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Research Questions

  1. To what extent are current security cooperation objectives appropriately specified, aligned, prioritized, and measured?
  2. How do stakeholders interpret security cooperation guidance, and do they find it sufficiently clear, detailed, and flexible?
  3. To what extent do the security cooperation objectives used by U.S. European Command, U.S. Pacific Command, and U.S. Southern Command meet the SMART criteria of being specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and results-oriented, and time-bound? How might they be revised to better meet the SMART criteria?
  4. How can U.S. Department of Defense security cooperation guidance and planning be improved?

Translating security cooperation goals into effective action is challenging, given the multitude of stakeholders, changing political and security environments, and resource limitations. To help ensure that limited security cooperation resources are properly directed for greatest effect, the U.S. Department of Defense has highlighted the need to develop security cooperation objectives that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and results-oriented, and time-bound (SMART). The SMART concept has been used for several decades in the private sector to develop objectives that facilitate assessment, monitoring, and evaluation.

This report evaluates DoD's effectiveness in developing SMART security cooperation objectives. It also proposes a systematic approach to developing security cooperation objectives for use by policymakers, planners, program managers, and resource managers. The authors present a detailed evaluation of the extent to which the security cooperation objectives used by U.S. European Command, U.S. Pacific Command, and U.S. Southern Command meet the SMART criteria, and they recommend changes to improve DoD security cooperation guidance and planning.

Key Findings

Evaluation of Combatant Command Security Cooperation Objectives

  • Most individual country objectives did not meet the SMART criteria of being specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and results-oriented, and time-bound. In particular, most objectives were not yet measureable or time-bound, and their achievability could not be determined.
  • Combatant command security cooperation planning was "SMARTer" than individual country objectives. Although most country plan objectives failed the SMART test, country plans overall and other supporting documents showed more-positive results.
  • Combatant command security cooperation planning could benefit from greater standardization. Combatant commands have different objective hierarchies, and they do not define their terms in the same way.
  • Responsibility and priority for developing country objectives differed by combatant command.
  • Understanding of the SMART concept varied among stakeholders. For the most part, communication of the SMART concept was informal and ad hoc.
  • SMART objectives did not adequately serve as a foundation for security cooperation assessment, monitoring, and evaluation. The entire security cooperation planning system needs to follow a SMART approach, with different levels of detail linking broad end states to concrete tasks.


  • The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) should provide SMART criteria and prioritization guidance to combatant commands and evaluate their performance accordingly.
  • OSD and the Joint Staff should work with combatant commands to create a SMART security cooperation planning system centered around country plans. Creating SMART country objectives is not enough.
  • OSD and the Joint Staff should work with combatant commands to establish a common theater planning hierarchy for security cooperation objectives, with standard terminology and a standard SMART objective review process.
  • Combatant commands should integrate security cooperation elements of planning under a single authority.
  • The U.S. Department of Defense should incorporate the SMART concept more formally into security cooperation training.
  • OSD should establish a security cooperation framework that links SMART objectives to assessment, monitoring, and evaluation processes and requirements at the strategic and country level.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Why Aren't SMART Objectives Enough?

  • Chapter Three

    PACOM Findings

  • Chapter Four

    EUCOM Findings

  • Chapter Five

    SOUTHCOM Findings

  • Chapter Six

    Findings and Recommendations

  • Appendix

    SMART Country Planning

This research was sponsored by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Security Cooperation 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.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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