Hokanson: Partnerships Matter ‘More Than Ever’

Hokanson: Partnerships Matter ‘More Than Ever’

US and Albanian soldiers training
Photo by: U.S. Army National Guard/Sgt. Bruce Daddis

After 30 years, the National Guard’s State Partnership Program and the relationships it fosters are more critical now than ever, the component’s top general said. 

“These relationships matter more than ever,” said Gen. Daniel Hokanson, chief of the National Guard Bureau. “Russia’s violent, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine has increased interest in the State Partnership Program. Other countries are looking at Russia and are concerned that they, too, will need to defend their sovereignty.” 

Speaking July 27 at a National Press Club event, Hokanson cited the partnership between the California National Guard and Ukraine as “the most immediate example” of the program’s impact. 

“Hours after Russia began their recent, unprovoked invasion [of Ukraine] in February of 2022, … Ukrainian military officials made their first call to their friends more than 6,000 miles away [in] ... the California National Guard,” he said. 

The Guard’s State Partnership Program began in 1993, and it pairs the National Guard from U.S. states, territories and the District of Columbia with partner nations. Today, it boasts partnerships with 100 countries, according to DoD. 

Today, the National Guard has “about 450,000 Guardsmen,” 46,000 of whom are mobilized, Hokanson said. The Guard “will soon deepen and expand [its] security cooperation relationships throughout Europe,” he said during the event.  

Austria joined the program in 2021, partnering with Vermont, and Finland, Sweden and Switzerland have expressed interest in the program as well, Hokanson said. 

The program also hedges against threats from China, he said. 

“The State Partnership Program helps the United States remain the partner of choice at a time when China, our pacing challenge, uses predatory diplomatic and economic tactics to fulfill its imperial ambitions,” Hokanson said. 

Hokanson concluded his remarks by emphasizing the Guard’s global impact. 

“It takes effort and commitment to remain the partner of choice around the world,” he said. “The role of the National Guard is unique, and it is critical to the National Defense Strategy, our national security, and our global security.”