Remarks to Visiting Students from the Joint Forces Staff College

Tom Kelly
Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Political-Military Affairs
Washington, DC
January 13, 2014

Thank you, Under Secretary Gottemoeller for those remarks and for taking time out of your busy schedule to address this group. Good morning everyone. It is my great privilege to welcome you all to the State Department. I want to single out for welcome your senior mentor General John Foss – sir, thank you for joining us today – as well as Col. Richard Wiersma, the Director of the Joint Advanced Warfighting School.

I’d also like to thank Robert Murphy for arranging this event. I was struck by Mr. Murphy’s name – not just because, if it weren’t for the Murphys, Kelly would be the top Irish surname. That’s because 72 years ago, President Roosevelt named the first POLAD, or Foreign Policy Advisor, to serve with our military. His name was Ambassador Robert Murphy. He served on General Eisenhower’s staff, becoming one of the General’s most influential aides. Like many trailblazers, Ambassador Murphy often had to explain himself. He said that “war is a projection of policy when other means fail. The State Department is responsible to the President for foreign policy… And that is why I am here.”

Ambassador Murphy’s words, made in the middle of World War II, are still true today – and they are still a good explanation for the existence of why my part of the State Department, the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs. Today more than ever, the Departments of State and Defense need to work together to preserve our nation’s security. The Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, or PM, serves as the principal link between our two Departments.

My main goal this morning is to explain to you what we do in PM and how you can use us in the future to solve the problems that will confront you as military leaders. Our bureau has the lead on several issues that directly affect your jobs – issues like security assistance, foreign military sales, military access and defense cooperation agreements, to name just a few – but we also encourage our military colleagues to use as a one-stop shop for our foreign policy needs. The State Department is a complicated organization, and my 375 colleagues and I can help you to decipher it.

Now I realize that some people may be surprised that we have so many professionals at the State Department who work on bread-and-butter security issues. But from the way we handle national security policy in the United States, it makes good sense. For us, just like it was for Ambassador Murphy, defense and foreign policy are two sides of the same coin. When the United States enters a military partnership with a foreign country, our bilateral relationship becomes more intimate and enduring. And we diplomats can help our military colleagues – all of you -- to handle the many challenges that confront them in foreign theaters of operation.

At the forefront of our nation’s foreign policy is the notion that America helps itself by helping others. At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary Kerry said, “Global leadership is a strategic imperative for America, not a favor we do for other countries. It amplifies our voice and extends our reach….and it really matters to the daily lives of Americans.”

The challenges we face today typically can’t be solved by just our military, or our economic engagement, and – while it pains me to say this as a State Department official – we can’t resolve everything just with diplomacy, either. Addressing today’s challenges demands we utilize all of these elements of national power. I know you all have now heard this many times before – but addressing the world’s toughest problems really does take a whole-of-government effort. So we at the State Department -- at the direction of the President -- are working harder than ever before to improve our cooperation and coordination with the Defense Department and its agencies.

So let’s talk about specifics. Security cooperation plays a central role in American foreign policy. In PM, we spend a great deal of time tending to our nation’s security partnerships. In my capacity as Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Political Military Affairs, I meet with my counterparts from the Office of the Secretary Defense regularly to discuss our approach to the rebalance to the Asia-Pacific, to how to best calibrate our security assistance to Egypt, to ways to expedite military equipment to Iraq to help them defeat Al Qaeda. The list of issues goes on.

What many often don’t realize is that according to the Arms Export Control Act, it is the Secretary of State who oversees all U.S. arms sales and transfers. DoD provides a great deal of technical expertise throughout the process, but the final decisions rest in this Department. This is because the provision of security assistance to a foreign nation, a foreign security force, is inherently an act of foreign policy. So the Political-Military Affairs Bureau bridges the institutional and cultural gap between the Departments to provide the global perspective to administer the Secretary’s authority. For four consecutive years, U.S. Foreign Military Sales have exceeded $30 billion.

When the United States transfers a weapon system, especially through our Foreign Military Sales program, we are not just providing a country military hardware or capabilities. We are also reinforcing diplomatic relations and establishing a long-term security partnership, which in turn reinforces our diplomatic relationship. Defense trade also often increases inter-operability between forces. The use of similar military platforms helps streamline operations and maintenance, and reduces the potential for problems when coordinating between highly advanced and complicated defense systems in a coalition environment.

