The security cooperation programs that the Army conducts around the world are instrumental in promoting U.S. interests, the senior leaders in charge of those programs told a panel at the Association of the United States Army’s Annual Meeting and Exposition on Tuesday, Oct. 11.
“Engaging and shaping truly ensures stability and security,” said Lt. Gen. Francis J. Wiercinski, commanding general of Army Pacific. “I see something occurring in an AOR, I can pick up the phone because I know the man on the other end of that telephone line, and we can talk directly.”
The Army components of the regional combatant commands conduct joint training with partner armies, as well as other sorts of information exchanges and senior leader engagements. Such relationships “not only strengthens these nations to deal with issues themselves, but they deal with those issues oftentimes on behalf of the United States,” said Lt. Gen. Guy Swan, commander of Army North. And when the United States relies on coalitions to fight wars, “their familiarity with US forces makes those operations a lot more successful than if we were meeting people for the first time on the battlefield,” he added.
Army-to-army cooperation on the fight against drug trafficking networks in Mexico have improved U.S.-Mexican relations, which have historically been difficult, Lt. Gen. Swan added. There have been four times as many expert exchanges between the armies as there were just two years ago, he said. “The fight against the drug-trafficking cartels and transnational criminal organizations is a tough fight, but a fight, ironically, has brought two nations, certainly two militaries, closer than we ever have been before,” he said. “As comrades-in-arms, we can put this bad history on the back burner.”
Lt. Gen. Vincent Brooks, commander of US Army Central, highlighted the Army's relationships in Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia and Jordan as ties that have been beneficial. The Jordanian army, for example, “are a classic example of being a force for stability in their own country and a trusted partner outside their country.”
Army global engagement programs are likely to come under scrutiny, however, as the US tries to cut its budget. That may mean a change in the type of engagement, but ideally not the strength, said Lt. Gen. Brooks. “The big exercise, with hardware on parade, may have less value than the small event where professionalism is exchanged,” he said. “The size of exercise probably has to go down.”