New AEF for Africa?

US Africa Command is exploring the use of an Africa-centric Air Expeditionary Force cycle to support the command’s work on the continent. Army Gen. William Ward, AFRICOM commander, mentioned the potential application of the special AEF during a Capitol Hill speech June 19 (see above). He said it probably would include a training capability for aircrews and maintainers, as well as providing a civil support capability. Elaborating on the idea, Ward’s chief of staff, Air Force Brig. Gen. Michael Snodgrass, told reporters after the event that the Africa-centric AEF could include a wide range of capabilities, from RED HORSE engineers to contingency response groups to doctors and even finance personnel, depending on what the African partner nation is looking for. The timing of the AEF cycle could be synchronized with African assistance programs conducted by other federal agencies and would operate for as long as deemed necessary by a particular partner nation, Snodgrass said. During his speech, Ward said he expects the Air Force to be deeply involved in building AFRICOM’s capacity over the next few years. “I have never stood up a unified command,” he said. “So I’m learning, I’m experimenting, I’m listening.” AFRICOM was established as a sub-unified command under US European Command in October 2007. Come this October, it will become a full-up unified command. Ward said the African continent is full of challenges, from poverty to regional conflicts. But it also has tremendous opportunities for economic growth and development. Due to its sheer size—encompassing more than three times the land mass of the continental US—and decayed or nonexistent infrastructure, Africa presents a “significant challenge,” Ward said. Intercontinental air infrastructure is not well developed and airspace management tools, such as radar and air traffic control assets, are sparse.