Becoming an OSC Part 1: The Seven Functions of an OSC

You just received your assignment notice to be a Chief, Office of Security Cooperation and during IRT you should have become somewhat familiar with that office.  Over the next few months, you will attend the Defense Institute of Security Cooperation Studies (DISCS) course, conduct office calls in the Washington, D.C. area, and in-process to Stuttgart.  Most of this time will be a firehose of programs, dollar amounts, and federal agencies or POCs that you more than likely will not understand exactly how they fit into the puzzle of Security Cooperation.  Add into that the stress of conducting your first full PCS to Africa and the experience is more than your typical move as a Service Member.  Hopefully, your experiences from IRT prepared you for the PCS, and the next three blogs should help with everything else.

First of all – what’s in a name? Is it an Office of Security Cooperation (OSC), a Security Cooperation Office/Officer (SCO), an Office of Defense Cooperation (ODC), or whatever else each Area of Responsibility (AOR) decides to call it?  In Africa, you are an OSC.  Before USAFRICOM some of the officers were called United States Liaison Office (USLO), because the office at the time was not solely a Defense Attaché or an OSC, the officer there was both.  Only one USLO remains in the USAFRICOM AOR, and the name has stayed for merely historical and partner nation reasons.  All the other officers are now called OSCs. Some OSCs like to further define themselves by adding their three-letter designation onto their OSC line (i.e., OSCDJI, OSCETH, OSCSOM, etc.).

Now that you know who and what you are – what are you legally tasked with doing?  In your upcoming DISCS course, they will continuously refer to the Foreign Assistance Act, for a good reason.  Of the many things this act outlines, for you, it establishes the seven functions you are required to execute as an OSC.  Take some time to read through Section 515 of the Foreign Assistance Act: Overseas Management of Assistance and Sales Programs.

“a) In order to carry out his responsibilities for the management of international security assistance programs conducted under this chapter, chapter 5 of this part, and the Arms Export Control Act, the President may assign members of the Armed Forces of the United States to a foreign country to perform one or more of the following functions:

(1) equipment and services case management;

(2) training management;

(3) program monitoring;

(4) evaluation and planning of the host government’s military capabilities and requirements;

(5) administrative support;

(6) promoting rationalization, standardization, interoperability, and other defense cooperation

(7) liaison functions exclusive of advisory and training assistance.

(b) Advisory and training assistance conducted by military personnel assigned under this section shall be kept to an absolute minimum. It is the sense of the Congress that advising and training assistance in countries to which military personnel are assigned under this section shall be provided primarily by other personnel who are not assigned under this section and who are detailed for limited periods to perform specific tasks.

(c)(1) The number of members of the Armed Forces assigned to a foreign country under this section may not exceed six unless specifically authorized by the Congress. The President may waive this limitation if he determines and reports to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on of Representatives, 30 days prior to the introduction of the additional military personnel, that United States national interests require that more than six members of the Armed Forces be assigned under this section to carry out international security assistance programs in a country not specified in this paragraph. Pakistan, Tunisia, El Salvador, Honduras, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Thailand, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Greece, Portugal, Spain, and Turkey are authorized to have military personnel strengths larger than six under this section to carry out international security assistance programs.

(2) The total number of members of the Armed Forces assigned under this section to a foreign country in a fiscal year may not exceed the number justified to the Congress for that country in the congressional presentation materials for that fiscal year, unless the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on House of Representatives are notified 30 days in advance of the introduction of the additional military personnel.

(d) Effective October 1, 1989, of the United States military personnel other than the Coast Guard management of international security assistance programs under this section shall be charged to or reimbursed from funds made available to carry out this chapter or the Arms Export Control Act, such costs which are either paid directly for such defense services under section 21(a) of the Arms Export Control Act or reimbursed from charges for services collected from foreign governments pursuant to section 21(e) and section 43(b) of that Act.

(e) Members of the Armed Forces assigned to a foreign country under this section shall serve under the direction and supervision of the Chief of the United States Diplomatic Mission to that country.

(f) The President shall continue to instruct United States diplomatic and military personnel in the United States missions abroad that they should not encourage, promote, or influence the purchase by any foreign country of United States-made military equipment, unless they are specifically instructed to do so by an appropriate official of the executive branch.”

All laws use very few words, which mean tremendous things.  There is anywhere between three and nine things section 515 says an OSC must do, and three things you must not.  Sounds simple, right?  There is a reason why some people in the Foreign Area Officer profession shun OSC work…The devil is in the details, and most of the time no one ever sees all the work you put into getting the “simplest” thing accomplished as an OSC.  In Africa, you will do all nine things as more than likely you are the only officer in your office, and you should not do the three outlined by the FAA.

Just to review the nine requirements, you must do:

(1)    equipment and services case management (Foreign Military Sales (FMS));

(2)    training management (International Military Education and Training (IMET), English language training labs);

(3)    program monitoring (FMS, PEPFAR/Defense HIV/AID Prevention Program (DHAPP), Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA), US Army Medical Command);

(4)    evaluation and planning of the host government’s military capabilities and requirements (USAFRICOM Security Force Assessments, USAFRICOM Country Coordination Plan, DoS Integrated Country Strategy)

(5)    administrative support (DSCA budget, USAFRICOM budget, U.S. Embassy ICASS);

(6)    promoting rationalization, standardization, interoperability, and other defense cooperation (USAFRICOM exercises and conferences, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) programs, DoD Counterterrorism Fellowship Program (CTFP), DSCA Defense Institution Building programs);

(7)    liaison functions exclusive of advisory and training assistance (Status of Forces Agreements, National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program; DoD, DoS, and U.S. Congressional Senior Leader Engagements, Special Operations Forces, Bi-lateral Defense Committees)

(8)    OSC budget/costs are paid for under the Arms Export Control Act (your expenses are paid for by DSCA’s 3.5% FMS charge, your NCO or others probably are paid for by USAFRICOM);

(9)    you must serve under Chief of Mission Authority (but you are Senior Rated by USAFRICOM, and your bills are paid for by DSCA).

You will have more than three bosses as an African OSC….they will all have different perspectives and more than likely one time in your tour you will assume an angry face…when you do – it’s time for a vacation!

And the three things you cannot do:

(1)    advisory and training assistance (you personally cannot train the partner nation, and you cannot advise them on tactics, operations or strategies) – you are not Sir Lawrence of Arabia as much as you might want to be!;

(2)    more than six people in your office unless authorized by Congress (you’ll never have this issue in Africa so don’t worry about it);

(3)    you cannot “encourage, promote, or influence the purchase by any foreign country…” You should never find yourself in a position where you are advocating that the partner nation buys “American compared to Chinese.”  You are not an arms dealer, let the arms companies send over their employees to do that job. You are not LtCol (R) Oliver North or Nicolas Cage (although you will often feel like it), and if you find yourself in that position, you should walk away before you get yourself in trouble.

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Lastly, as you finish graduate school, IRT, or whatever training you are more than likely in before becoming an OSC, take the time to review the following documents and reflect upon your role:

“US Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa” by The White House

U.S. Department of State-USAID FY 2014–2017 Joint Strategic Plan

“Defense Is From Mars State Is From Venus” By Colonel Rickey L. Rife.

DoDD 5205.75, DoD Operations at U.S. Embassies

DoD Directive 5132.03, DoD Policy and Responsibilities Relating To Security Cooperation

DoD Instruction 5132.12, Staffing of Security Cooperation Organizations (SCOs) and the Selection and Training of Security Cooperation Personnel

Now go to DISCS and don’t fall asleep during class.

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