Getting to Yes: Understanding the funding processes for Security Cooperation events


DSC_0519Funding approvals for an OSC equate to engagements, which every OSC wants.  Understanding how to obligate and funding it correctly, who is responsible for that, and lastly how to spend it is key to being a successful OSC.   You have previously be instructed on how to execute the Foreign Military Sales system, but not in-depth about the issues you may encounter with the rest of the funding sources in Africa.

This blog will attempt to inform you on a very technically focused area.  I will not say that everything I will write in this post is 100% perfect. I rarely say it, but it will depend on the embassy you are serving in and most likely the GSO you are working with.

As an OSC you should never believe anyone (including your LES and any lawyer from any organization – and even me) 100% when they start speaking about funding/money and authorities.  The bureaucracy that surrounds our nation’s funding sources is so vast, so complicated, and often left up to a lawyer’s decision based upon their personality, recommendations, or “opinions.” Because of this, the system just stops when a staff overwhelms the event with all of their information requirements or legal questions.

Unfortunately, every unit within DoD and bureaus within DoS have their own definition of how funds are obligated. Thus, the GCC vs. the Component Command vs. the unit tasked to execute SFA vs. DoS- all have somewhat different ways to contract, obligate, and execute funding.  Then compound that by 100 or 1,000,000% when mixing services amongst DoD and DoS (Title 10/22). Fortunately, there are ways to work with, through or around these organizations to achieve the event and effect you are hoping for.

A Colonel once told me smoothly “Ok, how do we get to yes here.” When he said that I realized:

  1. Why he achieved O6,
  2. Sometimes it is about jumping through the hoops of the system, and
  3. Sometimes it takes moving something to the O6 level “to get to yes here.”

An OSC wants the yes. Knowing who to talk to and influence; and what form to fill out in order to get to yes is an important role of an OSC. Understanding the bureaucracy of the ends, ways, and means of the GCC is also important.  Most important though is to understand the ways your embassy GSO sees DoD funding, and to a greater extent DoS funding supporting DoD events.

Homework: before you read this blog I ask that you read through the following references: DoS cable: “Policy Guidance on Embassy Support in Implementing State-Funded Security Assistance Programs Including Processing Host Government Reimbursements” and the references included in the cable.

Terms of reference

Understanding the flow of money, how it is authorized, appropriated/allocated, obligated, contracted and then dispersed is a fundamental key to the success of being a successful OSC.  The process through which the DoD funds your events compared to the DoS are similar in some areas, specifically, both use the FMS system for some security assistance and security force assistance events, but different in many other areas.  Definitions are key to this understanding.  Below are some key terms of reference you should understand and some key questions you should regularly ask.

Authority: the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience. OSC’s care about Congressional Authority and Combatant Command Authority.

OSC question: Under what authority is this program?

Look at your Security Cooperation Programs Book and those are the programs/authorities you are looking for.

Authorization: a document giving official permission.

OSC question #1: Has this been Congressionally Notified?

If it has, what document authorized it? An OSC should always ask for this documentation.

OSC question #2: Has the GCC approved this? (For M2M/FAM only).

Allocate: distribute (resources or duties) for a particular purpose.

OSC question: Has DSCA allocated the funds to the Military Departments (MILDEP) and have they contracted the funds or sent them via MIPR to the Components?

Obligate: commit (assets) as security. “The money must be obligated within 30 days or by 30 September.”

OSC question: have the MILDEP’s or Components obligated these funds?

(Note: each agency/component (and each of their lawyers) may give you a different position on what is required to obligate funds. Some will say once it is on a Letter of Acceptance (LOA) it is obligated, others will say once it is MIPR’d from the MILDEPs to the components it is obligated, others will say once the funds have been contracted they are officially obligated. I agree with the later.)

Contract: enter into a formal and legally binding agreement. “The local authority will contract with a wide range of agencies to provide services.”

OSC Question: What are the contracts the MILDEP or Component has written, what are the terms of service, and for what services for this event?

Unauthorized Commitment: “an agreement or purchase that is not binding solely because the Government representative who made it lacked the authority to enter into that agreement on behalf of the Government.” – Federal Acquisition Regulation FAR 1.602-3(a).

