Defense Engagement in Peacetime

Instruments: Military Assistance
Military Education
Joint Planning, Exercises, and Operations
Defense Diplomacy


Defense engagement is a term that is being used by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) to describe the long-standing political-military issue of the nature, scope and scale of noncombat military and defense support of U.S. foreign policy in peacetime, a role that has evolved from many changes in political and professional thinking.

The Cold War national strategy of containment demanded the presence of a modern, trained U.S. military capability worldwide, maintenance of its readiness for combat, and help to friendly and allied countries around the globe to develop stronger national defenses. The United States initially provided a bargain-basement shortcut to military modernization with its World War II and Korean War stocks of inexpensive but reliable arms and a wide range of associated military equipment. Under the Mutual Defense Assistance Program, which became Security Assistance in the early 1960s, the U.S. provided on a grant basis or sold a wide range of defense articles and services, including professional education and technical training. By the early 1980s, however, Security Assistance had become a prisoner of its own bureaucracy, leading one Unified Commander to observe that its programs "satisfy the requirements of trying to deal with Congress, but do not necessarily help us as we work with our regional allies in carrying out our [national security] responsibilities."

During the Cold War, the United States also conducted low-cost and low-profile political-military activities in other regions of the world, such as the provision of humanitarian and advisory assistance, and maintained service-to-service contacts. Yet, these initiatives remained marginal in DOD's resource-allocation process and the military's doctrinal thinking. For years, the armed services minimized these nonstandard programs and criticized them for diverting resources and undermining force readiness.

As of the mid-1990s, however, the situation has begun to change. The defense community's past resistance to using noncombat means to project U.S. influence is slowly giving way. The difference has been a post-Cold War national-security strategy emphasizing active leadership and involvement worldwide, also known as engagement and enlargement (of the community of democracies). This strategy challenges the Defense Department not only to ensure that the armed forces maintain the capability to protect U.S. interests with force but also to employ the department's civilian and military organizational, professional, and institutional assets to support the National Security Strategy's goals of security, economic prosperity, and democratic growth--goals that do not translate easily into classical defense and military concepts.

Faced with these new realities, the 1995 National Military Strategy, prepared by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, identifies "peacetime engagement" as one of three sets of tasks for achieving the military objectives of promoting stability and thwarting aggression. This term, the publication says, describes a broad range of noncombat activities undertaken by U.S. armed forces, which demonstrate commitment, improve collective military capabilities, promote democratic ideals, relieve suffering, and in many other ways enhance regional stability.

A little-noticed trend toward greater innovation in selectively using military forces and defense resources in peacetime outside of the traditional framework of military assistance had already emerged in the Americas during the 1980s, as U.S. Southern Command developed more immediately responsive and effective forms of defense involvement in order to support the Reagan administration's Central American policy. These included using active duty, reserve, and National Guard units to conduct engineering exercises and military humanitarian deployments for training in the Caribbean Basin. By 1987, Southern Command had a catalogue of twenty-seven defense activities, including security-assistance programs, to offer U.S. country teams in the Americas. Other unified commands have since adopted, and adapted, many of the same activities and programs.

Foreign Military Interaction

Early in 1995, the Joint Staff defined foreign military interaction as "initiatives whereby U.S. defense personnel--by direction of US Defense authorities and in coordination with the US country team--interact with foreign defense personnel on a systemic and cooperative basis to achieve national security objectives." Most of the instruments examined in this chapter fall under the heading of Foreign Military Interaction (FMI), and several were on a 1995 Joint Staff list identifying sixteen separate FMI programs. However, the Joint Staff's list is not all-inclusive; for example, it excludes the Excess Defense Articles and Direct Commercial Sales programs.

Successful FMI programs depend upon close cooperation between Defense and State personnel at the regional and national levels. Ideally, the geographic CINCs, working within policy guidelines set in Washington and collaborating with U.S. ambassadors and country teams within their areas of responsibility, tailor programs and activities to meet changing local and regional requirements, thus anticipating trends rather than reacting to events as they occur.

