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Research Questions

  1. The patchwork of Title 10 security cooperation authorities presents what challenges to security cooperation personnel in the Department of Defense and their congressional overseers?
  2. How should these authorities be framed to streamline how DoD approaches Congress for legislation to conduct security cooperation?
  3. Within this framework, what revisions to existing authorities will enable DoD to address the challenges identified, reduce overlap, fill gaps, and simplify the patchwork?

The accelerated proliferation of legislative authorities for the Department of Defense (DoD) in Public Law and Title 10 of the U.S. Code since September 11, 2011, has created an increasingly unwieldy and complex catalog of statutes, which has generated severe challenges to DoD's security cooperation activities. The large set of authorities for security cooperation has become known as a "patchwork" because of the need to patch together multiple authorities and associated yet unsynchronized processes, resources, programs, and organizations to execute individual initiatives with partner nations. As defense headquarter staffs shrink and planning grows increasingly complex, the risk of canceled or ineffective events has grown significantly. Moreover, policymakers and congressional staffers face growing challenges providing guidance and oversight and evaluating progress toward larger objectives.

This report develops a framework and options to streamline the patchwork of authorities in Public Law and Title 10 of the U.S. Code that the DoD employs for security cooperation with partner nations. The objective is to frame Title 10 security cooperation authorities in a holistic, logical way, identify redundancies and gaps, and offer recommendations for changes in authorities that reduce the complexities involved in implementing them and make it easier for DoD's security cooperation workforce to use them to work with partner nations in support of U.S. national security strategy.

Key Findings

Out of more than 160 congressional statutes authorizing the U.S. government to undertake security cooperation (SC) with foreign partners, 123 of them apply to DoD

  • These Title 10 authorities constitute a complex patchwork that creates confusion within DoD and with foreign partners, leading to uncertainties, canceled events, and setbacks in relationship-building and capacity-building efforts.
  • It also risks tying the hands of DoD staffers working with foreign partners to counter emerging threats.

Our analysis of the challenges DoD faces in pursuing SC with foreign partners suggests that the risks of maintaining Title 10 authorities in their existing form are high

  • After multiple discussions with DoD stakeholders and over a dozen congressional staff members who play key roles in security cooperation, there appears to be some agreement over the need for streamlining Title 10 authorities and potential options for doing so.

A proposed hybrid framework that categorizes standardized and specialized authorities as activity-, mission-, or partner-based helps rationalize the patchwork and reduce complexity

  • Using this framework, we found options to reduce the overall number of "core" authorities — those that directly authorize engagement with foreign partners — by 15, going from 106 to 91, while strengthening and better aligning the remaining statutes.

The web of legal complexities and vested institutional interests that surround these authorities will take considerable time and effort to properly untangle

  • Although there is more to do to fully realize a simplified and more-effective system of Title 10 authorities, the framework and analysis in this report should provide a useful step forward.


  • The proposed categorization scheme and changes to the Title 10 authorities can help structure the consolidation and revision of authorities in bridging of gaps, and should make it easier for security cooperation (SC) personnel in the field to identify and use the authorities.
  • Consolidating and revising some of the prevalent activity-based statutes can help minimize the requirement for SC personnel to "cobble together" multiple authorities and programs for individual events or initiatives, and as a corollary benefit may ease staffing needs and reduce variation in legal interpretation.
  • Changes we recommend should enhance predictability, ease the time pressure to obligate funds, and align funding with the provision of training and equipment to partners.
  • Revisions and new authorities we suggest should provide greater flexibility to address emerging threats and to bridge some gaps in allowed activities.
  • In constructing an authorities framework, we contend that a hybrid approach most effectively organizes and streamlines the existing patchwork of authorities.
  • We recommend that DoD track authorities in this proposed framework as they are enacted, revised, and repealed in the U.S. Code and Public Law to help inform planners in the field, enable more systematic legislative proposals, and structure any efforts to review and overhaul internal processes.
  • Further investigation is warranted in the areas of further consolidation and revision of existing Title 10 authorities, integration of Title 10 and Title 22 (Department of State) activities, and improvement in internal DoD processes dedicated to security cooperation.

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.

This report is part of the RAND 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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