State Partnership Program History
The National Guard State Partnership Program (SPP) links US states with partner countries for the purpose of supporting the security cooperation objectives of the Combatant Commander. The program’s goals reflect an evolving international affairs mission for the National Guard using the unique civil-military nature of the Guard to interact with both active and reserve forces of foreign countries. The State Partners actively participate in a host of engagement activities ranging from bilateral familiarization, military information exchanges, fellowship-style internships, and civic leader visits and medical events. All activities are coordinated through the Theater Combatant Commander and the US Ambassadors’ country teams, and other agencies as appropriate, to ensure that National Guard support is tailored to meet both US and country objectives.
The SPP was established following the National Guard Bureau’s (NGB) proposal in the spring of 1993 to pair State National Guards with the Baltic Countries of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The NGB proposal was prompted by Commander in Chief of European Forces’ Jan 93 decision to staff the Military Liaison Teams (MLTs) in the Baltics with Reserve Component personnel, in order to avoid sending a provocative signal to the Russian Federation that could have occurred had active duty soldiers been assigned. The SPP thus began as a bilateral military-to-military contact program to engage the countries of central and Eastern Europe, and is a direct outgrowth of US European Command’s (USEUCOM) Joint Contact Team Program (JCTP). This program has grown far beyond JCTP and is now a key security cooperation tool, facilitating interaction in all aspects of civil-military cooperation.
The value of the SPP is its ability to focus the attention of a small part of the Department of Defense (DoD)—a State National Guard— with a single country or region in support of US Government policies. This concentrated focus allows for the development of long term personal relationships and a mechanism to catalyze support from outside the DoD which otherwise would not occur but nevertheless complements US policy. The optimum SPP partnership is one in which: the Host Nation professes genuine interest in Partnership; US and Theater engagement objectives are satisfied; the Force Protection risk is acceptable; a minimum of additional resources is required to execute engagement; and National Guard core engagement competencies, particularly military support to civil authority (MSCA), and national defense are heavily incorporated.
Through its cooperative efforts with other nations, the National Guard plays a critical
role in helping to shape the international environment in support of the national security strategy. The National Guard’s international initiatives directly support the United States national security and national military strategies by helping to foster democracy, encourage market economies, promote regional cooperation and stability, and provide opportunities for National Guard soldiers and airmen—as well as civilian members from their communities— to interact with and learn from other nations and cultures. For a minuscule portion of the total defense budget, these programs return tremendous benefits for the United States, the National Guard, and our partner nations.
The National Guard is uniquely suited to participate in efforts to build democratic institutions; its cooperative efforts with other nations maximize the advantages its citizen soldier and airmen bring to initiatives to shape the international environment. As a reserve component, the National Guard demonstrates how nations can possess a significant defense capability at a much lower cost than active duty forces—a subject of vital interest to emerging democracies struggling with fiscal constraints as well as issues involving conflict and peace.
Furthermore, neighboring countries perceive less threat from reserve forces than a large
standing military. More importantly, members of the National Guard provide durable links to their communities. In addition to being highly skilled soldiers and airmen, they are community leaders, bankers, teachers, lawyers, doctors, engineers, mechanics, police officers, computer programmers, and business owners. Members of the National Guard represent virtually every profession necessary to a productive economy and a robust civil society. While active duty personnel rotate assignments on a two or three year basis, many National Guard soldiers and airmen serve their entire careers in the same units and neighborhoods. The friendships and associations they build with the partner nations will form lasting ties between individuals, units, and communities. The National Guard’s international initiatives will continue to promote trust, understanding, and cooperative relationship that will benefit the citizens of all the nations involved.
The program strives to achieve the following Security Cooperation objectives:
- Improve military interoperability between United States and partner nation forces.
- Demonstrate military subordination to civil authority.
- Demonstrate military support to civilian authorities.
- Assist with the development of democratic institutions.
- Foster open market economies to help develop stability.
- Project and represent United States humanitarian values.
Virginia State Partnership Program
The Virginia National Guard (VANG) partnership with Tajikistan was established in 2003 and has been a critical element in the establishment of a positive relationship with the Tajikistan government. Although Tajikistan is the smallest of the Central Asia States, it is very important strategically to the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT) and was the first Muslim nation to publically denounce the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.
Tajikistan has been a GWOT supporter since the planning stages of United States actions in Afghanistan and has offered basing rights, over-flight rights, and Combat Search and Rescue staging to coalition forces.
The (VANG) State Partnership Program has primarily focused on Military to Military exchanges since its’ inception. Mil-Mil exchanges have included Disaster Response Exchanges, Staff Officer Information Exchanges, Military Medical Exchanges, Peacekeeping Operations Exchanges, Junior Leader Development Exchanges, and Senior Level Leader visits. Each of these exchanges supports the OSD and Central Command goals for security cooperation in Tajikistan.
The SPP is now prepared to expand the partnership to include Civilian Security Cooperation (Civilian-Civilian) exchanges that build on the success of Military-Military exchanges. The goal is to energize the Virginia government, colleges and universities, and private industries to become partners with Tajikistan along with the VANG so that we can bring to bear the considerable resources of our great commonwealth. Proposed Civilian Security Cooperation exchanges would focus on Education, Agriculture, Economic/Industry Development, and Electricity. Each of these areas of cooperation would function to further strengthen the partnership with Tajikistan while improving their stability and quality of life.