FMI Programs and Activities Grouped by Funding Source*

Department of State:

Foreign Military Sales (FMS)

International Military Education and Training (IMET)

Foreign Military Financing (FMF)

Department of Defense:

Combined Planning and Exercises

Traditional CINC Programs (TCP)

Regional Study Centers

Special Operations Forces (multiple activities)

Defense Attaché System (DAS)

Army Foreign Area Officer (FAO) Program

Personnel Exchange Program (PEP)

Schools of Other Nations (SON) Program

Port Calls, Visits, Deployments, and Demonstrations

Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program

Cofunded by State and Defense:

Partnership for Peace

Humanitarian De-mining

Counterdrug Programs

*Source: Director for Strategic Plans and Policy (J-5), "Foreign Military Interaction: Strategic Rationale," (Overseas Presence Joint Warfighting Capabilities Assessment), January 1995.


This chapter examines two groups of initiatives under the conceptual umbrella of defense engagement. The first comprises Foreign Military Interaction (FMI), which includes military assistance, military education, and joint planning, exercises and operations. The second group combines DOD programs that constitute "defense diplomacy."

Military Assistance

The United States offers grant and commercial-sales programs to enable friendly nations to acquire U.S. military equipment, services, and training for legitimate self-defense and burden-sharing purposes. Adequate military capabilities among allies decrease the likelihood that U.S. forces will be called on to intervene in a crisis and improve the odds that U.S. forces will find a favorable (interoperable) situation should intervention prove necessary.

Arms Deliveries to Devoloping Nations by Recipient, 1987- 94

Deliveries to leding recipients (in millions of current US Dollars)*

DOD manages a number of congressionally authorized military-equipment programs. Known during the Cold War as Security Assistance, these programs are now called Foreign Operations Assistance. This term also refers to a range of nondefense programs discussed in other chapters, such as the Economic Support Fund (ESF), migration and refugee assistance, and international narcotics control. This section discusses two elements on the Joint Staff's FMI list--Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and Foreign Military Sales (FMS)--as well as Excess Defense Articles (EDA) and Direct Commercial Sales (DCS). To avoid confusion with the nondefense aspects of the Foreign Operations Assistance, the term "military assistance" is used here.

Since the mid-1980s, trends have developed in four areas that affect military assistance programs:

* Congressional interest. A trend toward greater congressional oversight of national security policy begun in the 1970s continues in the mid-1990s. Increasingly, Senate and House authorization committees oriented toward foreign policy, as well as appropriation subcommittees, use legislation to delimit and guide implementation of military assistance programs. They direct, for example, the inclusion (or exclusion) of specific countries and earmark the level of funding for specific states. These four legislative bodies often require the executive branch to provide notification before specific military assistance initiatives can be implemented, such as before lethal equipment and air frames are provided or sold to particular countries, and when there is an intent to give or sell excess defense articles to any foreign government.

Arms Deliveries to Developing Nations by Supplier, 1987-94

(billions of current dollars)


* Foreign interest. The success of the United States in the Persian Gulf war has significantly increased foreign interest in U.S. military doctrine, equipment, and training. Many governments share the expanded, post-Cold War U.S. security policy agenda--covering such issues as democracy, drugs, and peacekeeping--leading to many requests for military equipment, technical training, and professional education.

* Funding. Since the mid-1980s, congressional funding of the two principal military assistance programs, FMF and International Military Education and Training (IMET), has steadily declined. Foreign governments today, freed from the ideological constraints of the Cold War, have become more price conscious and often shop for the best arrangements to purchase equipment and training. This has resulted in a shift toward FMS and DCS; toward alternative U.S. sources, like the Excess Defense Articles program; and toward the use of other suppliers, such as Russia, France, and the United Kingdom.

* Arms transfers. Over the seven-year period from 1987 to 1994, the value of international arms deliveries to developing nations steadily declined. In 1994, the trend reached its low point of $14.4 billion (of which $6.7 billion were U.S. sales), slightly more than a quarter of the 1987 total. This pattern reflects the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq War, the end of the Cold War, and the winding down of other regional conflicts. While many major U.S. arms clients in the Middle East ordered substantial amounts of equipment after Desert Storm, deliveries are proceeding slowly, partly because of the need to absorb equipment but mostly because of budget difficulties.

Foreign Military Financing (FMF). FMF has long been the primary means by which the U.S. government finances the purchase of U.S. defense articles and services by select friends and allies. However, Washington has changed its procedures from a loan system at near market interest rates, the norm in the mid-1980s, to a grant arrangement. The latter method is intended to help governments receiving FMF to devote scarce financial resources to economic development.

