Roberson: Army Must Prioritize Partnerships

Roberson: Army Must Prioritize Partnerships

Special operations troops train with partners.
Photo by: U.S. Navy/Lt. Rob Kunzig

As the U.S. enters a new era of global conflict, it must continue to invest in vital security cooperation partnerships, a senior Army leader said during the recent 2022 Strategic Landpower Symposium hosted by the Army War College.

Events in Ukraine are an example of how building security cooperation enables America’s partners and allies to fend off external threats, said Maj. Gen. Patrick Roberson, commander of the Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. 

“Ukraine is a good example,” Roberson said, citing a partnership between Ukraine and the California National Guard that dates back to 1993.

Part of the Guard’s State Partnership Program, the relationship “was instrumental … particularly on the individual training,” Roberson said. 

Now more than 25 years old, the State Partnership Program includes 85 partnerships with 93 nations around the globe, according to the National Guard. Through the program, the National Guard conducts military-to-military engagements with their partner nation, building bonds that in some cases have lasted for decades.

In addition to the State Partnership Program, the U.S. military worked with Ukraine to establish a territorial defense force and develop a comprehensive defense plan, Roberson said.

“Security cooperation really is part of integrated deterrence,” he said. “Your adversary … has to know what you’re capable of before it will deter [them]. Perhaps the Russians didn't understand how powerful this idea of comprehensive defense was in Ukraine. I think now they do.” 

Partnerships are critical even at home, Roberson said.

“Operating in the homeland is a partnership. ... How [partnerships] have paid off in spades around the world, it happens in the homeland as well,” he said.

Ultimately, security cooperation “is a long game,” he said. 

“It is an investment, and investments take time to grow. Security cooperation is something that takes time. You have to be patient about it,” Roberson said. “You can't overhaul a nation's security apparatus in a day, it’s going to take time to work on it.” 

Looking to the future, the Army will need to continue to collaborate with its partners and allies to ensure that it is as powerful as possible. Roberson reflected on the power of partnerships he saw firsthand during Operation Inherent Resolve, in the fight against the Islamic State group. 

“I think we had a coalition of about 70 countries working with us,” he said. “[I remember] how powerful it was that as the [special operations forces] commander over there we had 20 or 30 different nations contributing … and how much more powerful we are when we collaborate with our partners.”