Resource scarcity during bleak economic times is the best opportunity for countries to become more efficient at conducting the business of government, the head of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) said during opening remarks for the organization’s annual Managing Security Resources in Africa Seminar.
ACSS Director Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.) told the meeting’s participants, 32 high-ranking civilian and military officials from 15 African nations, that every country, including the United States, should not let the moment pass to look objectively at how to better provide security for its citizens.
“Managing resources requires good instincts and good policy measures,” Bellamy said. “Leanness is a virtue. It applies to us as much as to Africa. It’s up to all of us here today to build organizations that are smart, strong, and quick.”
Building better defense and security capabilities, he said, would require leaders to rethink national strategies and objectives while at the same time realizing that no organization could be everywhere or do everything.
The remarks were part of the Oct. 17, 2011, beginning of ACSS’s annual week-long resource management seminar, which provides a capacity-building opportunity for practitioners and policymakers in Africa’s security sector.
Seven seminar participants presented case studies from their home countries on various aspects of budgeting and procurement in the defense sector, which added a new chance to cross-pollinate good ideas across Africa. Attendees also broke into small discussion groups to focus on key topics that emerged in plenary sessions and heard from ACSS defense economics and civil-military reform experts.
Dr. Assis Malaquias, ACSS Academic Chair for Defense Economics, asked the African leaders to consider the highest aspirations of their countries 100 years from now and to develop national security policies to reach those goals.
“What should the society look like? In security, what is our primary function—defense of the homeland or projection of force?” he asked those assembled. “Efficient resource management that ensures effective national security is the link that gets us from here to there.”
But Malaquias cautioned that wasteful spending and poorly prioritized objectives could short circuit the path to national goals.
“The steps that need to happen are one, we need to eliminate waste and two, we need to increase transparency,” he said. “We need to be honest in performing our fiduciary responsibilities.”
ACSS experts all said that security services in African countries need to become more flexible to counter the growing internal and external threats facing them. If leaders do not make those hard choices, their societies risk becoming destabilized.
“When the state doesn’t provide security and citizens have to provide their own, that’s when the real problems begin,” Bellamy said. “That’s when ethnic conflicts begin. That’s when militias begin. People try to protect themselves, their villages, their families, or their clans.”
Dr. John Kelly, ACSS’s Associate Dean, said increasing the flexibility of security forces is only one aspect of a broader approach Africa must take to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The United States and its African friends, he said, must become better at the art of cooperation and learn to carry on as teammates.
“Terrorist and criminal organizations change all the time,” he said. “We need new rules to deal with new circumstances. We need to consult with each other. We need to work together to come up with shared solutions.”