The initial force and effectiveness of this program worldwide have been lost gradually since the mid-1980s as a result of two trends. First, congressional appropriations have steadily decreased from $5.2 billion in FY 1986 to $3.2 billion in FY 1995. Secondly, annual legislation has fenced increasingly larger percentages of this funding. In 1995, more than 98 percent of FMF was for Israel and Egypt, the main recipients ($3.1 billion), and for several small, specialized programs, such as aid to build democracy in Haiti ($3 million). This left only $25.7 million available in 1995 for discretionary allocation among eligible countries. Foreign Military Financing aided twenty-eight countries in 1984; eleven years later, it assisted nine nations and a demining program. The termination of most country programs has had a debilitating influence on the quality and scope of U.S. defense relations with many Latin American, East Asian, and Middle Eastern countries.

Foreign Military Sales (FMS). The FMS program enables friendly nations to buy U.S. military equipment, services, and training. Purchases are made with some U.S. financial assistance for eligible countries. As measured by agreements signed rather than by deliveries, FMS averaged $11.5 billion annually between FY 1984 and FY 1992. After a one-year jump in FY 1993 to $32.4 billion due to sales to the Middle East, FMS returned to a lower level of $13.2 billion in FY 1994 and an estimated $8 billion in FY 1995. FMS also covers the sale of professional military education, which is consistently high, accounting for well over 50 percent of the international students in DOD schools. By providing foreign forces with U.S. hardware, using U.S. military personnel to familiarize foreign officers with its operation and maintenance, and by educating future military leaders in the United States, FMS fosters and reinforces the idea of interoperability with the U.S. armed forces. DOD also benefits from the tendencies of foreign sales to keep important production lines running and lower the unit costs of key weapons systems.

The FMS program is affected by a congressional restriction on the transfer of FMS-purchased material to third parties, which hinders the disposal of obsolescent material and the purchase of new equipment to replace it. In addition, the Arms Export Control Act requires that the costs of implementing the FMS program be paid by FMS customer countries. An administrative surcharge of 3 percent is applied to most sales. A 5 percent rate is applied to nonstandard items and services. In addition, a logistics-support charge of 3.1 percent is also applied on certain deliveries of spare parts, equipment modifications, secondary support equipment, and supplies.

Direct Commercial Sales (DCS). Some states prefer to rely on direct commercial purchases of U.S. military hardware, training, and technical assistance from defense contractors. These companies must first obtain export licenses, which require State Department approval. Estimated commercial sales in FY 1995 were $5.9 billion. During the period 1989-1995, DCS purchases averaged about 31 percent of purchases through the FMS program. The trend in the mid-1990s is toward growth in DCS relative to FMS. Depending on the type of equipment or services purchased as well as possible legal or policy limitations, this approach offered cheaper arrangements and fewer bureaucratic obstacles.

Excess Defense Articles (EDA). Defense articles no longer needed by the U.S. armed forces--ranging from rations and uniforms to used vehicles, cargo aircraft, and ships--may be sold to eligible countries and international organizations under the FMS program, or transferred without cost under provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961. An elaborate framework of rules governs the EDA. A joint Defense-State EDA Coordinating Committee, for example, matches requirements with assets and U.S. policy priorities, trying to ensure some equity in distribution of items among countries. Several Central and Eastern European countries are eligible to receive only nonlethal EDA. A limit exists on the annual value of EDA that a foreign government may acquire by sales or grant--in fiscal year 1995, this limit was $250 million (although exceptions are made for high-cost items, such as ships). And Congress must be notified of all EDA sales or grants. In fiscal year 1994, total EDA amounted to $1.1 billion, a decrease compared with the average of $1.5 billion in FY 1991-93. The decline reflects the existence of budgetary constraints in many countries interested in EDA, as well as a certain amount of frustration with the bureaucracy surrounding this program. Morocco, Turkey, Greece, and Israel were the largest recipients of grant EDA in 1994. Given the ineligibility of most countries for FMF funding, both State and DOD are seeking ways to make better use of EDA as an instrument of policy, particularly the program's ability to support developing countries with limited defense budgets. As the downsizing and modernization of the U.S. armed forces continues to slow down, fewer articles will be available in the immediate future, increasing the competition for EDA.

