UPDATE: Major Robert Firman, USAF, a public affairs spokesman at the Office of the Secretary of Defense, told Stars and Stripes on December 11th that “The U.S. military already has security and logistics personnel in Bangui to help unload the C-17s when they arrive,” but that the “current U.S. military footprint in the CAR is ‘very, very small.” It is not clear whether these announcements, which required respondents to present proposals by no later than December 13th, this Friday, are potentially to support the activities of this limited element already in CAR. No further details were provided about the size or structure of this element either.
Today [December 10th], the Regional Contracting Office Africa, part of the 414th Contracting Support Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, issued one Requests for Information (RFI) and two Sources Sought Synopses (SSS) specifically relating to Central African Republic. It is immediately important to acknowledge, as noted in the announcements, that RFI and SSS are not solicitations. Whatever planning process led to these announcements may never get any further than this.
Still, the RFI remains particularly interesting in that it alludes specifically to the potential for US military personnel to be conducting operations in and around CAR’s capital, Bangui in the near future. Currently, the US has only acknowledged planned airlift support for the deployment of African peacekeepers and monetary support for the peacekeeping mission. RFI W56PFY-14-G-9999, titled “Potable Bottled Water in Central Africa Republic, Africa” has four detailed requirements. Number one is:
1. Provide potable bottle water delivery to U.S. Military personnel in Central Africa Republic.
Both this RFI and the one for SSS, W56PFY-14-Q-9999, which is for “French and Sangho Language Interpreters,” name the place of performance for such proposed work as being in and around Bangui. The last SSS, W56PFY-14-Q-9998, for “Rental Vehicles for Central African Republic, Africa,” does not specifically note a place of performance in CAR. It does however list the vehicles that would be sought should a formal solicitation be issued:
“[including but] not limited to; 5 and 7 passenger SUV’s, 4 passenger Pick-up Truck, 10 passenger Van, 4 door Sedan and Busses [sic].”
The requirements only for bottled water and no other similar supplies and for vehicles including passenger vans and buses suggest that this might be part of planning for a non-combatant evacuation operation (NEO). Another possibility might be a proposed, and very limited humanitarian aid operation. As CAR continues to experience greater instability and violence either one of these scenarios seem broadly reasonable.
In addition, depending on how many individuals would have to be evacuated, an NEO in CAR could also be a good opportunity to test the capabilities of US Africa Command’s new Special Purpose Marine Air Ground Task Force – Crisis Response (SPMAGTF-CR), which was created in response to the events in Benghazi, Libya in September 2012. Currently based in Spain, SPMAGTF-CR has both KC-130J Hercules and MV-22B Osprey aircraft. The unit participated in two training events in November. The first involved a long range flight from Spain to Senegal, during which SPMATF-CR’s Osprey’s helped deploy Marines assigned to AFRICOM’s other SPMAGTF, SPMAGTF – Africa, for a training engagement there. The second was conducted in Spain with other Marine units and involved “practicing…procedures to evacuate personnel from a notional embassy.”