Additionally, the complex and technical nature of advanced defense systems most often requires substantial interaction between the U.S. and our partners over the life of that system. When a country purchases an advanced, U.S.-manufactured defense system, such as an F/A-18 fighter aircraft, it is not just getting the hardware. The purchase allows partner countries to work in partnership with the United States to secure training, upgrades, and repairs throughout the system’s lifespan, which in the case of a fighter jet can be as long as 40 years.

Our defense trade strengthens diplomatic ties between countries and the United States over the long term. And this again is why all sales and arms transfers are reviewed and assessed by the State Department to determine whether a sale is in the best foreign policy and national security interests of the United States.

When a country is willing to cooperate with us in the security sector – perhaps the most sensitive area for any country – it serves to strengthen our broader diplomatic relationships. This means that in purchasing the U.S. defense products, partner nations are investing in a broader, long-term relationship with the United States.

The State Department’s security cooperation efforts include a broad array of tools, including direct grant assistance, the sale or transfer of military items and equipment, training peacekeepers, and supporting demining efforts. I’ll be happy to talk more about these in the Q and A if you’d like. But let me just briefly describe some of our concrete achievements recently, working with our partners in DoD, the regional combatant commands, and our diplomatic missions around the world:

  • In Asia, we developed over $20 billion in potential arms sales to Asia; developed 15 co-production defense projects to advance our burgeoning security relationship with India;
  • In the Middle East, PM notified to Congress the largest sale of standoff weapons to Gulf countries ($10.4 billion to the UAE and Saudi Arabia); and helped re-prioritize the U.S. security assistance program for Egypt during a period of considerable turmoil.

We also play an unremarked, but quite remarkable, role, setting the stage for DoD operations around the world. PM leads the U.S. Government's negotiation of status of forces agreements, defense cooperation agreements, burden-sharing and facilities access agreements, transit and overflight arrangements, and state flights agreements. Collectively, these arrangements facilitate the deployment of U.S. forces and materiel abroad and provide protections for U.S. service members operating overseas. Recently, PM concluded a defense cooperation agreement with Qatar governing the 10,000 U.S. personnel stationed there. And just last week, we concluded a burden-sharing agreement in which Korea will contribute almost one billion dollars to U.S. military infrastructure costs. Negotiating these agreements is a core diplomatic function, and a fine example of the enabling role that the State Department plays for the Department of Defense.

Building security partnerships starts at home. It requires our diplomacy and defense to be on the same page and it requires State and DOD to coordinate and work more closely than ever before. And today I can tell you from my unique vantage point in the PM bureau that the current level of cooperation between State and DoD is just unprecedented. We are seeing more interaction, more coordinated engagements, more personnel exchanges than ever before.

One way that you build cooperation between institutions is to exchange some of your best personnel. Over the past few years, we’ve dramatically increased the number of personnel exchanged between the Departments of State and Defense. We signed a formal memorandum of understanding between State and DOD in January of 2012 that greatly expanded our Foreign Policy Advisor [POLAD] Program, which will provide senior Foreign Service Officers to DOD commands, including the first ever State Department foreign policy advisor to serve on the staff of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The agreement also doubles the number of uniformed personnel serving here in the Department of State. We’ve always had a great contingent of uniformed personnel serving in the Political-Military Bureau. My office mate is Rear Admiral Sam Perez, who is a key member of my leadership team as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and the highest-ranking military officer here at State. But the agreement has enabled us to put military officers in virtually every single bureau of the State Department. And believe me, demand for the unique skills that folks like you bring to the table is very high over here, giving more senior policymakers here in Foggy Bottom with access to military expertise as they make decisions with implications for the U.S. military.

We have also expanded the POLAD program a great deal. The more senior POLADs have always been a mainstay of the program. General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, has been able to benefit from the advice of an experienced Senior Foreign Service Officer during his time as chairman. The same goes for General Austin at CENTCOM, Admiral Locklear at PACOM, and Admiral McRaven at SOCOM. These POLADs, like Ambassador Robert Murphy during World War II, advise these military commanders on the broader foreign policy effects of their decisions. Admiral McRaven likes to say that anytime he makes a key decision about anything, he asks for his POLAD’s advice.

What’s new is that we’ve expanded the program, providing subordinate commands with POLADs for the first time and expanding the number of Foreign Service Officers serving at the regional combatant commands. This means that we have many mid-level officers serving in the POLAD program for the first time. This gives the program new energy and it helps us at State to build a cadre of officers who know the DoD from the inside out and will provide us with a cadre of experienced pol-mil officers who can provide leadership on critical national security issues in the decades to come.

