Collins notes that continued efforts to train and mentor Afghan security forces and national defense institutions will be vital to a meaningful and sustainable transition. But one paragraph in particular really jumped out at me for the apparent misunderstanding it's based upon:
Throughout the process of transition, the U.S. must fence the resources devoted to the advisory and training units that are engaged in building the capacity of Afghan forces. It would be highly dysfunctional if the forces that are making the ANSF more capable have to compete with the shrinking combat forces for money. As we close in on December 2014, the worst of all worlds would be to take resources from those developing Afghan capacity to keep essential combat units in the fight. These drastic choices can be avoided if the Congress appropriates for the Defense and State departments the right amount of funds to keep the strategy in our exit strategy.Funds that support the development of the ANSF -- from tactical training to the provision of materiel to ministerial and institutional mentoring -- are currently requested and appropriated primarily through the DoD's Afghan Security Forces Fund (ASFF) in the Overseas Contingency Operations account. (See the first page of this SIGAR pdf for a few more details.) Collins surely knows this, but his choice of words may create some confusion for those who do not. He's right to suggest that separate Departmental appropriations would help keep capacity- and capability-building funds conceptually and legislatively distinct from the money that facilitates U.S. combat operations, but the presumption or suggestion that this is current SOP is incorrect.
Military aid is typically appropriated to the State Department and provided to partner governments as grant assistance to be used for the purchase of U.S. military equipment and training. The large-scale training and equipping efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have resulted in the creation of an unusual funding model and execution apparatus, in large part because of the significant U.S. troop presence in both countries. Security capacity-building funds for those states have been appropriated directly to Defense Department organizations in-country through ASFF and (in Iraq) ISFF; the U.S. training/transition commands in each country then use those funds to provide training and purchase equipment for the host nation.
This model makes some sense: it's consistent with the military's role as the USG lead for building security capacity in the host nation during combat operations, and it simplifies execution. It's also a bit misleading to suggest that capacity-building dollars aren't sufficiently "fenced" from combat operations funding, seeing as they are conceived, requested, considered, and appropriated under distinct headings (despite ending up with the same Department).
But there are a host of reasons that security assistance and other military aid should be dispersed by State in the peacetime "steady state," and both Congress and the White House seem cognizant of them. (An instructive example: the FY 2012 budget request is the first since the beginning of the war in Iraq to include military aid for that country in the form of State-managed Foreign Military Finance grants as opposed to ISFF. This is consistent with the "normalization" of U.S. security cooperation with Iraq in the wake of the withdrawal of the bulk of American combat forces. See specifically slides 8, 9, 26, and 33 in this pdf.) I am an extremely committed proponent of State's continuing responsibility for security assistance and other military aid. But take one look at what's happened with the Pakistan Counterinsurgency Capability Fund during the budget battles of the last year if you want to see how difficult it will be to adequately resource the training and equipping of ANSF through State Department accounts.
Here's the bottom line: I agree with Collins that security capacity-building funds are essential to our departure from Afghanistan and should be privileged over funds for continued U.S. combat operations, but I fear that in the current fiscal and political climate, a move to channel those funds through the State Department will make them more vulnerable to cuts and have the opposite effect to what's intended.