International Travel Order:

Now that you understand the key terms of reference, let’s now look into funding. Most Security Cooperation/Assistance practitioners will ask/talk about whether or not something is Title 22 (DoS) or Title 10 (DoD) funded.  Personally, I concern myself with what their funds can do and what they cannot do, and who obligates (see key terms of reference) those funds.  As an OSC eventually you should care less about whether or not something is DoS or DoD-funded, and more about the effect you are trying to get to. That discussion is for a different blog. For now, you need to ask…

Title 10 or Title 22? Does it matter?

Military to Military (M2M) – Tactical Combat Team (TCT): The authority for an M2M-TCT event comes from the United States Congress through the US Code 10. These are authorized through the Combatant Command or Component Operations & Maintenance (O&M) funding. The authority for a TCT comes from the Combatant Command through an OPORD, is allocated through the GCC M2M manager and J8 or one of the Components G/N-3 and G/N-8, and should be obligated/contracted normally through DTS for TDY expenses (travel, lodging, rental car). Some expenses may need to be contracted by the executing component (interpreters).  The GSO or FMO should not provide any assistance with this event.

M2M – FAM: The authority for an M2M-FAM event comes from the United States Congress through the US Code 10. These are authorized by the GCC (O&M) funding.  The authority for a FAM comes from the GCC through the GCC Chief of Staff’s signature, is allocated through the J5 and J8, and should be obligated/contracted for foreign travelers via an international travel order from the GCC.  US DoD members travel must be funded via O&M funding through DTS.  Civilian partner nation travel can also be funded via this system. The GSO or FMO may provide assistance with this event through the execution of the International Travel Order (ITO), but since it is Title 10 funding, per the FAM they aren’t required to.

SFA (Section 333): The authority for a 333 case comes from the United States Congress through the US Code 10, NDAA 2017 Chapter 16, section 333.  The funds are allocated by the US Treasury to the DSCA and then onward the appropriate MILDEP.  The funds are then obligated/contracted by the MILDEP or Components, based upon the line number on the LOA.  This uses the pseudo-FMS system.  The GSO or FMO should not provide any assistance with this event.

GPOI (TSTCP/PREACT/AMSI/PKO (ACOTA)): The authority for GPOI comes from the United States Congress through the US Code 22.  The funds are allocated by the US Treasury to the DoS and then onward to contractors DoS has contracted or to DSCA if DoS chooses to use the FMS system.  ACOTA regularly is contracted by DoS; AMSI is usually MIPR’d to the component executing it or contracted by DoS, and the other two are usually executed through DSCA and the pseudo-FMS system.  The GSO or FMO should provide assistance with this event per the DoS guidance.

FMF (FMF/AMEP/ARCT): The authority for FMF comes from the United States Congress through the US Code 22.  The funds are allocated by the US Treasury to the DoS and then onward to contractors DoS has contracted or to DSCA.  FMF and ARCT, which is a subset of FMF, use the FMS system.  AMEP is executed by DoS and MIPR’d to the agency/component executing it. The GSO or FMO should provide assistance with this event per the DoS guidance; however, once the funds are transferred to DSCA and further on to a MILDEP or Component the color of money has changed to DoD (and its regulations concerning procurement/contracting) and your GSO no longer can assist without significant assistance from G/J8s and DoS finance personnel.

IMET / E-IMET: The authority for IMET comes from the United States Congress through the US Code 22.  The funds are allocated by the US Treasury to the DoS and then onward to the MILDEP executing the training. The GSO or FMO should provide assistance with this event per the DoS guidance.

HA / HCA / HMA: The authority for these programs comes from the United States Congress through the US Code 10. The funds are authorized by the CCMD through the OHASIS system and are obligated through one of the MILDEPs. The GSO or FMO should not provide any assistance with this event.

As I’ve tried to outline above – it matters whether the funds are T10 or T22.  That is the first question you should always ask.  What system and through what agency/MILDEP you go through depends on “the color of the money.” Learn the programs, learn the money cycles, and you will understand the systems through which all of these are funded.

