by Major Arnold Hammari. He is a U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer specializing in Sub-Saharan Africa who has worked at the U.S. embassies in Senegal, Uganda, and Chad as well as U.S. Africa Command and Combined Joint Task Force- Horn of Africa.
Traditional command relationships in East Africa are challenged with the addition of a Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) led by a two-star U.S. Commander to the normal U.S. Department of State (DOS) – U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) relationship.
Normal DOS-DOD Relations
In most countries around the world the relationship between the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Defense is simple. The Ambassador is the Chief of the U.S. mission to the country and a representative of the U.S. President. The Ambassador is responsible for all U.S. activities in the country and can veto any U.S. government activity. The Ambassador is accredited to the country as the senior U.S. diplomat and is usually assisted by two other accredited diplomats — the Political Counselor from the Department of State and the Defense Attaché from the Department of Defense as part of the Country Team. Depending on the U.S. mission to the country there may be several other accredited diplomats on the Country Team but the Political Counselor and the Defense Attaché are the primary advisors to the Ambassador.
The primary mission of any U.S. diplomatic mission is to promote trade and sell U.S. products. The embassy also monitors international relationships and agreements, including treaties and military assistance. The Defense Attaché advises the Ambassador on all military activities in the country and works directly with the host nation Ministry of Defense and Chief of Defense. The Defense Attaché oversees the Office of Security Cooperation, which executes military foreign assistance programs such as the sale of military equipment, military-to-military training, and military bilateral exercises. These military activities are coordinated by the DOD geographic combatant command.
The U.S. Department of Defense has divided the world into six geographic combatant commands (COCOMs): European Command (EUCOM), Africa Command (AFRICOM), Central Command (CENTCOM), Pacific Command (PACOM), Northern Command (NORTHCOM), and Southern Command (SOUTHCOM). Each command is led by a four-star commander who reports directly to the U.S. Secretary of Defense (Andrew Feickert, “The Unified Command Plan and Combatant Commands: Background and Issues for Congress“, Congressional Research Service, January 03, 2013). The COCOM is responsible for all military activities with their geographic region and executes its programs through the Defense Attaché. The Defense Attaché effectively works for two bosses, the Ambassador and the COCOM Commander.
Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa Mission
According to Joint Publication 3-33 a joint task force (JTF) is established when the scope, complexity, or other factors of the contingency or crisis require capabilities of Services from at least two Military Departments operating under a single joint force commander. Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) was created in 2002 to engage terrorist cells in East Africa (David Melson, “The Horn of Africa: Building the Future“, CJTF-HOA, January 14, 2011). The current mission statement is:
Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, in partnership with our joint, interagency, intergovernmental, and multinational teammates, conducts theater security cooperation activities to enable regional actors to neutralize violent extremist organizations and enables regional access and freedom of movement within East Africa in order to protect and defend United States interests. Plan, prepare, and on order execute crisis response within East Africa in order to protect and defend United States military, diplomatic, and civilian personnel, facilities, and interests. — “About the Command: Mission“, CJTF-HOA, 2015.
CJTF-HOA consists of Special Forces, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Air Force personnel along with interagency and international partners based at Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ). The CJTF-HOA area of responsibility is Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, and Tanzania.
The two-star CJTF-HOA Commander reports to the AFRICOM Commander but also coordinates his activities with the U.S. Ambassador to Djibouti where he resides as well as with all the other U.S. Ambassadors to the other countries within the CJTF-HOA area of responsibility. The CJTF-HOA Commander is also charged to work directly with the Chief of Defense of each country in the area of responsibility.
As the senior military commander on Camp Lemonnier, the CJTF-HOA Commander also assumes responsibility for some of the other activities based on the camp, which is a Navy base commanded by a Navy Captain (O-6, OF-5). Additionally, Camp Lemonnier is a hub for Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and CENTCOM. Approximately 5,000 personnel are deployed to CLDJ but less than 1,000 are assigned to CJTF-HOA.
The primary mission of CJTF-HOA is to enable regional actors to neutralize violent extremist organizations so CJTF-HOA has worked with the countries that contribute forces to the African Union mission in Somalia (AMISOM). CJTF-HOA worked with AFRICOM and the U.S. Department of State to add liaison officers to the embassies in order to assist with security cooperation activities such as training peacekeeping troops and providing equipment and materials to be used in the fight in Somalia.