In sum, military assistance programs reflect increasing congressional involvement in the direction and details of U.S. foreign policy through its control of the foreign-operations budget. When the executive and legislative branches agree on objectives and the concept for using FMF and EDA as instruments of policy, proactive assistance tends to take place, although affecting fewer countries and at lower levels of funding than during the Cold War era. Many foreign governments, becoming aware of Congress's influential role, have begun to make their case strongly on Capitol Hill as well as to U.S. ambassadors. There is flexibility in this DOD category of policy instruments, but it is found in programs that are outside the formal Foreign Operations budget process: in Foreign Military Sales and, particularly, in Direct Commercial Sales--programs over which State and Defense can exercise more independent control.

Military Education

International Military Education and Training (IMET). The premise underlying IMET is that educating younger foreign military officers in the United States invests in the future promotion of U.S. interests. Graduates may rise to positions of prominence within the military, government, or business community of their countries, and Washington desires access to these future leaders. Furthermore, the United States wants to help emerging leaders utilize their defense resources more effectively and encourage self-reliance in national defense.

International Military Education and Training by Region

(in millions of current year dollars)

More than 100,000 students from 114 countries have attended IMET courses in 1976-1995, averaging 5,500 annually in 1976-1989 and 3,800 annually in 1990-95. The attraction is twofold: grantees gain insight into U.S. combat techniques as well as learn how the armed forces fulfill their role in a functioning democracy. Schooling is highly sought after by foreign governments: interest far exceeds funding levels and available classroom seats.

In 1991, Congress legislated a variant of IMET for education on resource management, civilian control, military law, and regard for human rights. This initiative, entitled Expanded IMET (E-IMET), allows civilians with defense-related interests from foreign government agencies, legislatures, and nongovernmental organizations to participate in IMET programs. The legislation has also fostered a popular and highly effective series of courses taught overseas by mobile education teams. E-IMET shows great promise in its ability to bring senior civilian and military officials together in their own country, often for the first time, for shared, confidence-building educational experiences. The introduction of E-IMET, however, has decreased the amount of money available for traditional professional military education.

Regional Study Centers. This relatively inexpensive FMI program, begun in 1993, allows regional unified commanders to offer academic courses on defense planning and management in democratic societies for mid- to senior-level foreign military personnel and, when possible, civilians. The first regional study facility chartered by the Secretary of Defense was the U.S. European Command's George C. Marshall Center in Garmisch, Germany. It focuses on instructing personnel from Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union. In 1995 an Asia-Pacific Center was being established in Hawaii to support the U.S. Pacific Command. The aim of this facility is to foster a broader understanding of U.S. military, diplomatic, and economic interrelationships in the Pacific.

IMET Country Programs 1985-96

In sum, these two initiatives are solid investments in the future--the future stability of many friendly countries worldwide and future U.S. access to and interaction with senior government officials in these countries.

Joint Planning, Exercises and Operations

A group of loosely related, relatively new Defense Department programs for joint planning, exercises, and operations existed on a small scale during the Cold War, although they became more common in Central America in the 1980s. These programs have become common practice with many more countries since the end of the Cold War.

Combined Planning and Exercises. Sponsored by either the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, unified commanders, or the military services, combined planning and exercises focus on improving U.S. military readiness while fostering interoperability between U.S. forces and potential military partners. These high-profile events build interpersonal contacts and force collaboration among participants, outcomes that are integral to successful coalition operations. The roots of the spectacular allied achievements during the Gulf War can be found in a series of increasingly more sophisticated regional exercises during the 1980s, which built a foundation of operational and logistical planning and cooperation. The trend in the mid-1990s toward reduced forward-basing of U.S. military forces worldwide increases the importance of the relationships that grow out of combined planning and multilateral exercises. These opportunities also become important confidence-building measures among neighboring states.

United States and Royal Thai Marines fast rope from a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter during Exercise Cobra Gold '95

This category includes exercise-related construction, a dimension that provides a tangible example of U.S. commitment to a country and can facilitate subsequent U.S. deployments in response to regional crises. U.S. Southern Command used exercise-related construction strategically in the 1980s to develop Honduran airfield and port capabilities to deter Nicaraguan aggression against its neighbors, while creating the transportation infrastructure needed to support a U.S. military response. Joint and combined planning and exercise activities tend to be expensive and often, because of their strategic importance, drain funding intended for other defense programs.