Embassy Funding Processes

Most embassy GSOs in Africa don’t adhere strictly/100% to the Foreign Assistance Manuals under which the Department of State executes its missions.  This is such a weird concept for DoD personnel to understand.  Can you imagine if our regulations were written so vaguely that they allowed for a single individual to “determine” how to execute something based on the “situation on the ground.” It almost sounds a lot like the Mission Command Concept the United States Army has tried to implement over the past decade.  The “it depends” factor grows by 100% because of this, and at the end of the day it depends on the GSO’s understanding of the FAM, the DoD, their personality, and your personal relationship with them.  This is where personalities matter. Welcome to the world of diplomacy.  I hate the “it depends” factor, but it is what it is with this area.

Who is this GSO person?

The GSO is the only person (when present / when not the Management Officer will do it) who is authorized to obligate funds on behalf of the United States in the U.S. Embassy.  One of the jobs of the GSO is a procurement/contracting officer who has a warrant/grant authority.  The GSO’s grant is for US Embassy operations only.

What does that mean?  Well the GSO buys you electricity to run your computer, they buy your paper for your printer, and they buy you fuel for your vehicle. They cannot buy anything for the host nation.  The GSO cannot procure through a contractual process anything that is given/granted/donated to the partner nation.  This is an area where some GSOs interpret the FAM differently.

Is this in support of the OSC’s mission for the embassy or is this for the partner nation?  That is the biggest grey area you must learn to navigate.  Words matter in the discussions/procurement orders on this.  Whatever you do, don’t burn your relationship with the GSO. However, don’t lie to get something done.  It comes back to the color of money.  Where the money comes from and what it is allocated for determines what the GSO can or cannot procure for those funds.

What does the FAM and DoS guidance say?

If you read the guidance from DoS I referenced then you are more than likely confused.  I love how DoS centric that guidance is – basically if it is DoS funds it they will help the OSC with it.  If not, they won’t. So much for interagency cooperation!  There’s more to it than that simple analysis. You should read that guidance as a forcing function from DoS to DoD telling them to use the assets DoD has and the embassy doesn’t, in order to execute Security Cooperation events.  The easy answer is having the OSC do it, the right answer is having the components/agencies do it.

Don’t confuse the GSO procuring items with DoD funding for your office in order to execute your duties within the embassy (paper, fuel, vehicles, staples, housing rent, electricity, etc.), with the FMO signing an authorization for the cash cage to disperse funding for an IMET/ M2M-FAM ITO, with the GSO reimbursing the partner nation for fuel use during a PKO ACOTA training event, or with the GSO denying a translator request for a DoD M2M event.  These are all events that your budget or training LES’s will execute, but they are all using different US Codes and different authorities, obligations, etc.

Key takeaways from the DoS Cable:

  1. Is it T10 or T22 funded?
  2. If T22 then the GSO should assist somehow with it. If T10 then DoD should procure/contract EVERYTHING.
  3. GSO’s can’t grant anything to partner nations, so the guidance is to have the partner nation procure the items for the training event. This is where the Memorandum of Understanding guidance comes into play (not an agreement because you and everyone else in the world except the DoS are not authorized to come to an agreement with a foreign nation). You will need to figure out the going rate for fuel, where it will be stored, how it will be delivered, etc. and put it in the MoU.  Basically, you and the partner nation agree in the document that the OSC/DoS/DoD will reimburse them for ??,??? gallons of diesel fuel used during training that cost ??,??.  Good luck tracking those costs. Task your trainers to do that.
  4. The CCMD has yet to address or even understand the issues this policy creates for its OSCs, which was released in 2015. One OSC put this issue on their bi-weekly report for three months in a row and no one solved the issue.

What is the reality in an African embassy?

Military to Military (M2M) – Tactical Combat Team (TCT): This event should be funded by DoD T10.  Funds for travel expenses should be obligated and reimbursed through DTS (travel, lodging, rental car).  Other expenses such as translators, printing, conference room rents, etc. should be contracted through the DoD agency/component.  For example, if USARAF, NAVAF, etc. are executing a three-day M2M-TCT in your country the GSO should not have one procurement requirement for them.  Another common example is a National Guard State Partnership Program M2M event.  Any procurement requirements required for the event should be executed by the National Guard’s contracting agency.  Your budget LES should provide either component/agency with three local vendors for whatever requirement they have and then that component/agency’s contracting command should work directly with the vendor to procure whatever is needed.

