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Research Questions

  1. How can DoD determine appropriate goals and objectives, and what role should partner nations' requirements have in determining those objectives?
  2. How should DoD select and prioritize partner nations for DIB investments?
  3. What DIB activities should be selected for implementation in a selected partner nation?
  4. What programs, activities, and engagements best support a program strategy aimed at achieving DIB goals and objectives?
  5. What actions can be taken to harmonize DIB activities with other security cooperation activities?
  6. How can DoD best assess, monitor, evaluate, and track DIB activities?
  7. What organizations should provide oversight of DIB activities, what should their roles be, and how can the various, seemingly unconnected DIB programs be better managed?

A key element in the Department of Defense's Defense Strategic Guidance is building the capacity of partner nations to share the costs and responsibilities of global leadership. To implement this goal, the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy uses several security cooperation and assistance programs to work with partner countries to support defense institution building (DIB), i.e., build the capacity of their defense ministries. In addition, the combatant commands engage in DIB in response to the security cooperation focus areas in the Guidance for Employment of the Force. DIB has four primary components — Wales Initiative Funds-DIB, Defense Institutional Reform Initiative, Ministry of Defense Advisors, and Defense Institute of International Legal Studies — but includes all security cooperation activities that develop accountable, effective, and efficient defense institutions. The primary objective of many existing DIB activities is to help partner nations develop and manage capable security forces subject to appropriate civilian control.

This report presents an analysis of a range of DIB activities, recommends a set of goals and objectives for achieving them, identifies partner nation and DIB activity selection criteria, develops a strategy for coordinating DIB activities, and recommends procedures for achieving accountability and assessment. It also identifies the most critical challenges DIB programs will face as they go forward: the inherent complexity of the DIB enterprise, the difficulty of measuring the long-term success of short-term endeavors, and the challenges of selecting partner nations for DIB activities.

Key Findings

Defense institution building roles and responsibilities are not adequately defined at the program and project levels.

  • Roles and responsibilities are either not defined at all, or the relationships are so complex that organizations resort to ad hoc relationships based, at times, on personalities.
  • In particular, the relationship among the regional centers, combatant commands, and DIB programs is not adequately defined in current policy or guidance documents.

Involvement of partner nations in setting DIB objectives at the combatant command level is inconsistent.

DIB programs have developed processes for selecting countries and prioritizing their DIB activities.

More and better coordination mechanisms are needed to avoid the implementation of redundant security cooperation programs.

The principle of "unity of command" is lacking in the DIB community.

Although the entire DIB community has expended considerable effort at developing suitable methods to measure the progress of their investments, there is some unevenness in the approaches.


  • Take account of the partner nation's level of capability and willingness to make effective use of the assistance offered when determining the U.S. level of involvement.
  • DIB programs should establish a routine consultation process that ensures all affected parties can contribute to the selection of planned DIB investments.
  • Create a clearinghouse, either from the current entities that oversee one or more DIB programs, or ex-nihilo. Also, increase the impact of combatant command conferences by expanding the agenda to include an assessment of all security cooperation programs.
  • There should be a single entity between the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the combatant commands responsible for managing all DIB program activities. A DIB Enterprise Director should be appointed to serve as a bridge linking policy to program to project-level DIB.
  • To the extent possible, (1) objective monitoring processes should be implemented for all DIB activities, (2) CCMDs should develop a strategy aimed at achieving DIB goals and objectives over a long period, (3) evaluation processes should focus on both the effectiveness of DIB investments and how well they are performed, (4) suitable standards or criteria should be established to evaluate both the effectiveness and performance of DIB activities, and (5) a mechanism needs to be in place to terminate or significantly alter an ongoing DID activity if necessary.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Defense Institution Building Goals, Objectives, and Guidance

  • Chapter Three

    Selecting and Prioritizing Partner Nations

  • Chapter Four

    Harmonizing DIB and Other Security Cooperation Activities

  • Chapter Five

    Roles and Responsibilities

  • Chapter Six

    Assessment: Monitoring, Tracking, and Evaluating DIB Activities

  • Chapter Seven


  • Appendix A

    DIB and DIB-Related Programs

  • Appendix B

    Management of Defense Institution Building Programs

  • Appendix C

    Interview Protocols

This research was sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and conducted within the International Security and Defense Policy Center of the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

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