Traditional CINC Programs (TCPs). The five regional Unified Commanders conduct a variety of FMI activities to promote regional stability and support other national security goals. While programs vary based on each command's requirements, TCPs share common characteristics. Planning is responsive, flexible, and transparent, and accomplished in coordination with U.S. diplomatic missions. Examples of major TCPs include U.S. military liaison teams working in former Soviet-bloc countries; the activities comprising "cooperative engagement" in the Asia-Pacific region; staff exchanges with Middle Eastern countries; training deployments for reserve and National Guard units in the Caribbean Basin; and the peacetime Psychological Operations program worldwide. (See chapter on unconventional military instruments.) Unified commanders have two major concerns about TCPs: internal DOD funding has tended to fluctuate from year to year, making a consistent program difficult to achieve; and, in this regard, a mechanism is needed to weigh different CINC requirements against the funds apportioned within DOD.

Cooperative Threat Reduction (CTR) Program. Also known as the Nunn-Lugar program after its congressional sponsors, CTR focuses on the states of the former Soviet Union that retain nuclear weapons: Russia, Ukraine, and Kazakhstan. The program's broad goals include facilitating safe disposition of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction; preventing proliferation of such weapons; maintaining regional stability; and avoiding the return of a Cold War-type rivalry with Russia. CTR-funded activities include Russian-U.S. peacekeeping exercises and the establishment of high-level communication links between the Defense Department and ministries of defense in Russia and Ukraine.

Combined forces from th United States and Thailand head for the beach in U.S. Marine Amphibious Assault Vehicles during Exercise Cobra Gold '95

FMI activities involving former Soviet states do not come under the auspices of a geographic CINC, being instead managed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff. Therefore, CTR does not fall under the TCPs funded by the military departments; nor do CTR activities include formal military education under IMET.

Partnership for Peace (PFP). This post-Cold War initiative aims to build working ties between NATO and the militaries of its former Warsaw Pact adversaries, with an eye to developing possible future members of NATO and maintaining cordial relations with the militaries of nations that opt to remain outside of NATO. Exercises under this program will focus on improving the capability of PFP militaries to work together in peacekeeping, search and rescue, and humanitarian-assistance operations, particularly in NATO-led combined joint task forces.

Twenty-six states have joined the Partnership since the January 1994 NATO summit when the initiative was announced. But as of late 1995, participation in PFP activities, not to mention interoperability with NATO, is hampered by chronic resource problems, equipment obsolescence, operational incompatibilities, and leadership deficiencies. Once these problems are overcome, interaction between NATO and its PFP partners should lead to better military cooperation and greater burden-sharing, which should improve U.S. strategic flexibility.

Funding by the United States is critical to the success of this fledgling program. Eastern PFP partner states are unlikely to have the fiscal wherewithal to fund their own activities, and enthusiasm among other NATO countries for assisting with the program is doubtful. To help jump-start partner integration into PFP and initial participation in small-scale military exercises, President Clinton announced while visiting Warsaw in July 1994 a bilateral initiative to provide $100 million in assistance to PFP member countries in 1996--$25 million of which would be earmarked for Poland. The Departments of State and Defense will most likely share this funding using a 60/40 split.

Counterdrug Programs. In 1989, Congress directed DOD to take charge of detecting and monitoring maritime and air transit of illegal drugs bound for the United States. Four years later, the President's strategy shifted the emphasis from fighting drug transit to supporting countries where the drugs originate so these countries can better conduct their own counterdrug operations. DOD provides resources in five areas: support to source nations; detection and monitoring of transit zones; support for domestic drug law-enforcement agencies; initiatives to dismantle cartels; and demand-reduction programs. In addition, the State Department uses FMF to sustain its own fleet of military aircraft in two major source countries and fund a small military education program. (A more detailed discussion of these programs can be found in the chapter on unconventional military instruments.)

In sum, the true measure of U.S. defense involvement abroad is not only the forces deployed worldwide but also the wide array of programs used to associate and work with other countries to achieve different shared goals. This strategy will be successful in each region of the world to the degree that each unified command's persistent, low-profile, and long-range programs reduce the need to deploy forces in emergency situations.

