel­op­ing well enough at the insti­tu­tion­al and min­istry lev­els [to sus­tain] all the invest­ments we’ve made at the oper­a­tional and tech­ni­cal lev­els.”

It’s sys­tems that keep things going, she said, echo­ing the words of Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates in a May/June 2010 For­eign Affairs mag­a­zine arti­cle.

“The Unit­ed States has made great strides in build­ing up the oper­a­tional capac­i­ty of its part­ners by train­ing and equip­ping troops and men­tor­ing them in the field,” Gates wrote.

“But there has not been enough atten­tion paid,” he added, “to build­ing the insti­tu­tion­al capac­i­ty [such as defense min­istries] or the human cap­i­tal [includ­ing lead­er­ship skills and atti­tudes] need­ed to sus­tain secu­ri­ty over the long term.”

Four ele­ments of the advi­sor pro­gram make it unique in the Defense Depart­ment, Uribe said. One of these is train­ing. A sev­en-week course includes five weeks in Wash­ing­ton for pro­fes­sion­al advi­sor train­ing, cul­tur­al aware­ness, coun­try famil­iar­iza­tion, lan­guage instruc­tion and senior-lev­el con­sul­ta­tions and brief­in­gs, and two weeks at Camp Atter­bury in Indi­ana for an eval­u­at­ed exer­cise.

Three oth­er ele­ments are:
— Back­fill: The pro­gram has fund­ing to pay the par­ent orga­ni­za­tion to hire a tem­po­rary replace­ment for the deploy­ing senior man­ag­er;
— Reach­back: Advi­sors can use their own con­tacts and call on experts from their par­ent orga­ni­za­tions to help with the mis­sion in Afghanistan; and,
— Part­ner­ship: The long-term goal is to estab­lish an ongo­ing part­ner­ship between the Defense Depart­ment in the Unit­ed States and Afghanistan’s defense min­istry.

“At the same time that we’re under­tak­ing to build these effec­tive and account­able defense insti­tu­tions for our part­ners,” Uribe said, “we’re expand­ing pro­fes­sion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for our senior DOD civil­ians, pro­vid­ing them a lot of addi­tion­al train­ing that we believe they’re going to bring back to their own orga­ni­za­tions.”

Richard A. Pol­litt, one of those senior civil­ians, is direc­tor of logis­tics at the U.S. Army Gar­ri­son in Bam­burg, Ger­many. He is a logis­tics expert who has been on the ground in Afghanistan for 11 months and who just extend­ed his stay for anoth­er four months.

“I want­ed to see some of these process­es and sys­tems that we worked so hard to put in place come to fruition,” he said.

Pol­litt is the senior civil­ian advi­sor to Afghan Maj. Gen. Tim­or Shah, chief of logis­tics at Afghanistan’s inte­ri­or min­istry.

“The pro­gram is all about devel­op­ing capac­i­ty at the min­is­te­r­i­al lev­el,” he said, “and I’ve had a sig­nif­i­cant impact on the min­istry of inte­ri­or logis­tics sys­tem, which sus­tains a police force of just under 150,000.”

On a strate­gic lev­el, he added, “we’ve been able to build capac­i­ty in the logis­tics depart­ment for devel­op­ing a bud­get and a spend plan.”

For the first time, Pol­litt said, the depart­ment has been able to iden­ti­fy and pri­or­i­tize its require­ments for the logis­tics depart­ment.

On an oper­a­tional lev­el, the logis­tics expert said, a test of a logis­tics readi­ness tool recent­ly took place in Pan­jshir province. “That is a com­put­er pro­gram that tracks unit readi­ness and asset vis­i­bil­i­ty,” mak­ing sure all the equip­ment, weapons and vehi­cles are iden­ti­fied in the system’s data­base and account­ed for, he explained.

“We worked with the Afghans, col­lab­o­rat­ed with them from the begin­ning, got their buy-in and asked sim­ple ques­tions — what do you need, what do you want?” Pol­litt added. Such impact and suc­cess, Pol­litt said, is pos­si­ble only if the Afghan coun­ter­part accepts the pro­gram advi­sor, a time-con­sum­ing but crit­i­cal process he learned about dur­ing his sev­en weeks of pre-deploy­ment train­ing.

“It was very, very help­ful com­ing into this type of posi­tion to have back­ground train­ing, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the cul­tur­al area, on deal­ing with senior-lev­el Afghans,” Pol­litt said. Suc­cess in Afghanistan involves build­ing rela­tion­ships, he added.

“My first six weeks, even though I’m a func­tion­al expert in logis­tics, I did­n’t go in and start demon­strat­ing what I knew about par­tic­u­lar pro­grams. I would sit there and when I was addressed I would respond,” Pol­litt said. “After about six weeks, [the Afghans] start­ed com­mu­ni­cat­ing and opened up dia­logue and then opened up a rela­tion­ship.

“Some­times an advi­sor will go in and they’re not accept­ed,” Pol­litt added. “The Afghans will be very friend­ly, cor­dial and amenable. But when it gets down to pro­duc­ing results or try­ing to set a process or pro­ce­dure in place, it won’t advance very far. That rela­tion­ship is crit­i­cal.”

Pol­litt said he knew he was accept­ed when Shah invit­ed him to his home for din­ner.

From the suc­cess­ful and grow­ing pro­gram in Afghanistan, Uribe said, “we have demon­strat­ed a proof of con­cept and hope that we can use lessons learned to take the pro­gram glob­al.” The scope of the pro­gram for oth­er coun­tries will depend on each country’s needs, she said.

“We are send­ing a large num­ber of civil­ian advi­sors to Afghanistan,” the direc­tor said, but only one or two advi­sors might be sent to help anoth­er for­eign part­ner.

“For exam­ple, a part­ner coun­try might say, ‘We’re rework­ing our logis­tics sys­tem and would wel­come an advi­sor from the Defense Logis­tics Agency to con­sult with us in the com­ing year,’ ” she explained.

The advi­sors, Uribe said, would work in close coor­di­na­tion with the coun­try team on the ground.

“The main imped­i­ment right now to tak­ing the pro­gram glob­al is leg­isla­tive author­i­ty that would allow us to oper­ate glob­al­ly,” she said. “We are seek­ing that.”

In the mean­time, Uribe said, there are more oppor­tu­ni­ties for advi­sors in Afghanistan.

“The next class has to have its appli­ca­tions in by Sept. 1,” she said. “We’re mov­ing into our big recruit­ment sea­son over the sum­mer to build our next class. Advi­sors will start train­ing in Sep­tem­ber and deploy into Afghanistan at the begin­ning of Novem­ber.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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