U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on Tuesday met with leaders of U.S. European Command and U.S. Africa Command to discuss existing partnerships.
Navy Adm. Mike Mullen visited with Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, commander of Africom, and Army Lt. Gen. John D. Gardner, Eucom’s deputy commander, and members of their respective staffs.
“One of my goals as chairman is to engage the [combatant commanders] not only when they’re in Washington on my turf, but out on their turf,” Mullen told reporters traveling with him en route to Germany.
Although Navy Adm. James G. Stavridis, Eucom’s commander, was unavailable for Tuesday’s meeting, Mullen said he had spoken with him on the phone before leaving Washington.
Eucom’s area of focus includes all of Europe, as well as large portions of Asia, parts of the Middle East and the Arctic and Atlantic oceans. The command is responsible for U.S. military relations with NATO and more than 50 countries.
In the most recent years, Eucom has expanded its partnerships with U.S. agencies outside of the Department of Defense to gather subject-matter together and facilitate the exchange of information for “whole of government” international efforts in which military and nonmilitary agencies have what Eucom officials call “a coincidence of purpose.”
Mullen said he was a strong proponent for the creation of Africom, which was launched in October 2008. Previously, Eucom was responsible for U.S. military relations in Africa, but with Eucom’s vast area and its commander also serving in a NATO role, it was not physically possible for Africa to receive an appropriate level of attention and engagement, he said.
“[Africom] gives us a 24/7 engagement in that continent that we had very little of prior to that stand-up,” the chairman said, “so I’m very pleased with the leadership and the progress in what we’ve been able to do in Africa over a relatively short period of time.”
Africom was created as an “engagement command” to help African nations build their capabilities, Mullen said, but it has had to work to overcome suspicions that the United States created the command with designs on militarizing the continent.
“A great deal of that has been dissipated,” he said, noting that many countries that at first were suspicious and concerned have come to recognize the command’s value.