Lawmakers Concerned About DOD Mission Creep in Africa

The House Armed Services Committee is concerned that the Defense Department’s nascent Africa Command plans to address itself to missions better suited to be managed by other U.S. agencies. From the committee’s report (warning: very large pdf file) on the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2009, which was released Friday:

The committee . . . understands that a stable Africa is in the national interests of the United States. Nevertheless, the committee finds that within the command’s mission statement, it has listed a variety of tasks that appear to depart from traditional Department of Defense (DOD) missions, including medical HIV/AIDS assistance, humanitarian assistance, and disaster relief. The diplomatic and cultural environment on the continent of Africa is extremely varied and complex. While the Department of Defense has always played a role in those sorts of tasks, the committee is concerned that AFRICOM might become the primary agent of U.S. efforts in those areas when they might be better served by other agencies or departments taking the lead.

Given these concerns, the committee directs the Secretary of Defense, in coordination with the Secretary of State and the heads of any other federal agencies or departments the Secretary of Defense determines appropriate, to submit, not later than one week prior to AFRICOM assuming full operational capability, a report to the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the House Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, and the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the final determination of the full set of roles and missions of AFRICOM.