Defense Diplomacy

In contrast to FMI programs that geographic CINC's use within their overseas areas of responsibility, the category of defense diplomacy includes professional contacts involving the Secretary and his principal civilian and military assistants, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, members of the Joint Staff and the three military departments, or their representatives. Also an integral part are policy-related, outreach activities by DOD's academic and research institutions, such as the National Defense University and the Defense Resource Management Institute, and by various DOD agencies, such as the Defense Mapping Agency and the U.S. Army's School of the Americas. Most frequently, initiatives in this category take place in the United States. Defense diplomacy and FMI differ in other ways as well. The former is not an official term. As used in this chapter, it groups different defense and service activities whose relevance and importance as instruments of policy either have not been recognized or have been taken for granted. Consequently, these initiatives tend to occur without a plan to create synergy or to guide their development and exploitation over time. Lastly, they lack the established funding sources and bases in legislation that undergird FMI.

Defense diplomacy is not new, but it has long been downplayed as routine. Defense officials often do not think of their interactions with counterparts from other countries or the initiatives taken by their agencies that engage foreign personnel as instruments of foreign policy. In the past, such activities have been presumed part of the job, and not always one that was welcomed.

In the post-Cold War era, however, there is an important niche in DOD's participation in peacetime engagement for defense diplomacy. For one thing, certain strategic relationships and issues do not fit easily into the unified-command-based model of overseas presence. For example, Mexico, Canada, and the states of the former Soviet Union do not fall under a geographic CINC. The Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Joint Staff are better positioned in Washington to manage most of the delicate defense-policy interactions in these countries. Likewise, some security issues--alliance policies, weapons of mass destruction, arms transfers, and confidence-building, for example--are so politically sensitive that they are handled directly by the Pentagon.

NDU's Role in U.S-China Defense Diplomacy

Official relations between U.S. and Chinese national defense universities were established in 1987. The 1987 agreement actually put the seal on informal ties that had been developing steadily since the early 1980s.

Both sides were eager to advance relations. At the height of the Cold War, the United States wanted to consolidate military-to-military relations with China, which were considered significant in the continuing struggle with the Soviet Union. Moreover, relations with the Chinese National Defense University (NDU) fit neatly within the overall framework of military-to-military ties, which, at that time, embraced high-level visits, working-level exchanges, and so-called military/technical cooperation, or the transfer of certain types of military and dual-use technologies to China.

For their part, the Chinese, although not unwilling to send a signal to Moscow about their position in the Cold War, were more interested in gaining information relevant to their military modernization program. Beijing emphasized such priorities as assessing U.S. military technologies, professional military education and training, and concepts of operations and doctrine. Despite differing priorities, the relationship developed because both sides decided that such ties served their respective interests.

Relations came to a halt, however, in the wake of the Chinese military's violent suppression of the demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in June 1989. Relations remained in limbo until January 1994, when the president of the U.S. NDU visited his counterpart and agreed, in principle, to reconstruct institutional ties. That effort progressed reasonably well, despite a pause in mid-1995. In late 1995, the president of the U.S. NDU visited China's NDU, and further advances in the institutions' relations are planned for 1996.

Despite the ups and downs of the relationship, the United States derived considerable benefit from links between the two national defense universities. Bonds established between the leaders of the institutions have been maintained, despite retirements and transfers on both sides. Also, interactions at lower levels of the faculties and staffs produced a self-sustaining cadre of military and civilian professors and researchers who gained insight into the strategic priorities and methods of their counterparts. For example, the U.S. gained access to information on China's assessment of the regional security environment, the military budgeting process, Chinese thinking about doctrine and operational art, and Chinese perceptions of the requirements of professional military education. Lastly, relations between the two institutions form a network that supports continued communication, despite problems in overall bilateral relations. The link between the two military establishments embodied in the ties between the NDUs may forge a new strategic basis for U.S.-Chinese ties in the future.

Two major lessons can be drawn from the experience of the inter-NDU relationship. First, defense engagement is a dependent variable; the scope and scale of defense relations are influenced by the tenor of overall relations. In the case of China, defense relations were the first to lapse and the last to be restored. Although defense engagement enhances bilateral ties and may help to slow a decline, its role in shoring up strained relations is less than clear. Secondly, in the absence of shared strategic objectives, defense engagement is difficult to establish and sustain. For example, as of the mid-1990s, China is suspicious of U.S. strategic intentions. In these circumstances, defense-related initiatives designed to build confidence and a basis for improved relations encounter some difficulty. Great care and sensitivity are required in defining the engagement agenda to include areas of common interest and mutual benefit.