In 2014 CJTF-HOA created the Fusion Action Cell hive under the J3/5/7 to manage security force assistance throughout the area of responsibility.  The hive is made up of six cells, each one focusing on a different country. There are two additional cells that focus on the region as a whole and on DOS/DOD programs. Each cell is led by a team chief who is assisted by an intelligence officer, a non-commissioned officer, and a liaison officer from that country. For example, the “Uganda cell” has a liaison officer from the Uganda People’s Defence Force. The cell coordinates U.S. military related engagements with the country, provides country expertise, and shares information with AFRICOM, associated commands, and the Embassy liaison officers. The CJTF-HOA Fusion Action Cell is also responsible for developing the country annex plan that describes how CJTF-HOA will accomplish its objectives in the country.
AFRICOM and CJTF-HOA Overlap
The CJTF-HOA mission of conducting theater security cooperation activities in East Africa overlaps AFRICOM’s mission of conducting the same activities across the continent. However, the Defense Attachés and Offices of Security Cooperation in East Africa do not report to the CJTF-HOA Commander but follow their traditional reporting lines to the AFRICOM Commander. The CJTF-HOA liaison officers serve in the Office of Security Cooperation but are rated by the CJTF-HOA Commander.
Another overlap between AFRICOM and CJTF-HOA is in the development of country engagement plans. Currently AFRICOM develops a Theater Campaign Plan and CJTF-HOA develops a support plan to the AFRICOM plan however both the AFRICOM planing desk officer (J5) and the CJTF-HOA Fusion Action Cell develop country specific plans. Both plans attempt to coordinate the same resources for similar engagements. CJTF-HOA has published a support plan for the draft 2015 AFRICOM Theater Campaign Plan and is developing country plans. AFRICOM first published country coordination plans in 2014 and is currently developing new country coordination plans in conjunction with the 2015 Theater Campaign Plan.
The greatest challenge CJTF-HOA faces is the rapid rotation of assigned personnel. CJTF-HOA experiences 150% manning change each year with each service serving different tour lengths. Sailors serve for eleven months, Soldiers serve nine months, and Marines and Airmen both serve six month tours. There are no long-term permanently assigned personnel to CJTF-HOA.
An additional issue is that few CJTF-HOA personnel have experience in Africa or security cooperation activities. By the time the Fusion Action Cell personnel have learned their roles, responsibilities, programs, and their countries their tours are almost complete. Another compounding factor is the lack of overlap between personnel due to mobilization/demobilization requirements so positions are often gapped several weeks.
The Fusion Action Cell concept mitigates some of these challenges by creating a team that can cover gaps in personnel and maintain some experienced personnel in the cell. If properly managed, the Fusion Action Cell cell would consist of a team with varying tour lengths to maintain some continuity despite the continuous rotation of personnel. However, during the past three months over 60% of the 60 Fusion Action Cell personnel have departed/arrived.
Currently the Fusion Action Cell manning is not supported by the Joint Manning Document and the members of the Fusion Action Cell are taken from other sections of filled from a “Request for Forces”. This results in personnel not filling the billets for which they were deployed and creates shortages in the loaning sections. Several officers in the Fusion Action Cell are on loan from a Civil Affairs Battalion, which was downsized after arriving in theater. If more personnel are redeployed from the Civil Affairs Battalion they may need to recall their personnel from the Fusion Action Cell, resulting in a manning shortage in the Fusion Action Cell. The Joint Manning Document would need to be expanded to include the new Fusion Action Cell concept in order to effectively man it.
CJTF-HOA plays a key role in the region as it has responsibility from AFRICOM for engagements in East Africa. The CJTF-HOA Commander fills a critical role as he maintains close relationships with the host nation Chief of Defense and leverages CJTF-HOA assets to assist in the fight against violent extremist organizations. The presence of CJTF-HOA in the region and the embassies adds an important force multiplier to accomplish security force assistance mission and further U.S. interests. The CJTF-HOA Fusion Action Cell has the potential to be a great resource for coordinating events and sharing information with the host nation militaries once manning issues are resolved.
However, this assistance needs to be well coordinated with the Defense Attachés and Offices of Security Cooperation. All parties need to be transparent in communication and freely share information. Defense Attachés and Offices of Security Cooperation should continue to report directly to AFRICOM but also include CJTF-HOA on all correspondence and actions. The Offices of Security Cooperation must work closely with the CJTF-HOA liaison officers as they execute engagements in the host nation. It will remain the responsibility of the Defense Attaché to keep the Ambassador informed of all AFRICOM and CJTF-HOA activities in the country.
 In a military organisation, the staff of a commanding officer is structured and numbered along different functions. The letter “J” is standing for “Joint”; “3” represents “Operation”, “5” stands for “Planning” and “7” for “Training”.