Cover: The Challenges and Opportunities of Institutional Capacity Building Through Professional Military Education

The Challenges and Opportunities of Institutional Capacity Building Through Professional Military Education

Lessons from the Defense Education Enhancement Program

Published Oct 11, 2022

by Trevor Johnston, Alan G. Stolberg


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Research Questions

  1. How can PME support institutional change and development?
  2. What are best practices for institutional capacity building?
  3. What are the best defense education assessment, monitoring, and evaluations tools?

Established in 2007 through a combined effort by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) International Staff and the Partnership for Peace Consortium, the Defense Education Enhancement Program (DEEP) supports institutional capacity building (ICB) objectives, such as building defense capacity and interoperability, by providing assistance in modern curriculum development (what to teach), faculty development (how to teach), and institutional support (administration and management) for NATO partner professional military education (PME) schools. This report is intended to inform U.S. personnel, NATO Allies, and other Euro-Atlantic governments of DEEP's status from 2018 to 2020, its opportunities and challenges, and ways the program can be improved. The report features three case studies: Armenia, Tunisia, and Ukraine. Ukraine findings might be of particular interest in light of the Russian-Ukraine War. For ICB practitioners, this report also offers general lessons on how PME can support institutional change, sustainment, and development.

Key Findings

Disruption can spur innovation

  • After some initial challenges stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic, most program activities and events transitioned to a virtual platform, giving providers the ability to connect with partners and sustain efforts throughout the pandemic.

Expanding data collection is critical

  • Specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) objectives are important, but assessment, monitoring, and evaluation are necessary for measuring key outcomes.

Building trust is key to collaboration

  • Relationship building is a slow process that requires patience.
  • Where multinational support can be conducted, partner countries should be paired with providers with whom they might be more comfortable because of shared military size, missions, resources, language, culture, or history.

This research was sponsored by the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and conducted within the Forces and Resources Policy Center of the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD).

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