International Military Education and Training: An Assessment

By Cope, John A. | McNair Papers, October 1995 | Go to article overview
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International Military Education and Training: An Assessment

Cope, John A., McNair Papers


   Our national security strategy is based on enlarging the
   community of market democracies while deterring and containing
   a range of threats to our nation, our allies, and our interests. (1)

The strategy enunciated in President Clinton's A National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement stresses three primary objectives: enhancing security, promoting prosperity at home, and promoting democracy worldwide. The United States employs a range of policy instruments in their pursuit. Among them is International Military Education and Training (IMET), one of the foreign assistance programs overseen by the Department of State but implemented and managed by the Department of Defense. The IMET program traditionally has been a relatively small, low-cost and low-risk appropriation with sound legislative support. As U.S. foreign aid continues to collapse under strong congressional pressure to economize, this "bonsai" appropriation in the vast forest of security assistance programs has gained in standing, potency and importance to national security far surpassing that envisioned by its political framers in 1976.

The grant IMET program has received little scrutiny since the end of the Cold War and passage of the 1991 legislative amendment expanding its mandate. Congressional interest in foreign education and training has never been significant, but in today's international security setting, concerned as it is about fragile democracies, ineffective governance, and a range of nontraditional, transnational concerns, the glimmer of hope 2 INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING offered by IMET should receive greater attention. More needs to be known about how the Defense Department educated foreign military students in the past, IMET's effectiveness in supporting U.S. policy interests, and its prospects for the future. The Institute for National Strategic Studies (INSS) of the National Defense University recently organized a special study team of military and civilian specialists with extensive backgrounds in international military education and training to address these issues. The INSS team--cognizant of the changing international security environment, in particular, the altered purposes, missions, and requirements that political and economic changes worldwide have been imposing on the IMET program--believes the following factors to have a significant influence:

* Restored political democracy in many regions of the world and growing internal dialogue with military institutions on relevant roles, missions and structures are the scenarios of the future.

* Renewed emphasis on professional military training in a new security context--worldwide--is reinforcing efforts to promote democratic political systems.

* The United States is generally viewed by governments as a model to be emulated in establishing a political-military relationship in which civilian authority is effectively developed.

* Challenges and upheavals in the form of internal wars, religious extremism, and ethnic separatism are generating requirements for international intervention in the form of multinational forces.

The INSS study group assumed that U.S. collaboration with other participants in ad hoc military coalitions formed for peace and humanitarian assistance is facilitated when uniformed professionals shared familiar operational doctrines, command and control procedures, and logistic arrangements. In the existing post-Cold War environment, the IMET program can and does provide a foundation for mutual understanding and enhanced interoperability in a wide range of activities, including supply of medicines and foodstuffs to refugee communities, rescue of embassy and United Nations personnel, and enforcement actions exemplified by Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

The study team's framework for analysis was the extent to which IMET serves U.

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