The fourteenth annual ISOA Summit offered attendees a chance to hear from many leading figures in the Stability Operations. Keynote speakers from the State Department and Department of Defense shared insights from their years of experience. This year we were also fortunate to hear from Congressman Michael Waltz newly elected in 2019 from Florida’s 6th district, he is no stranger to Stability Operations. A combat-decorated Green Beret and twenty-year army veteran, Waltz served as a White House and Pentagon advisor. He addressed concerns facing our industry and how our member companies can take a larger role in addressing them.
International stability operations bring constancy to destabilized and chaotic regions and these effort have enormous strategic value with regard to supporting the safety and prosperity of a given region. Waltz recognized the difficulty and importance of the work the Stability Operations Industry does in the field. A former business owner himself, he sympathized with the small business owners in the audience, and his military background gives him an understanding of what it’s like to work in hostile environments constantly dealing with threats.
Stability Operations seek to minimize these threats for locals while also serving America’s national interest. Waltz believes America is safest when we lead by supporting stability abroad, which also involves dealing with competition among great powers and continuing the fight against extremists and rogue states like Iran. The Stability Operations Industry serves a critical role in supporting U.S. stability policies. Within these battles are policy needs that require the vital services of ISOA members. Private contractors serve a critical role supporting U.S. government policies on the ground bringing language and cultural fluency along with other expertise.
Stability operations also demonstrate the invaluable role of women giving them opportunities to participate in reconstruction and development and shaping a culture that leaves no space for extremists, undermining their ability to recruit. Half of an entire population should not be left out of peace talks or the negotiating process, and Waltz supports putting experienced women in areas that demand an understanding of the realities on the ground. Winning the fight against countries such as Iran, is demonstrable when women have the opportunity to actively challenge a regime, to actually march in the streets.
Waltz bemoans that America lacks a defined strategy for supporting stabilization efforts abroad. This lack of strategy may stem from a lack of diversity as only a handful of legislators have the perspective of having served in the military. Therefore, he created a bipartisan caucus of military veterans titled “For Country” which recognizes the need for veteran expertise in the private and public sector and leverages their considerable talents in Congress.
Waltz is also a staunch supporter of reinvigorating the Peace Corps and rebuilding a culture of service in America. For the United States learning languages and cultures is vitally important, and understanding these different cultures is critical to developing an overarching strategy to undermine extremism.
During the question and answer portion of his talk Congressman Waltz emphasized the importance of U.S. funding for international stability operations and the role ISOA plays in supporting a vital industry. Civilian personal can replace military personnel in many cases, but the military needs to determine whether their personnel are absolutely necessary to a project or mission, or if a civilian can do the job just as well or better. Waltz also highlighted the value of the National Guard which also brings civilian skills that make them even more invaluable for stability operations then regular military units.
In summarizing his key points Waltz again highlighted that Americans need to recognize the value of diplomacy and peace operations if we hope to avoid costly wars and military casualties in the future, and he praised the industry’s efforts in this vital sector.