U.S. medical readiness exercie in Ecuador

Also, the norm in military relationships worldwide is the association of counterparts--ministry to ministry, service to service, joint staff to joint staff. While some foreign governments appreciate the CINC's potential as a patron within the U.S. system of military assistance and are willing to work closely with him, others prefer to deal directly with their counterparts in Washington.

Furthermore, DOD has developed an unprecedented capacity to educate and train its civilian officials, as well as to build functional staff expertise in several specialized areas, such as resource management, public affairs, and emergency management. During most of the Cold War, there was little interest in exporting any defense know-how outside of the United States. Today's security environment and policy to promote democracy make sharing such abilities more feasible and desirable.

The department's defense-diplomacy activities tend to fall into five categories with somewhat fuzzy boundaries, some of which are long-standing practices and some of which are new to the 1990s:

U.S. Army exercise-related construction project in Honduras, creating a farm to market road where only a trail existed.

* High-level contacts: official visits overseas, counterpart visits to the United States, defense ministerial meetings, bilateral-security working groups, contact with the Washington diplomatic corps, and personal associations with senior foreign leaders that mature over time.

* Staff talks: bilateral Joint Staff talks, multinational service conferences, and both joint and service expert exchange opportunities (relating to subjects such as military law, simulations, and force development).

* Sharing professional expertise: OSD briefing (teaching) teams from such staff offices as Program Analysis and Evaluation, the Emergency Planning Directorate, and the Defense Intelligence Agency; the U.S.-U.K. Kermit Roosevelt exchange military lecture series; NDU's collaboration with the Inter-American Defense College; and various DOD outreach programs.

* Developing an understanding of defense issues and requirements among civilian defense officials: foreign attendance of courses in service and defense education systems for DOD's civilian professionals; meetings between visiting government and legislative officials and DOD's civilian functional area experts; and short workshops in Washington designed to address this need.

* Academic/research support of policy: formal affiliation with sister institutions for military education; counterpart exchange visits by directors of military colleges and universities; roundtable discussions and workshops to share ideas with visiting civilian and military dignitaries, academics, and journalists on topics of their interest; and the distribution of magazines, reports, and other professional literature published by service and defense academic and research institutions--ideally material published in foreign languages.

Thus far, there is no formal network of programs for defense diplomacy similar to FMI, no funding sources other than existing representational and regionally focused service "cooperation" funds, and no management structure within OSD, the Joint Staff, or the service staffs. There is no one in offices devoted to international political-military affairs who attempts deliberately to meet the security or governance needs of a country or subregion by crafting programs that draw upon activities in one or more of these categories. The outlook for this multifaceted instrument as a means of U.S. influence is continued ad hoc use and failure to realize defense diplomacy's potential. As a minimum, OSD should develop regionally oriented matrices characterizing the key security and defense policy issues and identifying different defense-diplomacy initiatives to be used (or created) to address them. Ideally, each region's matrix would mesh with, reinforce, and, in turn, be reinforced by the CINC's strategy for using FMI assets.

Repelling Aggression in El Salvador

The activities of the Department of Defense in support of U.S. policy in El Salvador during its twelve-year civil war (1980-1992) fall somewhere between "defense engagement in peacetime" and "limited military intervention." DOD went beyond a normal combination of foreign military interaction programs--FMF, IMET, and TCPs--and defense diplomacy by deploying highly specialized mobile training teams under security assistance, sharing a wide range of intelligence products, and supporting the country's large military management requirements, particularly in a military emergency. Washington went to great lengths to keep the U.S. military presence in El Salvador small, limiting the number of trainer/advisors to fifty-five, and to ensure that its overall approach to military support did not replicate earlier Cold War experiences.

By the end of the Salvadoran civil war, the Pentagon and individual U.S. services had provided a myriad of programs, services, and suggestions to their Salvadoran counterparts in an effort to help the government of El Salvador defeat the FMLN insurgency. The only resource purposefully withheld was the direct involvement of American warfighters. A large military assistance program, mobile training teams, out-of-country training of units, periodic visits by the CJCS and other high-level U.S. military leaders, assistance with intelligence collection, intelligence sharing, civic action assistance, IMET training in the U.S.--all were tried. Some were successful in advancing U.S. interests, others had no effect one way or the other. A few had negative results.

