CRS InsightsThe Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) Proposal: Questions for Congress
In his June 26, 2014, amended FY2015 request for Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) appropriations, President Obama seeks $5 billion to establish a new, flexible Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund (CTPF) with broad purposes and authority. The Administration has stated that the CTPF would "build on existing tools and authorities" to establish a "more sustainable and effective" counterterrorism approach, focusing on building the counterterrorism capacity of partners worldwide through "train-and-equip" and other activities. The CTPF could also be used to strengthen DOD's post-Benghazi build-up of embassy protection and personnel recovery capabilities in Africa (see CRS Report IF00029, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) (In Focus), by Lauren Ploch Blanchard). Proposed statutory language for the CTPF would provide $4 billion in Department of Defense (DOD) funds "to enhance its counterterrorism and crisis response activities and to provide support and assistance to foreign security forces, irregular forces, groups, or individuals to conduct, support, or facilitate counterterrorism and crisis response activities." Proposed support includes DOD Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Special Operations, and "enablers" such as transportation and logistics. Proposed State Department funding of $1 billion would augment existing foreign aid accounts for "undertaking counterterrorism purposes worldwide, responding to crises, and addressing regional instability from the conflict in Syria." The request comes amid contentious debate over the evolving nature and degree of the threat posed by Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups, and the appropriate U.S. response. (See recent House and Senate hearing transcripts.)
The CTPF proposal raises many questions regarding counterterrorism strategy, roles, responsibilities, authorities, and Congressional oversight, some of which are listed below.
Issues and Questions for Congress
Flexible Funding Oversight. To increase flexibility, the Administration asks that CTPF funds be available for three years, and be transferable to any DOD account, to specified State accounts, and between the two departments. CTPF monies could be spent anywhere overseas, notwithstanding any other provision of law. For DOD funds, the Administration proposes a prior 15-day notification to congressional defense committees (armed services committees and appropriations defense subcommittees), and for State Department funds a prior five-day notification to appropriations committees. These notifications could be waived for national security reasons (with later notification).Two similar authorities, DOD's "Section 1206" global train-and-equip authority (P.L. 109-163, as amended) and the joint DOD-State Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF, Section 1207. P.L. 112-81, as amended), are subject to limitations elsewhere in law, to State Department approval, and to the oversight of foreign affairs committees (see CRS Report RS22855, Security Assistance Reform: "Section 1206" Background and Issues for Congress, by Nina M. Serafino and CRS Report R42641, Global Security Contingency Fund: Summary and Issue Overview, by Nina M. Serafino). These statutes do not provide authority for U.S. conventional forces to assist "irregular forces, groups, or individuals" but the U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) may provide such assistance with an Ambassador's approval (Section 1208, P.L. 108-375, as amended.).
- Given the lack of specific information provided by the Administration, what justifies Congress providing a new, largely unrestricted, authority for a substantial amount of money not subject to budget limits with little congressional oversight? Do train-and-equip programs require the same flexibility and expedited oversight as crisis response, for which the Administration plans to reserve $500 million in CTPF funds?
- When might the Administration use CTPF funds under Section 1206, GSCF and other authorities, rather than the proposed CTPF authority? Might it be more inclined to use existing authorities if Congress were to raise or lift the current spending limits on them?
- "Section 1206" and the GSCF arguably have not delivered assistance to meet emerging needs as rapidly as Congress intended. How might this new authority be more timely and effective?
Counterterrorism Strategy and Agency Roles. Official statements suggest the CTPF is intended to support U.S. counterterrorism strategy as set forth in a 2013 speech by President Obama and a 2011 policy document. These statements call for whole-of-government approaches comprised not only of military action—including precision strikes against terrorist targets—but also international partnerships, diplomatic engagement, and foreign assistance. Nevertheless, some observers suggest the Administration must better articulate its strategy by clearly linking ends, ways, and means and must more effectively integrate the varied tools of state power in current counterterrorism efforts. Further, critics describe the CTPF as a "militarization" of U.S. counterterrorism strategy.
- To what extent, if any, does the CTPF proposal suggest the Administration is placing greater weight on international partnerships in its counterterrorism strategy? (See CRS Report R43403, The 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) and Defense Strategy: Issues for Congress, by Catherine Dale.)What risks, if any, might this pose, and how might those risks best be assessed?
- What diplomatic efforts and related State Department/USAID assistance might be needed to complement increased training and equipping of foreign security forces and other activities?
- CTFP funds would be allocated through an interagency policy process "jointly led by the National Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget in order to ensure integrated planning and comprehensive oversight...." What roles will the State Department, DOD, and other agencies play in identifying and prioritizing CTPF programming?
Enabling Foreign Partners. The Administration proposes using the CTPF to augment ongoing bilateral and multilateral counterterrorism efforts, increasing direct partner support in the Middle East, Africa, and South and Central Asia. Some $1.5 billion in DOD and State Department monies would fund the Syria Regional Stabilization Initiative to assist Syria's neighbors and vetted elements of the Syrian opposition (see CRS Report RL33487, Armed Conflict in Syria: Overview and U.S. Response, coordinated by Christopher M. Blanchard). The CTPF could also fund new responses to transnational terrorism threats. Some observers believe the proposed CTPF authority—exempt from human rights and other conditions—might be counterproductive.
- What specifically will CTPF funds provide to support partners' counterterrorism efforts in the Middle East and Africa, which are likely focus regions for the CTPF? How much does the United States currently spend on counterterrorism in those regions, and to what effect?
- Do partner nations have sufficient political will and capacity to absorb more counterterrorism programming?
- How might an increase in counterterrorism assistance affect other bilateral or regional policy priorities?
- Apart from vetted elements of the Syrian opposition, what, if any, irregular forces or groups might the CTPF support, and why?
Prioritization of Activities. For participating agencies, the proposed CTPF may force tradeoffs with other priorities. For DOD, the availability of greater resources could lead to over-commitment of already heavily-tasked units, perhaps especially in USSOCOM.
- Are affected DOD entities, State Department offices, and other agencies adequately staffed and resourced to take on an expanded counterterrorism role?
- How will DOD distribute CTPF efforts between Special Operations and conventional forces?
- Will USSOCOM's counterterrorism training missions expand with CTPF? Will "kinetic" counterterrorism activities, disrupting and destroying terrorist networks, expand as well?
(Contributing authors were: Alexis Arieff, Analyst in African Affairs; Amy Belasco, Specialist in U.S. Defense Policy and Budget; Lauren Ploch Blanchard, Specialist in African Affairs; Christopher M. Blanchard, Specialist in Middle Eastern Affairs; Catherine Dale, Specialist in International Security; Andrew Feickert, Specialist in Military Ground Forces; and Carla E. Humud, Analyst in Middle Eastern and African Affairs.)