ARLINGTON, Va. - The National Guard State Partnership Program is "one of the best foreign policy bargains our nation has," the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said here last week.
The National Guard and the reserve service components can be critical force-multipliers for commanders building partnership capacity overseas, Navy Adm. James Winnefeld said at the 2013 Reserve Forces Policy Board Annual Dinner.
In a previous command, "I saw what a potent contribution reserves can make in this regard," Winnefeld said.
Winnefeld was working to build partnerships with African nations.
"Our Navy Reserves were absolutely essential there, and they did a fantastic job," he said. "I could not have done it without [them.]
"Link this concept with one of the best foreign policy bargains our nation has - namely the Guard's State Partnership Program, which I very strongly support."
According to National Guard Bureau officials:
The SPP is a joint security cooperation program managed by the National Guard Bureau and executed by adjutants general in support of combatant commanders under Defense Department and Congressional authorities.
With the fall of the Soviet Union, former republics and newly independent Eastern European nations sought increased security ties with the United States. The U.S. military assisted nations in transitioning their armed forces to citizen-based units subordinate to and supportive of civilian authority.
Partnerships with the National Guard in the 54 states and territories and the District of Columbia were perceived as less threatening than national initiatives and the Guard was viewed as best equipped to provide training and support on issues such as domestic disaster management.
In 1992, Guard and Reserve contact teams provided non-lethal assistance and training focused on building democratic military institutions.
In coordination with U.S. European Command, the SPP - celebrating its 20th anniversary this year - began with partnerships between three National Guards in the states and three newly independent Baltic nations in 1993.
Today, the SPP includes partnerships with 65 nations - more than one third of the world's countries. Forty-four partner nations have provided more than 35,000 security forces to United Nations peacekeeping efforts, and 14 nations have co-deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan with their National Guard partners.
After the Defense Department announced a national strategic rebalance to the Asia-Pacific region, the Oregon National Guard and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam became the 65th SPP pairing.
"I am not sure that anyone in 1993 imagined what an extraordinary tool for building partnership capacity the State Partnership Program would become," said Army Gen. Frank Grass, the Chief of the National Guard Bureau. "It is one of the National Guard's valuable contributions to the American people, the national security and the meaningful connection it enables between Main Street America and our partners around the world."
SPP activities between partners include officer and noncommissioned officer development; defense reform and modernization; border, port and aviation defense and security events; medical and engineer exchanges; aviation logistics, maintenance and safety exchanges; deployment planning and family support; disaster preparedness and crisis management; and critical infrastructure and natural resource protection.