Today, the United States faces a security paradox. On the one hand, the U.S. military is unrivaled in size, strength, capacity, and budget; on the other hand, the global operating environment of the 21st century is diffuse and complex, and threats are often asymmetric and transnational. Such challenges stipulate that no single nation, regardless of its traditional military might, can completely address its security objectives alone. The United States is no exception. Developing a network of competent partners that can share the burdens and responsibilities of global security, embracing a strategy of coalition and cooperation, is therefore vital to U.S. interests.
The challenge is how to best invest resources to help establish strong and capable defense partners. To this end, traditional security cooperation and assistance approaches have proven insufficient to instate sustained improvements to partners’ defense sectors. Defense institution building (DIB) seeks to fill this gap by supporting partner stakeholders as they seek to develop the systemic capabilities and strong institutional foundations needed for legitimate, effective, professional, and sustainable defense sectors that are responsive to civilian control and contribute to the overall security and prosperity of the state—and in turn, to regional stability and U.S. national security.
Effective, Legitimate, Secure: Insights for Defense Institution Building offers an introduction to the concept of DIB and argues that establishing effective and legitimate defense institutions to undergird a partner’s defense establishment is the only way to ensure long-term security.