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Research Questions

  1. What are the drivers for transparency in security cooperation program reporting?
  2. What are the barriers to collecting data on security cooperation programs?
  3. What practices have been developed in DoD to overcome these barriers?
  4. What lessons can be learned from other agencies' efforts to improve transparency in foreign assistance reporting?
  5. How can DoD improve compliance with transparency requirements and streamline the reporting process?

The scope of the Department of Defense's (DoD) engagement in security cooperation has expanded significantly over the last decade as Congress has authorized billions of dollars in new programs to meet an ever-widening set of U.S. national security objectives. As funding of security cooperation has increased, DoD has faced new demands for transparency to allow greater public awareness and internal accountability. Yet DoD's program management and financial systems were not designed to provide the level of detail on security cooperation expenditures needed to meet new international, congressional, and internal DoD reporting requirements. This RAND report analyzes the mechanisms that DoD uses to track security cooperation spending and the obstacles that it must overcome to meet new reporting requirements. It provides an assessment of DoD's compliance with international transparency reporting standards and maps out the current processes of data collection for five Title 10 security cooperation programs. It highlights some of the program-level practices that have been developed to overcome these challenges. The report also looks at the lessons that can be learned from the U.S. Department of State (DoS) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in improving transparency in foreign assistance reporting. Finally, the report concludes with recommendations for how DoD might streamline the security cooperation reporting process in preparation for the implementation of 2017 National Defense Authorization Act and new internal requirements for increased accountability and strategic prioritization.

Key Findings

DoD Faces both Internal and External Demands for Improved Transparency

  • In addition to congressional and international reporting requirements, DoD faces an equally pressing need to collect data for internal policy planning and strategic prioritization.
  • More-detailed accounting of security cooperation spending is the first step toward developing effective assessment, monitoring, and evaluation of security cooperation programs.

Security Cooperation Programs Were not Designed to Provide a Comprehensive Funding Data

  • Planning, programming, and management communities engaged in security cooperation have different reporting requirements, data, and data systems.
  • Financial data is not consistently defined, tracked, or reported.
  • Tracking of financial data is often divorced from program reporting.

Program Managers Have Adopted a Number of Ad Hoc Measures to Overcome these Obstacles

  • Various program-level workarounds have been developed to create linkages between communities, collect detailed data, and develop common coding that may be applied more broadly.

U.S. Department of State and U.S. Agency for International Development Foreign Aid Transparency Efforts Offer Lessons

  • DoD may draw insight from USAID and DoS efforts to develop technical working groups and to utilize a "data warehouse" to generate reports.


  • The Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) should define the scope of reporting to internal and external audiences to create reasonable expectations for the availability of DoD information.
  • OSD should institute a process for validating information and vetting it for releasability to ensure consistency in data reporting.
  • OSD should clarify reporting requirements for data collection to develop a common understanding across offices and consolidate the data-collection process by utilizing a shared reporting template.
  • The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) should consolidate security cooperation reporting processes, incorporating best practices and delegating some reporting responsibilities to offices currently administering security cooperation programs.
  • DSCA should develop consistent financial data requirements for tracking transactions, building on the Defense Agency Initiative accounting system, while working to standardize definitions of obligations and expenditures.
  • DSCA should incorporate common business rules for security cooperation reporting, establishing country codes that can be used to pull data from different financial and program systems.
  • OSD and DSCA should define new roles for staff to manage data collection at regional and country levels, such as personnel working in Security Cooperation Offices and implementing agencies.
  • OSD and DSCA should create a central location from which to draw financial data for reporting, which could be modeled on DoS's data warehouse.
  • OSD and DSCA should consider information technology solutions for linking program and financial data, including a software tool that matches data from DoD accounting systems with data collected through the Global Theater Security Cooperation Management Information System.

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