M2M – FAM: This is executed via an ITO from the GCC.  Your GSO should have minimal interaction in this process other than transferring TDY funds to the traveler from the ITO.  Some embassy travel offices still procure tickets for ITOs, which is counter to the cable’s guidance; however, due to local constraints, they may have to.  This one is in the “it depends” category.

SFA (Section 333): This one definitely should never encounter the “it depends” category. Your GSO should never do anything for a DoD 333 Building Partnership Capability / SFA case.  This is executed through the pseudo-FMS system and everything is contracted by the component.  The issue comes when the host nation changes dates or requirements, or the component planners didn’t plan for everything. I highly suggest to start doing MoU’s for all of these before the 19/30 Sep deadline to obligate funding, and during the final PDSS by the Component. This may stop most of the issues occurring with BPC cases.  Once you pass that date – it is as if the concrete has been poured – there’s no going back and changing things.

PKO: The DoS cable I referenced was written to address mainly PKO.  If you have an approved PKO case you will execute it in the following ways: 1) ACOTA, 2) USAFRICOM, or 3) Other.  If it is an ACOTA PKO program your embassy GSO (and most of the embassy) will not see many requirements if everything is contracted through ACOTA.  However, ACOTA may request the host nation provide interpreters, fuel, etc. through which afterward, and in accordance with the MoU signed, the GSO will reimburse the host nation for the expenses agreed upon and incurred during the training event. If USAFRICOM executes a PKO funded program it could be through the pseudo-FMS system, which means T10 and no GSO support.  PKO is the most “loosy goosy” of any security assistance program.  I love it for that – it is adaptable, quick, reactive, changeable, doesn’t expire/ has mandated dates to obligate and expend, etc.  PKO is so easy it makes some OSC’s think everything is that way.  Be careful of the PKO trap – I’ve seen many problems created because of a lack of planning with PKO as with 333.  Bottomline – they reference a MoU for a reason: take the time and the effort to make the host nation sign an agreement, and hold them to it.

FMF/TSTCP/PREACT/ARCT: These are T22 executed through the DSCA and the pseudo-FMS or FMS systems, which results in the money looking like T10.  Then only thing your GSO may assist with is customs clearances for incoming materials.  However, DoS can opt to use TSTCP/PREACT/ARCT through direct contracting, which they do but rarely.

AMEP: This is FMF which is transferred to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.  It more than likely will be executed in many different ways.  You could have a construction which will be executed by USACE or NAVFAC and will be treated as T10; TDY military members or contractors which should be treated as an M2M-TCT (T10); or lastly equipment which is procured through a DoD system like T10.  AMEP may want to use the GSO to procure items on its behalf, but you should force them not to, or use the cable’s guidance and write a MoU and have the GSO reimburse the host nation based upon that MoU.

IMET / E-IMET: The GSO will support IMET through ITOs produced by the MILDEP executing the course requested.  The rub may come with E-IMETs hosted in the country where you need room rentals or translators.  This will be done IAW the cable on a reimbursable rate stated in the MoU.  (See a trend here?)

I’m going to stop here…because even I’m getting confused!

One question I know some older OSCs are saying right now – What? That’s not the way it is/was done here – you are wrong! The issue is most GSO’s in Africa are first-termers, they have little clue on DoD systems, and they see the OSC as T22, so they do whatever the OSC asks.  Most OSCs in Africa are also first-termers also with little understanding of DoD obligating/contracting systems and requirements. The LES who is there just wants to get the mission done and has previously done it that way so they continue to “grease the skids” within the LES community to make it happen.

From what I have seen this becomes an issue when the GSO goes through their regular “IG inspection” or they (and/or the FMO) go to a conference/training event and return with some new policy.  I spent my last year as an OSC with an FMO who changed our ITO process every month for a year.  Then she PCS’d and a new FMO came in and changed back to what we were doing originally.  I’ve tried to understand their (DoS) system and realized it is better to understand our system (DoD) and make DoD elements adhere to DoS policies. When they say no, then I can say – No this is Department of State funding, not Department of Defense funding. That normally gets them back in line with supporting you (if you did the work to have a MoU!).

Disclaimer: This blog should make it easier for you to understand one of the most complex areas for an OSC.  I say should because funding security cooperation events are complex. By no means can this blog be referenced when you are being investigated for committing an unauthorized commitment.  That, my friend, is your problem and not this blogs.

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