Defense: U.S., Georgia defense leaders sign memo to continue training effort

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Georgian Defense Minister Jaunsher Burchuladze launched the Georgia Defense and Deterrence Enhancement Initiative today in Tbilisi.

Tbilisi, October 18, 2021.- The initiative is a follow-on to the extremely successful Georgia Defense Readiness Program, which will end in December, said senior defense officials speaking on background.

The two men signed a memorandum of understanding setting up the cooperative effort between the two nations. The goal is to help the Georgia Defense Ministry become more efficient and more effective and NATO interoperable.

The initiative will pick up where the Georgia Defense Readiness Program leaves off.

While U.S. and Georgian troops have worked and fought alongside one another in Afghanistan and Iraq, the GDRP specifically aimed to help Georgia defend its sovereign territory.

This was needed because, in 2008, Russia invaded South Ossetia and Abkhazia — two Georgian provinces that make up 20 percent of the landmass of the country. The Russians still occupy the territory.

The $53.4 million GDRP began in 2018 and «was the first time we had trained Georgian forces for territorial defense,» the senior official said. «This is to enable them to resist future Russian aggression in their territory.»

The program trained infantry companies and tactical unit commanders. The program also had an institutional training component to help Georgia create policies and processes to man, train and equip defense forces.

U.S. Army and Marine Corps personnel deployed to Georgia to help with the training, officials said.

«The initiative has been tremendously successful, and we have seen the Georgian defense forces really gain capability in being able to secure their own territory,» the official said.

Georgian and U.S. leaders want to build on this success. The new initiative will build on the progress made, and it will still be focused on territorial defense and on NATO interoperability. Officials expect this program to run six years.

In terms of the institutional piece, the new initiative will stress organizational change management and focus on higher level military units and operations — at the brigade level and higher.

U.S. personnel will provide advisory support at the defense ministry level. U.S. personnel will also help enhance the proficiency of Georgia’s maneuver brigades in combined arms operations to enable them to integrate fires and engineering capabilities.

«All of this is using NATO practices so the Georgians will be trained in the same types of operations as NATO forces,» officials said.

This program will also emphasize that territorial defense is a whole-of-government mission and will work with the Defense Ministry to build these relationships.

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