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Security Cooperation; A Key to the Challenges of the 21st Century

Authored by Colonel Gregory J. Dyekman. | November 2007

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Peacetime military engagement has been a key component of U.S. defense strategy in the post-Cold War era to shape the international environment in ways favorable to U.S. interests. Since September 11, 2001 (9/11), a concerted Department of Defense effort has transformed engagement activities to a broader concept of security cooperation aimed at creating partnerships and building the capacity of allies and partners to meet the challenges of the uncertain and complex security environment. When it comes to security cooperation, however, there will always be a tension between balancing military readiness with security cooperation. Most argue that readiness is the most important priority. But, if adequately funded and properly executed, security cooperation activities may build partners and prevent conflicts. Investing early in shaping activities may avoid exponentially larger expenditures later. In the strategic environment over the next decade, this tension will continue to exist and manifest itself in challenges to security cooperation in resourcing, assessment, and coordination. This paper examines the role of security cooperation in the emerging security environment and the challenges the United States must overcome to be effective.


Since 9/11, improved strategic planning guidance and innovative program approaches to security cooperation have done much to build partner capacity and transform others' militaries to prosecute the GWOT and deal with regional instability. Despite our successes, the United States must overcome several challenges. First, GCCs must receive more dedicated and predictable resources and authorities. Funding streams must be consolidated and reforms initiated that provide GCCs more influence in the allocation of fiscal resources for security cooperation. TSCPs must be integrated into the Global Force Management construct to provide GCCs with the predictable manning resources necessary for shaping their AORs. In the long term, the civilian defense leadership must address the necessary military end-strengths GCCs will need to accomplish the myriad of steady-state and surge "Boots on the Ground" tasks required of our QDR strategy. Improved resourcing must also include a reexamination of the existing Cold War legislative authorities under which the U.S. Government conducts its security cooperation efforts. Legislative initiatives to streamline the authorities in which GCCs are able to build the capabilities and capacity of partner nations must be articulated and fully funded. In the long term, the United States must completely reexamine the Foreign Assistance Act and conduct broad reform of the framework with which we provide security assistance, and it is imperative that COCOMs have flexible resource authorities to meet current challenges.

Second, the United States must be able to measure the effectiveness of our security cooperation efforts to ensure we are prioritizing programs and properly applying resources to achieve the desired strategic outcomes. Appropriate assessment constructs are needed to gauge the return on security cooperation investments. Any accountability construct must address the requirement for a balanced approach to security cooperation. Programs consisting of both short-term partner capacity development and long-term objectives aimed at building trust, will, and regional access are necessary.

Finally, the GCC's ability to coordinate the disparate security cooperation programs conducted within their AORs must be improved. Improved processes to leverage regional and global partners in security cooperation must be implemented. JIACGs must be fully staffed and assigned the personnel necessary to make authoritative resourcing decisions regarding security cooperation and to strengthen interagency planning at the COCOM level. In the long term, integrating interagency participation into DoD planning must be addressed. Improved processes to integrate and coordinate security cooperation strategies across the U.S. Government and with allied partners are necessary to both improve synergy and avoid duplication of efforts in the fiscally constrained environment the United States is likely to face. With improvements in resourcing, assessment, and coordination, security cooperation may well prove to be the decisive strategy for dealing with the challenges of the 21st century.