News | Nov. 20, 2017


By Alexandra Kerr and Michael Miklaucic Effective, Legitimate, Secure: Insights For Defense Institution Building

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Defense institution building (DIB) must be studied, understood, and refined as a discipline in order to generate the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively support partner nations in building professional defense institutions. Yet, while DIB has grown in importance in the past two decades, the development of DIB programs at the Department of Defense (DOD) has primarily been a bottom-up effort, leaving a vacuum in top-level thinking on the issue. Despite growing knowledge and experience gained regarding DIB in recent years, there remains a gap in dedicated literature on this relatively new discipline. Aware of this gap, Thomas (“Tommy”) Ross approached the National Defense University during the summer of 2015 with the idea of developing a book devoted entirely to DIB. As the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation, Tommy recognized both the importance and the underutilization of DIB as a key instrument in the security assistance and cooperation toolkit, as well as the extent of untapped knowledge and expertise in the nascent DIB community.

This book draws from that DIB community, as well as the relevant experience of other countries and fields, to frame the challenge of defense institution building and set out the right questions for future development of the discipline. The chapters provide context for future policy and decision making in the Pentagon, Congress, and the armed services; they draw from and add to the security sector reform community, and their insights provide a base upon which those undertaking security cooperation and security assistance activities can further develop this crucial element of U.S. national security. The insights will also serve DIB partner and allied countries, as they too navigate the process of building effective defense institutions.

Many individuals contributed to this volume. The authors not only wrote the chapters, but participated in workshops and conversations, sharing insights and experience from the ground that were instrumental in shaping the volume’s content. Our sincerest thanks to Alex Alemán, Paul Bisca, Dennis Blair, Frank Boland, Mike Boomer, Dave Cate, Julie Chalfin, Paul Clarke, Tom Davies, Dickie Davis, Nadia Gerspacher, Jeanne Giraldo, Querine Hanlon, Tim Hoffman, Jack Kem, Erik Leklem, Chip Leonard, Gary Milante, Renanah Miles, Robert Perito, Juan Carlos Pinzón, Tommy Ross, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, and George Topic. We owe a special debt of gratitude to Dave Cate, Jeanne Giraldo, and George Topic for their expert insights throughout the process.

The volume also benefitted from meetings that brought together experts from a variety of sectors, in addition to the authors, to discuss the concept of DIB in depth and share perspectives and experiences. We are especially grateful to those experts in the broader DIB community who attended workshops on DIB and to those that kindly agreed to discuss various aspects of security assistance and defense institution building in order to help shape the volume, including: Luis Bitencourt, Alejandra Bolanos, Scott Buchanan, John F. Kelly, James Lowe, Steven Peterson, Tiffany Petros, and James Schear. Our thanks also to Brian Chappell who provided valuable support and much appreciated humor throughout the project’s development.

The editors and the Center for Complex Operations are especially grateful to our interns, Christopher Johnson for his outstanding research and editorial input, and Clark Frye, Kelsey Patterson and Zaira Pirzada for their dedication and astute assistance in helping marshal this volume to its conclusion. Our thanks also to Viviana Edwards for laying the book out.

Finally, Tommy Ross has proven himself a thought leader in this field, and we are grateful for his collaboration throughout. His recognition of the importance of DIB has helped to distinguish it as a discipline and elevated it to a major element of DOD’s approach to security cooperation.

Alexandra Kerr & Michael Miklaucic