What worked. The smartest move the U.S. made in helping El Salvador repel aggression was to resist the temptation of direct U.S. military involvement in the fighting. The preponderance of U.S. assistance was spent on teaching the Salvadorans to teach themselves, i.e., on training the trainers. Also, what advanced U.S. interests best was assistance uncluttered--and carefully crafted for the Salvadoran situation and culture. The resident presence of U.S. military personnel, officers and enlisted, was also extremely beneficial when those assigned represented the best of the U.S. professional force, i.e., role models. The exposure of the Salvadoran military, and of civilians who harbored a distrust of their armed forces, to what a professional military acting under civilian leadership is all about was the most effective method of conveying those concepts.

What seldom worked. The U.S. put enormous effort into intelligence sharing. With a multitude of platforms and other data gathering mechanisms, the U.S. tried to pass information that could be of use to the Salvadoran allies. This seldom had effect. First, it was most often too little, too late. Secondly, Salvadoran expectations as to what the all-knowing U.S. intelligence community could produce far outstripped reality. As a result, the Salvadoran military never understood or accepted the importance of intelligence. In a similar vein, the U.S. effort to demonstrate the importance of PSYOP, particularly in counterinsurgency warfare, was wasted. The assignment of PSYOP trainers with no in-depth knowledge of Salvadoran culture or the mindset of its military had either no discernable impact or was, as in one case, an unmitigated disaster.

What always failed. The delivery of messages by high ranking U.S. military or Defense civilian visitors, especially the delivery of messages having nothing to do with military matters, never had the desired result. The distinguished status of the visitor never made up for a necessarily limited personal knowledge of the environment into which the message was being delivered. Thus, messages were inevitably mangled and misunderstood. Worse yet, the U.S. often then proceeded on the false assumption that the message had gotten across. Activities that the U.S. employed to encourage attitudinal and institutional reforms within the Salvadoran military almost always came to naught. The U.S. rarely, if ever, had sufficient knowledge of how the Salvadoran military truly functioned, or what its institutional mindset was on any given subject. The U.S. practice of conditioning all or part of military assistance funds each year to coerce changes within the armed forces was largely counterproductive.

Army tank conducting live fire exercise in Egypt


The conclusions of two 1995 studies underscore the importance of defense engagement today and for the future. First, the Commission on Roles and Missions of the Armed Forces argued that engagement in peacetime is a sound and relatively inexpensive investment in the promotion of regional stability and the nurturing of democratic norms. It encouraged measures further to integrate and coordinate defensive engagements within DOD and other government agencies. Secondly, a study of the effectiveness of one education program, IMET, conducted by the Institute for National Strategic Studies, concluded that this form of defense engagement has had a positive effect on many foreign civilian and military leaders who have participated in U.S. programs, frequently causing them to to be more favorably inclined toward the United States and its policies.

While the United States has made considerable progress in adapting how military resources are used in peacetime today, beyond solely maintaining readiness for combat, three general patterns are emerging that may shape the future of defense engagement in peacetime.

* Reliance on DOD's resources. Funding for foreign policy initiatives is shrinking, even as defense civilians and units of the armed forces demonstrate that technical-military expertise and professionalism can be an effective diplomatic tool, particularly in peace operations, and while FMI programs and defense diplomacy increasingly support U.S. security policies worldwide.

* Decreasing personnel. In addition to a growing shortage of officers and non-commissioned officers with foreign-area expertise, the particular active duty units that participate in most FMI programs--engineers, military police, communications, and medical--are shrinking in number at a more rapid rate than the services as a whole. The immediate impact is to increase competition among the geographic Commands for the use of remaining units.

* Appearance of defense contractors. New actors in peacetime defense engagement are defense contractors who negotiate agreements directly with foreign governments. They typically advertise corporate military expertise in such areas as streamlining security assistance, force management, modernization, training, and military transition assistance programs for emerging democracies. The appearance of these companies is too recent for an informed judgement to be made about impact on defense engagement. But the arrival of such independent parties suggests the direction in which this instrument of U.S. power might travel in the future.

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