Much of this aid has been administered by the US Office of Defence Cooperation for Slovakia.
In an interview with The Slovak Spectator, the director of that agency, lieutenant colonel Bradley Hocevar, talked about how the programme works.
"The US Office of Defence Cooperation for Slovakia falls under the main US command in Europe, based in Stuttgart, Germany" Hocevar said, adding that there are 40 such offices around Europe and Africa.
In each country, the US Office of Defence Cooperation closely coordinates its activities with the US Embassy and in some cases is actually located in the embassy building. However, Hocevar believes that it is preferable that the unit operates out of a local defence ministry office as is the case in Slovakia. "It makes the work easier and improves the relationship," Hocevar said.
His office has been operating in Slovakia since 1996 and has distributed over $67 million in partnership assistance since that time. The funds channelled by the US government to the Slovak defence ministry played an important role in Slovakia's preparations for its entry into NATO.
"The most important areas under our administration are the Mil to Mil, (military to military) programme and the partnership exchange programme with the Indiana National Guard," Hocevar said.
"Another agency, The Foreign Military Financing/Sales Office deals with assistance in armament, technological supplies and coordination of assistance. The International Military Education and Training (IMET) provides education and training for Slovaks in different areas of the USA. It also supplies US language teachers to the Slovak armed forces," he explained.
Slovakia also received $7.4 million in the Mil to Mil programme to prepare for joint operations with US forces including last year's training with the already-mentioned Indiana National Guard. This programme included funds for training Slovak officers in the US. Slovakia received a further $10.3 million within the IMET educational programme financed by the US State Department.
"Certainly, we monitor the progress of the people we have trained at US institutions," Hocevar says.
"For example, we are proud of major general Juraj Baránek and brigade general Jaroslav Kuča who have participated in some of our programmes. The Chief of Staff of the Slovak Army General Ľubomír Bulík and the new Defence Minister Frantisek Kašický, also extended their language and professional training at our military institutions. However, the US in no way dictates to the country how the person who underwent training should apply that experience," he added.
Before the adoption of the new law on service terms of professional soldiers, the armed forces did not retain all trained soldiers. Hocevar says that neither his office nor other Slovak commanders have any say as to how long people must serve in the army after the training.
"Still, any institution that wants to invest in the professional growth of its employees must carefully follow the course of their employment. Though soldiers in past not always continued in the military, we know that many of them operate at important positions in other state administration bodies, so the state continues to reap the benefits of their education," Hocevar told the Spectator.
According to Hocevar, despite reductions in other programmes, Slovakia received $1 million for the IMET programme last year and this year. "I hope we will keep up this trend," Hocevar added.
Hocevar says IMET is a very important programme because it raises the skills and knowledge of the staff but also gives insight into the culture of the host country. He recalls the statement of former US Secretary of State Colin Powell in 2002 saying that, in spite of all the budgetary cuts, if he had to preserve one programme, it would be this one.
Hocevar says that the US is happy to have been of assistance to Slovakia in fulfilling one of its most important foreign policy ambitions, entry into NATO.
"While in 2001 we had planned 40 or 45 activities, this year we have planned only 6. However, these are linked to the security priorities of the US government, which include military activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are happy that Slovak military specialists are helping us in these activities," he explained.
7. Aug 2006 at 0:00 | Pavol Vitko