I’m very happy to advise you that the POLAD program is more popular than ever at State, as Foreign Service Officers come to understand how rewarding and career-enhancing it is to serve in the commands as a Foreign Policy Advisor. The number of FSOs expressing interest in POLAD jobs is growing dramatically. Barely three years ago, just over 150 FSOs bid on POLAD positions. This year, that number grew to about 350. And for what it’s worth, POLADs who perform well at their respective commands are getting promoted within the Foreign Service to work at the NSS or to serve as Deputy Chief of Mission or Ambassador. This shows the value the State Department places on cooperation and coordination with its most important interagency partner, the Department of Defense.

It is not only their regional or functional expertise that military commanders seek from a POLAD. It is also FSOs’ability to reach back to the appropriate bureaus within the Department of State to provide immediate support to military commanders for planned engagements or for crisis response. We have seen this time and again – most recently in the events of South Sudan – and we are now seeing a new generation of leaders in the Department of Defense who both want and expect top quality FSOs to provide linkages and coordination with the Department of State.

Building the capacity of our partners and allies is a strategic imperative for the United States, and it’s one that we focus on here in PM. The United States can’t fix every problem in the world alone. Our government lacks the funds to make that happen, our citizens won’t stand for it, and it’s bad policy anyway. That’s why it’s important to use cost-effective ways to achieve U.S. strategic objectives at home and abroad. Building partner capacity, so that we can help friendly countries help us to keep the world safe and secure, is a prudent investment which defends U.S. interests in an era of diminishing resources.

It’s not hard to think of recent examples. Recent crises in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and Mali call attention to another important joint State-DOD effort known as the Global Peace Operations Initiative or GPOI. In all of those countries, peacekeeping troops from other countries have prevented those troubled countries from spiraling further into chaos. Those troops have saved thousands of lives in the past few months. We’re proud in PM that we’ve partnered with DoD to train many of them. The GPOI Initiative is a global peacekeeping capacity building program managed by PM in close consultation with and with tremendous support from DOD. The combatant commands play a critical role in implementing the training, education, equipment delivery, and facilities improvements sponsored by GPOI in 66 countries and three regional organizations around the world. Since its inception in 2005, GPOI has facilitated the training of 247,000 peacekeepers, supported 52 national and regional peace operations training centers, and has also facilitated the deployment of over191,000 soldiers from 38 countries to 27 operations around the world. The more the United States builds the capacity of other countries to contribute to international peace and security, the less the U.S. will be expected to be the only option for responding to crises as they appear across the globe.

Finally, the State Department, led by PM, is working with DoD to deal with transnational security challenges where international coordination and a comfort with foreign settings is critically important. A good example is the U.S. government effort to confront modern-day piracy off the coast of Somalia.

Back in late 2008, Somali piracy was spiraling out of control. Attacks were escalating, and pirates were expanding operations far into the Indian Ocean. Ransom payments in the millions brought more and more Somali men to the water. At the peak of this activity, Somali pirates held nearly 600 mariners hostage and roamed an area as large as the continental United States in their search for new victims. In addition to the threat posed to innocent mariners, pirate activity was costing the global economy an estimated $7 billion a year.

In response, PM brought State and DoD together to coordinate a multifaceted response that turned the tide against the pirates. Part of the response was military and involved one of the largest naval coalitions ever assembled, with NATO member navies working in common cause with those from countries like the UAE, India, Pakistan, Viet Nam, and Japan. Another key part of the response was diplomatic. Four years ago, the United States helped establish the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia in January 2009, which now includes more than 80 nations, non-governmental organizations, and industry groups working together to take the fight to pirates. We worked on a lot of fronts, fought back against the pirates, and put about 1,000 of them in prisons in 20 different countries.

The results of all of these efforts is what I think is one of the most important multilateral success stories of this young century. There has not been a single successful attack against commercial shipping in the Indian Ocean in more than a year and a half. Pirates no longer control a single hijacked ship. A few years ago pirates held over 600 hostages, today, they hold only a few dozen, and we are doing all we can to facilitate their return.

So, from peacekeeping and counter-piracy, to defense cooperation and diplomacy, we can draw the same conclusion over and over again: By working together, the Departments of State and Defense can successfully tackle some of the world’s toughest problems. That’s what the Political-Military Bureau does every day.

With that, I’m happy to take any questions.