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Research Question

  1. What empirical evidence is there to support the assertion that security cooperation reduces state fragility and increases stability?

The report tested the assertion that U.S. security cooperation (SC) can help reduce fragility in partner states. The test used statistical analysis to assess SC data and state fragility scores for 107 countries in 1991–2008. After controlling for a variety of factors, the main finding was that provision of SC by the United States and a reduction in partner state fragility were correlated. The strength of correlation did not increase proportionally with additional funding; most of the effect was concentrated at the low end of SC funding. In addition, the correlation depended on recipient country characteristics. Correlation was stronger in more democratic states and in states with stronger institutions. In especially fragile states, there was only a weak or no correlation of SC with fragility decrease. Of the types of SC provided, the correlation was strongest with education-focused SC. Foreign Military Financing, a type of SC, did not correlate with reductions in fragility.

Key Findings

On average, security cooperation has a statistically significant relationship with reduction in fragility.

  • The one-year effect was small, with most of the impact concentrated at the low end of expenditures per country, and there were diminishing returns from increased expenditures.

The correlation of security cooperation (SC) with reduction in fragility depended on the characteristics of the recipient country and the type of SC provided

  • SC was more highly coordinated with reduction in fragility in states with stronger state institutions and greater state capacity.
  • SC was not correlated with reduction in fragility in states that were already experiencing extremely high fragility.
  • SC was more highly correlated with reduction in fragility in more democratic regimes; the more democratic the regime, the greater the correlation of SC and reduction in fragility.
  • The concentration of low state reach, authoritarian regimes, and relatively high levels of fragility in the Middle East and Africa meant that the positive correlation of SC and reduction in fragility was least pronounced in those regions; Latin America, Asia/Pacific, and Europe had the best effects.
  • Nonmateriel and mission-specific aid — such as education and law enforcement, counterterrorism, and counternarcotics aid — were more highly correlated; aid provided through the equipment-focused Foreign Military Finance program, which forms the majority of U.S. security cooperation, was not correlated with reducing fragility in recipient countries. This outcome may stem from the fact that Foreign Military Financing aid is often focused on SC goals other than reducing state fragility, such as strengthening relationships, improving U.S. military access to a country, or improving capabilities for external defense.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Army and conducted by the RAND Arroyo Center.

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