DOD Security Cooperation Takes 'LEAP' Forward
by Claudette Roulo, DOD News
September 10, 2022
The Defense Department is ensuring that it
engages with its partners in ways that are holistic, effective,
efficient and in direct support of the objectives in the National
Defense Strategy, the assistant secretary of defense for strategy,
plans and capabilities said on September 9, 2022 in prepared remarks.
Karlin spoke at a virtual launch event for DOD's first learning
agenda for security cooperation — the Learning and Evaluation Agenda
for Partnerships. The event, hosted by Johns Hopkins University in
Baltimore, was held in partnership with the Office of the Secretary
of Defense for Policy, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency and
the National Defense University.
Learning agendas help
organizations identify knowledge gaps and coordinate research to
fill those gaps. LEAP identifies the most urgent knowledge gaps in
the security cooperation community and plans and prioritizes
evidence-building activities over the next five years.
defense official said the public launch was a demonstration of the
commitment by Karlin's office to evidence-based policymaking and
lessons learned. The official said the department also hoped to
generate interest and conversation on DOD's learning priorities and
to and support submissions and coordination of studies and
evaluations by non-federal entities aligned with DOD priorities.
An aerial view of the Pentagon on May 11, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase)
Today's global geostrategic
environment is laden with threats from states and non-state actors,
Karlin said. "In this environment, the enduring U.S. strategic
advantage is our unmatched network of allies and partners," she
said. "Security cooperation is an important tool that helps the
United States to act by, with, and through our partners to make a
DOD wants to build capable partners with
strong defense institutions, Karlin said. Such partners would
operate alongside or in lieu of the U.S. to face global, regional
and national threats, she said.
"Today, our cooperation with
partners includes military-to-military engagements, capacity
building, education and training activities, humanitarian assistance
activities, and robust exercises with key partners," Karlin noted.
She said DOD's security cooperation focuses on three priority
Prioritizing who and what the
department invests in
Focusing on sustainable impact
Adopting a holistic, integrated
approach to how DOD executes security cooperation programs
"The department's thinking on security cooperation
has evolved over time, and we continue to learn and adjust," Karlin
said. "Five years ago, Congress enacted legislation empowering the
department to support allies and partners through a consolidated
range of Title 10 U.S. Code security cooperation authorities
designed to advance U.S. interests and with full coordination of the
As part of this reform process, DOD
established the first comprehensive program of assessment,
monitoring and evaluation to improve the practice and impact of
security cooperation activities, she said.
Learning Agenda for
Karlin said DOD built on that program to
develop a comprehensive learning agenda framework aimed at providing
more structure and longer-term thinking to the effort.
identifies the most urgent knowledge gaps in the security
cooperation community, centered around eight learning questions, and
plans and prioritizes evidence-building activities over the next
five years to help fill these gaps," she said.
framework will help us increase coordination, collaboration and
return on investment across the security cooperation community," she
Karlin noted that DOD has learned through large-scale
assistance programs that in order to have a lasting impact a
comprehensive engagement plan involves more than training and
"Resilient partnerships thrive when values and
deeds align," she said. "Security cooperation aims to uphold that
DOD helps partners with specific capabilities,
Karlin said, but it also works to build institutional integrity and
an ability to promote shared values — notably the promotion and
protection of human rights and the good governance and legitimacy of
the security sector.
She said she's previously
referred to institutional capacity-building activities as
the 'secret sauce needed to get security cooperation right. Today's
announcement moves to
centralize institution-building initiatives under broader
security cooperation efforts. "We're moving such
efforts from the secret sauce to the main dish," Karlin said.
Partnership should not be measured by the quantity of security
cooperation programs, but rather by their quality, she said.
Karlin said LEAP will help the department better understand what
works and what doesn't, while informing key decisions to improve
policy and practice. "It will help ensure our approach to security
cooperation is effective, efficient and directly supports the key
defense objectives outlined in the NDS," she said.
hard issues to figure out, and we've come up with a quantitative and
qualitative approach that represents a 'leap' forward for the
department," Karlin said.
Alliances and partnerships can
confer an unmatchable strategic advantage, she said, but this is not
a given. Securing this advantage requires active involvement by the
entire U.S. government, Karlin said, listening to partners' concerns
and taking a thoughtful and deliberate approach to how DOD employs
its resources to meet its priorities.
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